Recently Astraware announced the release of a new game, Westward for both Palm OS and Windows Mobile, and it promises to bring the Wild West to your handheld device. Astraware is renown for its quality games and has many smash hits, but how would Westward stack up?
The gameplay is set in the old Wild West where you visit different places, talk to different people, and take part in interesting quests.
Right off the bat I could see Westward has great graphics, and since playing the game for a while, my opinion hasn’t changed. They are really top-notch, keeping with the rest of Astrawares games.
When you start a game for the first time, it guides you through an interactive tutorial. I was always a big fan of interactive tutorials, and this one is implemented perfectly. It doesn’t totally explain everything (like what all the buttons do), but it nudges you in the right direction.
Westward has a pretty good background story that is interthreaded throughout the game (but I won’t tell you what it is!) You land in your first town after the tutorial scene called “Hope River”. It is pretty easy to get established in this new town as raw resources are very abundant (Trees for Wood, Gold Veins, ect). After you get set up in this town, the game will present you with side-quests. In the beginning, these quests teach you how to do new things that you will need to know in the future (put out Fires, build Bridges, ect.). But I assure you, later in the game these side-quests become very interesting.
Soon you will leave this first town and travel to new ones. It seems that the further you get in the game the harder it is to succeed, and I really think Astraware did a great job with this aspect. It is not so hard where you put the game down in frustration, but not so easy as you walk right through it. You will find yourself saving the game at different intervals quite frequently as you progress further in Westward.
As with all Applications for the Palm OS, there are two ways to control Westward; Using the touchscreen or hard buttons. It seems that Astraware has really tried to have the game controlled totally with either method of input. And they’ve been pretty much successful. I prefer using the hard buttons to control games – even though there are only 4 buttons plus the 5-way navigator on my Palm TX. But with some things, I still had to pull out the stylus. For example, I could never get the hang of multi-selecting a group of people with the buttons, and I don’t think there is any way to reform a drunk with using just hard-buttons. I noticed Astraware makes no use of the other buttons, only the five-way, and I think they could be put to use to make the stylus totally unnecessary. All in all though, the interface is very nice, and once you understand what all the on-screen buttons do, it is very intuitive.
One of the things I noticed was that the game takes a very long time to load on my Palm TX. Although the seemingly endless amount of tips that are displayed during loading help to offset this, it was still a little bothersome. I’m usually the type of game player that plays for 10 minutes, then comes back to it in a little while, so this was especially noticeable.
One of my other little issues with Westward, was it is a little hard to see some of the intricate details at times. I often found myself squinting to see it in bright lighting conditions. I had no trouble with subdued lighting, but it might be something to consider and make sure is fine for you (there is a free trial available).
All in all I really enjoyed Westward, and this coming from a person who usually doesn’t play games on my handheld device – or anywhere else for that matter. I felt that the great gameplay, graphics, subject, and overall experience certainly outweighed the couple issues I found with it. Credit to Astraware for another quality game.
Westward retails for $20, and can be purchased at the TamsPalm Shop. A free trial is also available.