Guide three heroes on a hilarious parody of The Oregon Trail.
PC Release: October 17, 2013
By Ian Coppock
A lot of innovation has come out of indie games in the past few years. Devoid of cash, wily designers conspire in their mothers’ basements to produce something that can compete with big-budget studios at a fraction of the cost. They throw creativity at holes bigger studios fill with money. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a prime example of this indie innovation, and it’s also a throwback to the classic Oregon Trail game. As you’ll soon, see, though, it’s a bit… different… from those old games of yore.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a side-scrolling game. It seeks to parody The Oregon Trail, a series of simulation games about an 1800s family trying to make it to Oregon. Just like in that game, players create a team of people for a trip across the old west, though the old west of Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a bit more eclectic than the cholera and banditry endemic to The Oregon Trail.
Players move about the world in a covered wagon, and can shoot at animals and enemies from the front. The game starts out relatively pedestrian; you gather animal pelts and shoot at pursuing bandits. Indeed, little to nothing seems out of the ordinary when Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is just starting up.
It’s worth pointing out that although Super Amazing Wagon Adventure has an aesthetic similar to that of The Oregon Trail, the two have little in common when it comes to actual gameplay. In The Oregon Trail, players simply move their wagon along and respond as best they can to the situations that crop up. You have to carefully manage a variety of supplies and do your best to keep everyone alive during the trip to Oregon.
In Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, the only resource you have to manage is the health of your crew. You can collect animal pelts just in case a trader happens to be wandering by, but there’s also a lot of moving around the screen and shooting at bad guys. At least, that’s how the game starts, but things quickly escalate for the team of pioneers.
Yep. You think you’re just in for fighting against bandits, but soon Super Amazing Wagon Adventure unleashes everything from evil unicorns to mind-shredding hallucinations. Navigating each of these threats is hard; Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is the most difficult platformer I’ve ever played, even more so than Super Meat Boy.
In addition to these outlandish obstacles, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure pokes fun at the main features of The Oregon Trail. I had to laugh when I got to a river and, rather than have the option to ford the river, be given the option to jump over it. Even that absurd option can plunge the game into further madness, like battling pirate ships or trying to drive the wagon underwater.
As I mentioned, each member of your team has health, and you can only win the game by getting at least one person to the other side of America alive. In addition to the more forceful threats of sentient tornadoes and caves filled with giant spiders, you’ll also encounter strange characters out on the road. Some will trade with you, some are duplicitous, all are unfair. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure doesn’t care about your hurt feelings.
Each playthrough of Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is completely randomized. Some factors depend on the choices you make, like which path to take on your way out west, and some scenarios just play out randomly. It makes the game’s replay value very high, because more so than any other game that claims to do so, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure truly makes it so that no two playthroughs are the same.
To compliment the ridiculousness of the gameplay, Super Amazing Wagon Adventure introduces cut-ins with hilarious dialogue. Just in case what you see on your screen isn’t enough, the developers wrote candid, dry descriptions of all the absurd things that will happen to your wagon. These pop in between enemy encounters and before making critical choices.
The balance between the writing and gameplay is struck unusually well. The former reinforces the absurdity of the latter, and it helps that it’s all well-written. The developers take a lot of creative license with their descriptions, particularly of the characters’ deaths.
As players course through Super Amazing Wagon Adventure, there are a few bonus modes and wagons to be unlocked. Some, like the space shuttle, can move around the screen more quickly and thus serve a practical purpose. Others, like the princess carriage and invisible wagon, are just there for gags. Various survival modes can be unlocked in which you can contend against the game’s many vicious inhabitants, but don’t worry; there’s plenty of carnage to be had in the main game.
The thing I like about Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is that it knows exactly what it’s trying to do. In being an incredibly frustrating but also hilarious platformer, it seizes its own identity without being worried about how well audiences respond to it. It doesn’t try to pander to a large audience just to make money; it sits you down, shuts you up, and forces you through a cataclysm of hilarity. The game is a great example of how courage is the progenitor of originality.
Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is not an easy game. I’ve played it dozens of times and only ever beaten it once, and that was by a thread. But the point of the game is not just to be conquered, because its high difficulty is a crucial part of its identity. Its difficult, hilarious situations are its core concepts, and because of that, it stands out in a very thick crowd.
I highly recommend downloading this game. I also recommend having a few drinks and taking turns with a friend or significant other to see who can get through it. Most rounds are short, and the sheer variety in all of them makes Super Amazing Wagon Adventure‘s staying power outweigh what its small price might suggest.
You can buy Super Amazing Wagon Adventure here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.