Articles/Game Reviews/PC/Discover the World II (1995)

Discover the World II is an educational game that was released by Entrex Software. They released many games in a similar engine, but this one focuses on sailing around the world, trading, battling pirates, and exploring. I originally got it through the Scholastic catalog, since it wasn't available in most stores. I can recall many hours spent sailing around, trying to avoid scurvy and pirates.

The game starts by letting you choose one of four sailors, two of which I recognized (Henry the Navigator and Francis Drake). There is no obvious consequence of who you choose apart from the portrait you see in trade and battle screens and the voice acting. After choosing, you are placed in a ship at Lisbon, Portugal, where you are given a mission to find a sapphire and 50 gems.

The game's main interface consists of a world map (most of which starts out hidden since you have to explore) and a toolbox on the side with a few icons. You can either click on a destination and sail to it or sail along the coast. Also, at certain points in the globe you can enter a city to walk around, perform missions, repair your vessel, and trade. Finally, you can walk around if you dump most of your equipment in a cache (walking inland is required for some missions).

At any point where you are touching land you have some other options, including the ability to hunt, trade, or cache inventory on the land. Hunting allows you to shoot animals with bow and arrow as well as gather fruit and miscellaneous items. This is valuable since it provides your ship with food and prevents your crew from starving or getting scurvy. You always want to have some meat and some fruit to avoid disaster.

Trading is a core element of the game. Every where you go there is an option to trade with the locals. Some will only accept certain items, but you can usually appease them with gold and silver or typical trade staples like pots and pans and glass beads. The shrewd natives will refuse any offer that is too low and speak in their native tongue, although it is translated in the text bubbles for your convenience. The items offered by the natives varies by locale, for example you can buy soapstone carvings in Canada, fur pelts in what will become the USA, and breadfruit in southeast Asia. Some of these items will be rarer back in Lisbon, so you can sell them for a tidy profit.

Finally, the option to cache allows you to dump inventory at any point in the globe and take it back later. This is important for walking since you can only carry so much. It is also valuable for stockpiling things that won't fit on your ship, like excess treasure.

The game gives you a number of quests as a main story (twenty in total). Most of these consist of finding rare items, solving puzzles, and meeting certain people at different locations in the globe. There is no requirement to do the main storyline, and I never got beyond the first few missions when I played the game in my youth.

As you sail around, you will randomly encounter vicious pirates who will attack you. In such an encounter, you are shown the battle scene, with your ship and the pirate's at opposing ends of the screen. You are also given control of the firing angle and power, so your goal is to zero in on the enemy ship and fire at it until it sinks. It may take some practice to get into the swing of things, but if you buy more cannons it will increase your firepower and make short work of your enemies. If your ship is damaged too much it will sink and you will lose, so it is best to repair your ship whenever possible at the port in Lisbon.

Overall, I enjoyed this game immensely in elementary school and it is still fun to play today. The fact that I can still remember some of the things people say in the trade screen 15 years later is a testament to the imprint the game left on me. I was able to get it running in virtual XP mode under Windows 7 64-bit, but it requires an old version of Quicktime to run. Trading, attacking pirates, and hunting are quite a lot of fun and it is satisfying to amass a great wealth. I also found that it is possible to use a hex editor to edit the saved game and increase the number of items in my inventory to make it easier to start out. This game is nearly impossible to find on the Internet, but a lot of libraries and schools have copies. You may also find a copy on eBay.