The game requires the skills of a shrewd trader and a fast trigger, it claims at the start of the instructions in the two-part load of this new Bug-Byte game. However, for those not so keen on the space arcade action, it's possible to avoid confrontation by not arming your cargo ship with a laser, although it means almost certainly having to pay a tribute to marauding pirates. Mercifully, Star Trader has short and to the point instructions on the screen, so there's no need of a ZX Printer, Eidetic memory or Pitman shorthand skills.
The game falls essentially into two distinct parts, the strategy buying and selling bit on the various planets, and the space travel bits where you are likely to meet and be engaged in combat by pirates after your cargo. The trading takes place over eight planets and involves eight commodities - grain, guns, tools, timber, wine, clothing, oil and gold. A picture on the left of the screen shows the space port which, rather like Holiday Inns, looks the same whichever planet you are on.
Should you enter a trading establishment it is replaced by a large picture of the trader in question who, rather like Holiday Inn managers, looks the same whichever shop on whichever planet you are on or in. To be fair, the traders have different coloured eyes, hair, sometimes have moustaches, sometimes hats, but the identikit pic feeling persists!At a spaceport you may opt to go in (to take off) and will be asked which destination you wish. You may be refused permission if you are medically unfit, a situation remedied by resting and eating good food! When you arrive at your destination you can list your goods in the customs hall, declare all, nothing or part of them or bribe the customs officer and part with appropriate money accordingly.
If you don't enter the spaceport the options open are to go to a farm, a gunsmith's, a tool shop, sawmill, wine merchant's clothes shop, fuel merchant's, jeweller's, pub, hotel or general store. It is from the general store that you can buy the essential lasers and power packs with which to defend your ship from pirates. In a shop you can buy or sell, but it's worth keeping an eye on the economic status report which will tell you what buying and selling prices are at all the planets in all commodities. The other thing to keep an eye on is the time of day as the shops and spaceports tend to close at night and for lunch - pubs and hotels also have appropriate opening times.
The arcade sequences take place in space and the screen shows a viewscreen in which planets can be seen moving in simulated 3D. If you have no laser on board, then pirate attacks and tributes are merely reported, but if you are armed then the enemy ships can be seen swooping in on you, firing.
Laser power and ship's shield strength run down quickly and if you don't want the game to end it is worth surrendering before you are killed as the pirates are fairly sensible chaps and usually leave you with something to trade with at your destination. The object of the game, obviously, is to get rich!