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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz    RAM: 128 MB

Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition
June 27, 2003 | Karen Halloran

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PopTop and MacSoft's Tropico arrived on the gaming scene in 2001 to very good reviews and enough sales to justify an expansion pack, and eventually a sequel. Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition is a two CD set consisting of the original Tropico, the Tropico: Paradise Island expansion pack (which was developed by BreakAway Games) and a whole bunch of bonus content at a value price.

What is Tropico? Not to put too fine a point on it, it's SimCuba. It's 1950, and you are the recently installed leader of a small tropical island. The island's fortunes, or your own personal fortune, are yours for the making. Strap yourself in, comrade, because the revolution is over and the other guy lost.

Gameplay: I am Tropico/Soy Tropico/Ya Tropiko
As the incoming Presidente, you must choose character attributes and flaws, a character background and rise to power which all influence how the various ideological factions on the island feel about your leadership. Part of creating your dictator involves selecting who your Presidente actually is, and the game provides you with a selection of famous dictators and other world leaders for your character, plus (I'm not kidding) Lou Bega. An alternative to making your own dictator and playing a random map is to play one of the many included scenarios, each with its own pre-made Presidente, timeframe and victory condidions.

Gameplay will be familiar to sim gamers, but Tropico has a very interesting innovation: autonomy. You can't simply order a particular Tropican to take a certain job or live in a certain place. Keeping your island running smoothly involves the careful manipulation of the various factors that impact your citizens, but PopTop has done a good job of virtually eliminating micromanagement, allowing you to keep a closer eye on finessing the moods and lives of your population. Your syncophantic advisor, Miguel Cervantes, is always there to let you know when things are going well or badly for you or your people.

There are essentially two paths to follow for your rule: keep the people happy or keep the people afraid of you. Whether or not you choose to smooch babies or polish an iron fist, the game provides many options to support you in your chosen leadership style. The most obvious of these are the various types of buildings you can put up and the benefits they offer. As Presidente, you also have access to edicts, which allow you to make political decrees regarding foreign and domestic policy, and a few edicts allow you to hold events such as Mardi Gras to bolster citizen happiness.

Tropico es muy macho
Clearly, the reason to buy Tropico: Mucho Macho Edition is that it's the only way the Paradise Island expansion pack is available on the Mac. Paradise Island greatly expanded the options for tourism on Tropico with the addition of two new tourist types, the eco-tourist and spring breaker to the already established slob and rich tourist types; and provided new objects and edicts designed to appeal to all types of tourist. The expansion also added more buildings and other types of edicts.

Some gameplay improvements were added to Mucho Macho. Roads are now more useful than in the original Tropico and more buildings are rotatable than before. Construction is also supposed to happen faster in Mucho Macho, but it still appears that getting a job at a construction office drops a Tropican's IQ by about ten points. Now placing buildings over homeless shacks or debris works where it didn't before, although the shacks and debris in the way must still be cleared before the new construction; but there do seem to be a few structures for which this doesn't hold true. Perhaps most important are the speed improvements of Mucho Macho on older machines running OS X.

Not all of the changes were beneficial, and a few problems from the original Tropico remain. It is also still quite possible to accidentally click the option to not hold elections when it pops up onscreen, and this is extremely annoying because making this mistake can have serious repercussions. When the name the save game dialog appears on screen the cursor is still disabled. One notable absence in Mucho Macho that was in the original Tropico is the "confirm save on quit" dialog and there doesn't seem to be a way to get it back.

The bonus materials are nice and add more value to an already great package. Perhaps the most interesting extra included is Phil Steinmeyer of PopTop's developer diary, which originally appeared as a column in Computer Games Magazine. The Tropico: Behind the Game series of QuickTime movies consist of an interview with some of the PopTop staffers and essentially summarize most of the key events and points in the developer diaries. The additional gameplay scenarios are all quite interesting and three new tutorial scenarios were added that will be valuable to both the Tropico newcomer and the player wishing to learn more about the new buildings introduced with Paradise Island. The included BradyGames Official Tropico Strategy Guide is basically a rehash of the manual, except it's twice as long despite only covering the original Tropico and not Paradise Island. Granted, the strategy guide has more comprehensive lists, but players are probably better off sticking with playing the tutorials, referring to the game manual when needed and skipping the strategy guide altogether.


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