Tradewinds 2 is a follow-up to the original strategy game about trading goods and avoiding pirates on the high seas. However, this sequel sports improvements in every facet of the game. The level of detail, complexity, and replay value here is rather astonishing for a Palm/PDA based-title.
Unlike the first Tradewinds, which took place in the Far East, Tradewinds 2 has its background set during the expansionist period of resource trade in the colonized Caribbean. The objective is simple. As the captain of an armed cargo ship, you wish to make as much money as possible. Along the way you will fight your way through numerous pirate encounters while transporting goods from one port to another. Every port town has a marketplace with several goods available. Shrewd captains aim to buy cotton, timber, fish, guns, and other items at low prices in one port and then carry them to another port town where they can hopefully be sold at a high price for profit. As the game progresses, there are more goods available in marketplaces, each with a different range of high and low prices depending on the time of year.
While every town has a marketplace, pub, and governor’s house, the similarities end there. Each port has a different combination of other buildings, including banks, creditors, shipyards, and warehouses. A bank lets you deposit and withdraw your savings, and your investments earn a 1% interest rate per month. Warehouses let you store goods, creditors lend you money (with high interest rate dues), and pubs are a great place to hear tips on when certain goods at are premium prices. Shipyards are critical places, and not every port has them. It’s at the shipyards that new, more powerful ships can be purchased, or repaired, or outfitted with extra guns and ammo. However, everything has a trade-off, and adding additional guns to your ship will improve your chances in a fight, but it limits your ship’s cargo storage capacity and subsequent ability to turn a big profit. Due to the fact that not every town has a shipyard, you also have to plan your trips accordingly because you will need to be able to repair your ship after every one or two pirate encounters.
In between making profitable runs from one port to the next, there is the ability to talk to town governors and receive quests. The governors typically need help tracking down a pirate, or transporting a specific good or item. The quests pay well and advance the story while playing in the main game (Story Mode). As quests are completed, you will receive new maps that unlock extra sea ports, or magical items that grant abilities, like warding off storms while traveling.
The overall gameplay is simple enough to be considered a causal game, but has enough depth to keep players engrossed for hours. There are three main screens, the town screen, the sea chart screen, and the battle screen. In the town screen the different buildings can be touched with the stylus to bring up their individual menus. Once on the sea chart screen, different ports can be tapped to set a course to sail there. It is during these charted voyages that you will encounter random or quest-based pirates and jump into the battle screen. The battle screen displays your ship in the foreground with the enemies in the background. There may be one ship, or a small fleet pitted against you. A tap with the stylus will direct your cannons to one particular ship in the enemy fleet, which is sunk once it’s green energy bar is depleted. There is also special ammo for you to use if you purchased it at a shipyard. Spray shots, powerful single chain blasts, or “tiki bombs” can all be used to give yourself the upper hand, especially since your single ship is usually outnumbered. After the battle you return to the chart screen where you watch your ship finish the voyage and enter a new port. The controls are easy to manipulate with a stylus and the menus in each screen are all straightforward. The entire user interface is laid out very well in an intuitive fashion for new players and experienced strategy players alike.
The presentation of the game is superb. Graphics are colorful and sharp. The animations while in port add to the style of the game and the battle scenes have a slightly more refined touch compared to the original game. The music for a Palm game is perhaps the best I’ve heard, with multiple musical scores depending on the town or battle and though limited, they change often enough so that they don’t seem too repetitive.
The replay value of the game is nearly limitless, much like a SimCity or Civilization title. Quests unlock new items, new port towns and introduce more characters along the way. You never play the exact same game twice, and it actually accomplishes that level of addictiveness that makes you want to play “just one more turn.” No small feat for a Palm game.
It’s hard to come up with drawbacks to the gameplay. Playing the game for short, 5 minute sessions is possible, as you can complete a short quest, or make 1 or two trade runs in that time, but it’s not as easy as playing for 20 minutes or more at a time. The game can be saved, and there is an automatic Task List that helps keep track of quests and cargo, but you might be better off with a quick solitaire game for those 5 minute breaks at meetings when you pull out a PDA for entertainment purposes. I also preferred the ability to have multiple ships in your own fleet in the first Tradewinds game. In Tradewinds 2 you only control one ship, although there are more battle options and it streamlines the gameplay. If you just want to focus on trading and reaching million dollar bank account milestones, you can choose to the play the Trading Mode, which bypasses all the extra story moments within the game.
Overall, Tradewinds 2 is a great game and something that could be worthy of a birth on the DS or XBLA. The deep casual style gameplay matched with the addictive “one more turn” grasp and unlimted replay value make this one of the best choices out there for Palm based entertainment. Download the demo at the Astraware website and check it out for yourself.