In Which I Become King Hippo
Building Excite-ment

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Review At Kombo

Huang Lee During my college years I carried a Handspring Visor Platinum PDA with me to keep my due dates organized and to get a jumpstart on different writing assignments.  At least, that's the official reason I carried it.  Unofficially, I used it to play a little game called Space Trader during the more boring lectures.  Space Trader revolved around buying various items on one planet and transporting them via cargo ship to another planet where they could be sold for a healthy profit.  I'd buy fur coats on the fire planet, for instance, and then ferry them to the ice planet.  The overall goal was to earn enough money to buy my own private moon.  I mention this because I've been playing a lot of the new Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for the Nintendo DS in the past week, and this iteration of GTA adds a drug dealing element that brought my long-dormant Space Trader skills back to life.  My review of the game has just been published over at Kombo.  Here's a taste (first one's free!):

The most complex aspect of Chinatown Wars has to be the drug dealing side-game. Exploring the city leads to stumbling upon plenty of people with sacks and car trunks packed with heroin, cocaine, acid, weed, downers, and other illegal substances. [Protagonist] Huang can buy, say, a few bags of weed from one dealer and then sell them to another dealer across town, earning a profit. Different dealers charge different prices for drugs, so it's advisable to check around with multiple buyers to find the best reasonable price. Sometimes dealers will e-mail Huang with time-limited offers of cheap heroine or a grand profit in exchange for some acid. All of these messages are automatically tracked on the PDA with handy icons denoting which dealer needs what drug. Trafficking drugs is a great way to earn some easy money, although if Huang is arrested by the police, they will confiscate any drugs (and weapons) he's carrying, so smart drug mules will stash their inventory in a safehouse before starting a mission that may end with police involvement.

There's more going on in Chinatown Wars than Space Trader could ever have hoped to achieve, but the underlying gameplay mechanic is strikingly similar.  I've done quite well for myself selling heroin and cocaine on the streets of Liberty City; in fact, the drug dealing is much more profitable than completing the storyline missions.  Best of all, this time around I don't have to sit through a dull lecture to play the game.