LGR – Cross Country Canada – DOS PC Game Review
If your typical weekend looks like this,
then you also probably consider
the game Cross Country Canada
to be a point of national pride.
I’ve heard many describe this as the Canadian
school kid’s equivalent to The Oregon Trail,
and on the surface, the comparison makes sense.
However, I’m sorry to burst your syrupy bubble,
but things aren’t quite that simple.
Developer Didatech was indeed a Canadian company
founded in 1983 by David Vincent,
Allen Forsberg and David Young.
But in the beginning, they made games
for the overall North American market,
and did a lot of advertising and sales in the USA.
Their first game was Fay: That Math Woman
for the Commodore 64 and Apple II,
followed by Fay: The Word Hunter,
Fay’s Word Rally,
and a typing tutor called All The Right Type.
Then in 1985, co-founder David Vincent
created a game for the Apple II
known as Cross Country… USA.
Keeping in line with the demands of the
United States edutainment market,
Cross Country USA was the first game in the series
that later became well-known
as a Canadian classroom staple.
In fact, there was even a Cross Country California made,
which featured a more in-depth
look at America’s Golden State.
1986 was the year that Cross
Country Canada finally came about,
once again for the Apple II.
It was just a re-skin of the original
USA game, but nonetheless,
it’s the one that Didatech is remembered for.
Indeed, sequels to both Cross Country
USA and Canada are still sold today.
Although the company later became
known as VR Didatech in 1996,
and are currently known as C3 Media’s Ingenuity Works
after an overhaul in 1998.
Well anyway, back to Cross Country Canada,
of which we’ll be looking at
the most famous version here,
the MS-DOS one ported over by Jimfre Bacal.
And yes, that’s the same guy who later
became known for his blues music.
So yeah, the game begins with
a truck, a flag and a musical ditty.
[PC speaker ditty]
You’re then given the options
like the number of players,
loading a saved game and difficulty parameters.
Enter your name and the game will
then choose a random starting date,
location, destination and commodity.
You’re then given the map of
your country, in this case Canada.
As the name suggests,
it is your job to cross that country,
with the goal of delivering precious Canadian cargo.
furs, Eskimo art,
lumber, salmon, uranium
and plenty more are all possible commodities.
This is accomplished by typing in all the commands
through the text parser at the bottom of the screen.
So yeah, the game plays a bit like
Euro Truck Simulator meets Oregon Trail
meets Adventure in Serenia.
You’re keeping up with fuel and
delivering cargo just like ETS,
you’re on a road trip with random events
and real-life locations like Oregon Trail,
and you’ve got the maddeningly specific
text input from early interactive fiction.
According to one of the programmers,
they intentionally omitted listing the specific
commands needed to control the game,
which does deem a bit unfair.
You’ve got specific commands for everything
important that happens in the game,
from starting the truck to putting on a seat belt
to remembering to eat breakfast.
The good that comes from this is that
the sense of discovery is awesome,
and I’m sure it was easier than designing
a graphical interface for the developers.
The bad is that the initial difficulty is ridiculous,
and you’ll be ruined by things as simple as
leaving your truck door unlocked while you sleep,
because someone broke in and stole
your hard-earned goods overnight.
And just like Oregon Trail,
this game doles out these
random punishments left and right,
so go ahead and prepare some apologies
because you ARE going to let your
Canadian brothers and sisters down.
That’s not to say I’m really complaining though.
No, it’s quite the opposite.
This is simply a design decision that arbitrarily
gives the player a hurdle to overcome.
And once you figure this stuff out,
Cross Country Canada is a pleasure to play.
You get a basic strategy to follow:
find who supplies the cargo you need,
keep your truck fueled and locked,
don’t get too hungry or too tired,
deal swiftly and strategically with any obstacles,
speed only when you can afford to get away with it,
and fasten your seat belt.
Cargo can be found in major cities
and each city is going to have one or two
commodities that you can use as cargo.
It came with a reference sheet that told you
which cities exported what commodity,
so it’s just a matter of checking this
and then finding that city on the map.
You can then plan your route accordingly,
which isn’t very hard at all, seeing as it’s
just straight lines between each city.
Of course, longer drives are going to require more fuel,
and if you run out of gas, you’ll have
to radio for an emergency delivery.
You can also blow a tire at random,
but that doesn’t cost anything but time.
Seeing as you can’t take food with you for some reason
and you can’t eat your cargo,
or any passengers,
stopping at diners and partaking of
fine Canuck cuisine is a common thing.
Gotta love that reference to their Fay series, too.
I guess that’s what happened after she
stopped doing math and hunting words.
While you can sleep in your truck,
finding a hotel is going to
provide a much better night’s rest,
which is good, because if you’re
too tired, you might just crash.
This is where wearing your seat belt comes in
because otherwise crashes are
much worse and you’ll have to pay up.
There are other obstacles, too,
like rain, which requires the use of windshield wipers,
and hitchhikers at night
that will either thank you for your
consideration and pay you a small tip,
or rob you at gunpoint and take your cargo.
Canada’s not as risk-free as I thought.
And if you’re getting impatient,
you can always choose to speed
if the road is straight enough.
But you chance the cops pulling you over,
and sadly there are no options to plead with them,
or bribe them with your truckload of potatoes.
There are even ferries to take over bodies of water,
because the idea of fording your
way across, or caulking the truck,
is not very pleasant.
Once you’ve reached your destination,
it’s time to unload the cargo,
and you’ll be rewarded with a falling maple leaf
and a trip to Ottawa!
just trips to places you’ve already been
and other assorted game show-like prizes.
Then it’s time to print out your results and play it again,
maybe this time with a friend
and some custom commodities,
which always makes for silly fun.
Yeah, Cross Country Canada is
pretty much awesome, I’ve gotta say.
I can easily see why it was so well-remembered
by those that played it as a youngster,
even if I had absolutely no nostalgic connection to it
and knew practically nothing
about the Great White North.
Although I do now,
and actually have an
understanding of where Yellowknife is
in relation to Winnipeg, for instance.
But I can just imagine being
a kid and playing this in school
and how cool it must have been to
visit places you’re more familiar with
and seeing how it’s portrayed.
I know, because I got that exact
feeling playing the USA version
and visiting my home state and local cities,
making judgements on how inaccurate
the estimated population was
and the food and stuff like that.
And like any game played in school,
Cross Country Canada was automatically cool
regardless of what it was,
because it let you play on a computer during class
and you didn’t have to do real work.
And it sneakily taught kids some things
which is good.
And it obviously did well enough
for the company to still exist today,
and resulting in a host of remakes
and sequels over the years.
Now finding a copy of the original
games is seemingly impossible,
but if you want to give it a try,
you can do so on the Internet
Archive and other similar sites,
so what are you waiting for?
Go and have fun with it.
‘Cause I sure did!
And if you enjoyed this edutainment game review,
well there are more coming this month,
and there have been a lot of them in the past.
You can check my channel for…
well, either one of those, really.
They’re all gonna be on my channel.
That’s where I put my channel stuff.
You can also subscribe to be notified
when they occur in the future.
There’s also Twitter. And Facebook. And Patreon.
And things like that, which are also linked here as well
because I deem them important enough to do so.
And as always, thank you very much for watching.