Striking the right balance in porting a PC franchise to a handheld gaming system is always tricky, as some games do it well (Anno 1701 and Sim City for the DS) while others struggle with the limitations of the platform (Dungeon Siege for the PSP and The Settlers for the DS). So while reading the press release for Tradewinds 2 got me intrigued about how it might play out, that excitement was tempered by the long history of mixed results bringing PC games to handheld gaming systems – not to mention the memory of playing the terribly mediocre Mass Effect Galaxy that was still fresh in my mind. Undaunted I took up Handmark on their offer for a iTunes App Store code to evaluate the game. So you can imagine my joy when Tradewinds 2 not only satisfied my hopes, but has become one of my favorite all-time games from the iTunes App Store! In fact, it was hard to pull myself away from playing to write this review!
From the company press release:
Based on the acclaimed PC game by Sandlot Games, Tradewinds 2 is a highly immersive adventure for iPhone and iPod touch where players navigate the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean. Be a master commander, defeating pirates and plundering their vast hordes of booty, or, play it safe by trading exotic island goods, gradually amassing untold wealth, power and influence.
“Once again Handmark has done an excellent job bringing another Sandlot Game to millions of iPhone and iPod touch users,” said Daniel Bernstein, CEO Sandlot Games. “We’re very proud of Tradewinds 2 for the Apple App Store and we believe that users worldwide will once again get swept away in the unique gameplay and story that unites the Tradewinds series.”
Tradwinds 2 is a port of Sandlot Games 2005 PC game, in which you follow the light-hearted tale of a seafaring captain gaining wealth and renown through trade and combat in the Caribbean. The game is similar in many ways to the classic Sid Meier’s Pirates!, though without all of the dancing and direct swashbuckling. The focus in Tradewinds 2 is, of course, trade, but you need to build up a solid combat strategy and arsenal to survive the dangerous pirate-infested waters.
Starting out with Tradewinds 2, you immediately get a feeling for the scope of the game. There are two game modes, five characters to choose from (or create your own after you have beaten the game once), and more than 100 quests in 20 ports to work through!
You can choose to play through Story Mode or jump right into the action with Free Trade Mode. Free Trade Mode is simple – you want to make as much money as possible. There is much less combat in Free Trade Mode, so it is a matter of just checking prices and going from port to port and selling for more than what you paid.
Story mode is the meat of the game, and combines the quest for gold with an ever-unfolding story of greed and conflict in the Caribbean. Well, perhaps it isn’t so deep as that just made it sound, but there are loads of missions handed up by various Governors that range from simple fetch quests to revenge and kidnapping plots. When you begin they are simple one-stop missions, but gradually start to include subterfuge and become branching across multiple ports.
Each port is made up of several buildings, though not every port has all buildings. For example, some have no storage warehouses, some no money-lenders, others no shipyards.
Traveling from port to port opens up the possibility of making profits from trading, and also of taking on quests from various governors as you gain access, but also the possibility of being attacked by pirates.
The battle system is simple yet intense – you possess a single ship and can battle several enemy vessels at once. This makes it extremely important to manage your ship with a keen eye on offense and defense. Your hull has a certain strength that is basically a ‘health bar’, and if that reaches zero you are sunk. Aside from normal cannons – which can be taken out by enemy cannon fire – you can buy special ammunition such as fire-shot and chain-shot and voodoo tokens to do additional damage. Proper application of these will often be the deciding factor in a battle.
You can buy new ships as you gain more and more funds, but beware – the new ship you see might not be better than the one you have! Each ship has unique strengths and weaknesses, which can be augmented by gaining crew members and charms and other magical items to enhance your attributes. Crew members are hired on contract, and you need to renew the contracts periodically to keep enjoying the benefit of their presence.
This brings me to my lone complaint – when the contract comes due for a shiphand, you are reminded by a dialog to go to the items screen to decide what to do. After doing this a few dozen times, I really wished that the options were presented right on the reminder screen. Even if one was ‘decide later’, that would handle all possible options and streamline gameplay even more.
I don’t think I can overstate how much I enjoyed playing Tradewinds 2. It is a solid game technically, with excellent presentation, small memory footprint, and great stability – I never saw a single crash. It captures the PC game experience yet is perfectly suited for handheld gaming on the go with a precise touch interface that never falters. I heartily recommend grabbing this game now, as the time value of the $4.99 price will be pennies per hour by the time you are ready to set it aside, that is … if you are able to set it aside.
Where to Buy:
What I Like:
– Excellent port of an excellent game
– Fantastic interface
– Great for quick play
– Addictive – will suck hours of your life!
What Needs Improvement:
– Should be able to renew contracts from reminder screen.