The original game was the pick of the bunch and it cast you as the proud new leader of a tropical island. Set during the cold war you could choose a background and your own political approach. You could develop your country along whatever lines you wanted whether socialist, educational, military or capitalist. The characters were all based on the leaders of various South American states and the Cold War battle for foreign governments was parodied with the player given the option of trying to win US or Russian favour or walking a tightrope in between.
The basic gameplay was tycoon style management simulation but there was some strategy mixed in. You had to develop a working economy and provide housing, education, religion, healthcare and all the other necessary services for your population. Your power had to be maintained which meant keeping a balance between the various factions and stamping out coups. It also meant winning elections.
The freeform options available allowed you to take a stern militaristic approach, industrialize the island, and turn it into a tourist haven or take a more relaxed approach and build a socialist paradise based on exports. Each game was different and at the end of the day you’d be given a rating by your population and leave for a luxury retirement (assuming you’d managed to squirrel away some funds during your presidency).
Graphically the game was attractive with a view down on the action and your lush island. You could zoom in and examine individual citizens and your bustling economy with various workers was easy to observe. The menu system had a nice style to it and the adviser voiceover acting was terrific. The package was completed by the excellent musical score.
Tropico was a terrific game with a great sense of humour. An island dictator simulator which allowed you to try random maps and set up the conditions any way you wanted. You could even choose your own victory conditions or play without them. It was a fresh approach to the genre with a terrific style and setting. There were a few flaws with the AI and the slow build speed could be very annoying at times but for the most part it was a highly polished title and if you missed it then it will likely still provide a few hours of fun.