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Tropico

Developer: PopTop Software | Publisher: Gathering
Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 04/05/01 | Genre: RTS

Hola amigos! Est?° bien? Bueno, y bienvenidos Tropico! Tropico, a new game from Pop Top software is, when you get right down to itm a traditional city-building sim, in the same vein as Caesar, but the action is stylishly displayed in a political shell and a Carribean flavor. This game has heart and this is what ultimately is Tropico's greatest achievements.

Tropico drops you onto your island as the new Presidente with a few inhabitants and some basic infrastructure (farms, construction offices, etc.). Before you arrive though, you must choose your personality traits. If, for example, you were a farmer then the communists will respect you more since you were a proleteriat like them, if you are a bit heavy with the potent potables then while the religious will feel some animosity towards you, the Russians will like you a bit more (Yeltsin never could be the designated driver).

With your character set up you are ready to start building the island. From early structures like farms, housing, and clinics you will progress to TV stations, electric power plants, airports, and luxury hotels. You can also choose to enact edicts which are presidential orders. From broad-based edicts like an island-wide contraception ban to very specific options like bribing aa certain person all of them have their place in the game, and none really seem superfluous. All in all, the sheer number of options, such as raising rents, wages, doing landscaping, issuing edicts, and the like can all be overwhelming.

Of course you can't just sit there, carribean banana republics don't run free ya know, and so you need some dinero. On the surface things seem simple enough, build a farm, get farmers, sell crops, or, build hotels, attractions, get tourists, but it isn't when you get a little closer. In the end the populous is what powers your island. When you build tobacco farms and a cigar plant it isn't as easy as watch the cash roll in. First the crop must be planted, the speed of which is based on your farmers skill, then it must be harvested, also based on the farmers skill, it must be taken to the cigar factory by your teamsters, the FedEx of the island, the tobacco must be rolled into cigars by your factory workers, taken to the docks by teamsters and THEN dockworkers can take it to a freighter and you get paid.

The people you see, though, do not exist simply for you presidente (although will a little propaganda, maybe some bribing...), and they have their own desires and needs. Some want to be educated, some want to have a family, some want to have a nice church to pray at, and some just want a cabaret with some fine chicas to visit. All this gives the game it's soul. You can see just what makes each person tick. For example, I had Jorge Velazquez on my island. An immigrant from Cuba he was an intellectual communist and took a job as a college professor. Jorge has a wife, Maria who was a farmer and eventually a child who became an electrical engineer in my power plant. This is the depth the game allows and while this information is hardly necessary, it really makes the game. The people is where the game is won and lost. If cheap housing wasn't plentiful on my island then Jorge, a communist, may have made a fuss, he could get some more to make a fuss and soon I'm having trouble in the election so I make sure my opponent has a terrible "accident" but now his family hates me and so do his followers. This sort of intertwined circumstance is common and really quite intriguing. Luckily the game is easily customizable difficulty-wise and this makes it simple for a beginner to jump in and try very easy or even sandbox games (ones where your money is unlimited and you can't be voted out) to get the feel of cause-and-effect.

Now for the technical items. How does it sound? Well let me give you an example. I spent $15 of my hard earned money to purchase the soundtrack, and that's not including shipping! The music is of strikingly good quality in a game and I often found myself boobing my head to the music or even clicking in rhythm. The ambient sound is good as well and there is always either the sound of serene tropical paradise of a bustling urban area depending on where you are. As for graphics, Tropico is based on the Railroad Tycoon engine and it looks wonderful. The graphics are gorgeous, with stretches of tropical jungle looking emerald green and when you zoom in on urban areas...WOW! Grungy buildings and bustling people abound. This is all incredibly detailed down to the bicycle leaning against the tenement building.

Tropcio shipped with a few interface problems, such as forcing you to decide on whether to have an election without being able to see if the populous supports you, but patches have fixed that. Scenarios are also a bit sparse but far and away Tropico's biggest failing is its longetivity. At first, Tropico seems like it will never end, you will always find something new, but then, you don't. I played Tropico almost exclusively for three weeks straight but then one day, I didn't. There's a point at which you feel as though you've hit the end of the road and then there really isn't anything more to do in Tropico. You've figured out the cause-and-effect, and although you haven't mastered them, you know how they work. You have a basic strategy for economics, housing, services. Once you are looking at this situation...Tropico feels stale. Here's a tip. Wait two weeks and pick it up again. I tried it and I was back in the saddle again for a few weeks.

Tropico's political covering and city game is a blast but Tropico is a game that wins based on it's spontaneity. It has heart and a sense of humor, but once you've done it all it feels trite. Give it some time. You'll be hopping a freighter back to the island in no time. VIVA TROPICO!

By David Bernstein - 04/03/02
ESRB Details: Suggestive Themes, Violence
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Screenshots for Tropico

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