Tradewinds is pretty much a cross of many classic Sid Meier game elements into one strategy laden PDA title. Although neither Sid, Microprose, nor Firaxis made this game, the influence Civilization, Colonization, and Pirates! had on the developers at Sandlot Games is rather evident.
The goal of Tradewinds is to become a highly successful seafaring trader so you can retire early with a $1 billion fortune. The setting of the game is during an early colonization period of the Far East. You begin with your choice of one of four main characters. Some have better connections with pirates, and won?t get robbed. Others get along with port authorities and shipyard managers, which leads to more effective smuggling operations and ship repair discounts. The differences in main character attributes really affect the style of gameplay.
Most of the gameplay takes place on two screens, the overhead map, and the city screen. On the overhead map of the Far East are four different port cities you can travel to. If your character is a pirate, you can also always travel to a fifth, secretive floating city, Shangri-La. Once at a port, the city screen will provide you with different places to live out the life of a trader. There are banks, shipyards, bars, moneylenders, port authorities, warehouses, and marketplaces available to visit by clicking on while in the city screen. However, not every city has all of these locales. The port authority will tell you which sea routes are being raided by infamous pirates, as well as let you collect the bounty on their heads. The bank acts as a savings account that accrues 3% interest. The moneylender is always willing to spot you a few thousand dollars, but with a steep 10% interest rate. There are all kinds of tips and useful info while buying bar patrons a few rounds. The shipyard lets you repair your fleet, as well as add new ships to it. Most of the game revolves your actions at the marketplace, though. It is here that four different commodities can be purchased. General goods, arms, and silk are legal goods that carry varying price tags depending on the time of year and city. The fourth item is Dream Dust, an illegal good that port authorities have a tendency to check for and repossess. However, the price of Dream Dust fluctuates wildly, from $6,000 to $25,000 and it is here that major money can be made. The objective is to purchase these four goods at a low price, travel to another port city and sell them for a higher price. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
Tradewinds is a complex Palm OS game with a tough difficulty level. Pirates and bandits will raid your ships out in the open sea as you haul goods between cities. If pirates attack your ship, you will be taken to the combat screen. Here, you are given the choice to fight, flee, or drop your cargo and run. Ships can be outfitted with canons. The number of canons one can load per ship depends on the class size of the ship and free space available; more guns on the ships means less room for cargo. But if your fleet is equipped for battle, you can tap the ?canon? icon on the bottom of the combat screen and your ships will fire a round of volleys against the pirate raiders. After your fleet fires, the raiders will retaliate in attempt to sink you and end the game. Destroying the raiders will provide a monetary bonus, but also bolster your reputation and lead to more pirates raiding you with larger fleets next time. As such, when you grow stronger, so do your enemies. This keeps the difficulty of the game always high and consistent.
The game does support sound, and has a standard fare of music one would expect to hear for a turn-based strategy game set in the Far East circa 1700-1800s. The graphics in the game are solid. Each city is detailed rather well, and the combat screen will showcase several ship types. While nothing is outstanding, the game?s graphics and sound never become annoying for long gaming sessions. Which brings me to my main point, this is a different type of Palm game. Most Palm games have simplistic gameplay elements for people to sit down and enjoy for 10 minutes at a time. Tradewinds has a high complexity level for a Palm title, and may be the only Palm game that requires at least a glance at the printable instructions and a run through the tutorial. As a result, playing this game for 5-10 minute sittings makes it difficult to remember how much you paid for your current cargo, where you were heading and what condition your fleet is in. The game does have a built in log feature that keeps track of the last 20-40 events or so, but Tradewinds almost demands 30 continuous minutes of time for each play. On top of that, it will take several hours of careful strategic moves and trades to try to accumulate $1 billion dollars. Luckily there are 3 save slots because the difficulty level can occasionally seem overwhelming and the pirates are relentless. The design of the game also gives a replay value that is rather limitless. After awhile it does get a little repetitive to only be able to trade four goods between five cities, but adding another round of goods and cities might have made the game too much to play on a PDA.
Overall, Tradewinds is a thoughtful, well designed game that might be one of the best to grace the small PDA screen. With that being said, it is still not for everyone. If you only use your Palm to play puzzle games for 5-10 minutes at a time, there are better things to blow $20 on than Tradewinds. However, if you love Sid Meier type games, and play Palm games for 30 minutes at a time while sitting in an airport terminal or on a lunch break, you should at the very least download the free trial of this game and give it a whirl because this is the Palm game that was made specifically for you.