When it comes to games, I've played just about everything. Tropico was a really nice surprise. Rendered with Railrood Tycoon's gorgeous third person, 45° rotated perspective landscape engine, Tropico is a real beautiful piece of work. The folks at PopTop have done a great job with this banana-republic simulator.
From moment one, this game is beautifully constructed. The introductory sequence is a lot of fun, taking you on a fly-by of the island paradise, taking you by farmers and tourists, teamsters and rebels, and through different parts of this imaginary island. You end up seated at the desk of your palace, window looking out over the ocean. As ruler, life could not be much better, but how did you get here?
Tropico allows you to either pick a pre-selected dictator like Fidel Castro, or to build your own. You can select their background, either as educated by Harvard or Moscow Universities, they could be pop stars, or successful business men, or heir apparent. You have to set good qualities and bad (including flatulence which drops relations with Russia and the US, not to mention increasing the pay of the palace guards) as well as choosing the method by which you were installed including democratic election, emplacement by the CIA/KGB or agrarian revolt. Each of these details creates a profile that matches up with the social simulation model, increasing relations with the US/Russia, increasing or decreasing production costs, salaries of your people and all sorts of things. This kind of attention to detail is what makes Tropico so much fun.
The user experience of Tropico is pretty good. The music that they scored the game with is truly enjoyable and on several occasions makes you want to get out of your chair and mambo around the room with your citizens. What's really fantastic is that you can track the lives of your citizen individually. You can see their family, their parents, kids and grandkids, tracking several generations of Tropicans, if you were so inclined. While the help function of the game wasn't implemented in our beta, when it is, it could be absolutely fantastic. Right-clicking (those with two button mice) on a feature, person or building puts up a pop-up window that will include some important helpful information, I'm sure. Now, granted it's not perfect, here's why. There are three major menu functions: build, edict, and information. But there is a fourth mode as well that exists when none of the major three is selected. This mode allows for selection of citizens or buildings for information. This is also the only way that I found that you could check that stats on the upcoming elections. Of course, that's only a problem if you actually want to win legitimately (wink wink, nudge nudge). But it can make for some major confusion getting started.