las islas y los bosques tropicales estan llamando...
when i was little, my parents bought my brother and i three computer games for our old school acer windows 95 system. all three were in the vein of adventure-educational-psuedo creativity inspiring (now, in retrospect, also ridiculous animated depiction of american manifest 'bullshit' destiny and colonization) and they were as follows : the first was the oregon trail [old standard, no explanation needed for any child of the 90s]. the second was the yukon trail [go digging for gold with the klondikes and the 49ers of san fransisco in the rugged alaskan wilderness. use a dog sled! play at a shooting gallery in an oldtime saloon! meet old grizzly men named mountain ted! seriously.] the third, my personal favorite, was the amazon trail.
in this particular version of global exploration, the character meets up with an english speaking 'mestizo' guide [of the gender of your choosing] in the headwaters of the amazon river, and after buying supplies, both set off in a canoe down the fabled waters of the south american lifeblood. upon your journey, you had free choice to stop along the banks of the river to explore further in the jungles [los bosques tropicales] and enjoy the extreme biodiversity. i must admit, combined with many hours of discovery channel rapture, 20+ trips to the minnesota zoo (which has a tropical rainforest exhibit, albeit rather small) and a lust for books some would refer to as unnatural [hush!], i garnered much of my preliminary knowledge of south american flora and fauna while navigating the amazon trail.
the purpose of the game (besides educating youngsters about bromeliads, the dangers of malaria, and the supposed [i.e. mangled] accents of latinoamerica) was to complete a collection of photographs of a specified (50?) number of animals, plants, and locations throughout the amazon. some of these (the bromeliad, fire ants, and red bellied piranhas, etc.) were terribly easy to find, and often sprang unwanted into the frame of your shot, interrupting the act of photographing some other creature. [you think i'm kidding? it's a good thing that the film was magically unlimited. i can't even count how many times i took pictures of trees or slow-moving lizards when i was really aiming for the elusive black-banded anteater, or the hyperactively spastic scarlet tanager.] others were not so easy to find (as i mentioned) and were often found only once or twice throughout the game. as one could not continue navigation without obtaining the photograph (which would then be placed on a mayan shield to be given and studied to indigenous kings at the end of the game, apparently...) it was often a game of patience and frustration.
me: we've been on this section of the river for three weeks!
guide: [in a calm, accented, computerized voice] oops! we already have a picture of that one. let's go back to the river and try again later.
me: i was aiming for the bird!
guide: maybe we will have better luck tomorrow.
the game also included the navigation and exploration of the amazon itself. this was often frustrating as well, because pre-2000 computer animation made it difficult for a trolling mouse movement to navigate a canoe around a giant log deceptively close to the image on the screen.
me: the jaguar was in the tree! [the jaguar was particularly difficult to find, and often turned up swimming in the middle of the amazon, disguised as a log. however, unlike an annoying leak which would appear in your canoe when running across a log, the canoe and all of its contents would tip into said river when running across a jaguar. i'm surprised they didn't design graphics of violent jaguar-eating-humanflesh type scenarios. it would have been more realistic. what self-respecting jaguar wouldn't eat the stupid person who ran over her in the river?!]
there was also the typical 'death news' update from the guide, similar to the 'gary has dysentary' message that occured frequently in the oregon trail. however, this also included side trips and backtracking to various larger villages along the river. which meant that supplies were run-low, money disappeared, and the guide became impatient. also, valuable photographic time was lost, and jaguars and pink river dolphins swam tauntingly close to the boat as you turned in the other direction, and whilst you were unable to photograph them.
guide: you don't look so good. maybe you have a fever.
me: i don't have a fever!
guide: uh oh. you have malaria. we have to find a village, so that you can trade for medication.
me: but i haven't taken a picture of the bird yet!
another part of the amazon trail similar to that of its north-american counterpart was the fish-hunt for food. done with harpoons, there were various types of fish available for consumption along the river.
guide: our supplies are running low. if we don't fish soon, we will starve.
some were as small as the piranha (aka the squirrel of the river), but others were so large as to go about promptly capsizing the canoe if you attempted to catch them (most likely meant to mirror the charging buffalo). and guess what! you can catch weeds. woo. or, even better, electric eels. and rays. which means, aha...
guide: oh no! you have been electrocuted by an eel. your burns require attention. we have to turn back.
just when you thought you were making progress down the river.
i promise i'm not bitter. i LOVED this game. i'm just rather frustrated, as i must admit, i never made it to the end. it was hard! the birds were too quick for my camera. i was much too susceptible to malaria and dengue fever. and my computer froze occasionally, coming back to life only when it was much too late for me to navigate away from a giant waterfall (thus ensuring that i, and my obnoxiously emotionless guide juliana, would have to resume at the beginning of the river. sans all photographs, and carrying harpoons.)
but, all of that will be remedied. as this girl is going to ecuador.