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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Strategy

 

Publisher

Take-Two Interactive

 

Developer

BreakAway Games

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q1 2002

 

 

- Increased scenarios make for increased playing options
- New edicts can employ much more sinister gameplay if desired
- More of the award-winning music from the original game

 

 

- Speed of building structures is still amazingly slow
- Randomized natural disasters need improvement in their execution
- How to complete scenario mission requirements sometimes vaguely presented

 

 

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Tropico: Paradise Island (Expansion Pack)

Score: 9.2/10

 

Tropico stormed onto the PC real-time strategy scene last year, providing a refreshingly new RTS city-builder that successfully incorporated some elements of both SimCity and the hotly popular The Sims with a lot of tongue-in-cheek politically seeded in-game humor that made for a truly spectacular title of the genre. Despite its relatively positive reception by both critics and gamers, it lacked some depth and contained some relatively minor issues in relation to the game's operation that needed some tweaking.

 

paradise-island-1.jpg (250401 bytes)         paradise-island-2.jpg (243427 bytes)

 

Now almost a year later an expansion pack, Paradise Island, has been released. Where depth was lacking in the original, Tropico: Paradise Island gives a deeper, more challenging fun-in-the-tropical-sun aspect to your overall RTS gaming needs, especially in the new tourist scenarios. And many of the minor negative gameplay issues that needed some amending in the original release have been addressed as well, making Tropico now (when paired with Paradise Island) the game it could have been then with a little more development time.

You again assume the Tropican leader role of the Fidel Castro-inspired El Presidente, trying to hold onto power of your beautiful exotic locale as long as possible. How you retain your power is up to you. You can set up a democratically-based government that keeps your island people happy campers or a communist-modeled regime holding those on your island firmly under a size-14 iron boot while at the same time stashing away a few bucks in a Swiss bank account for your eventual "retirement". But this time around you have many more gameplay options at your disposal. BreakAway Games has added 23 new scenarios on top of all the original ones, more edicts for you to issue, 12 new buildings to construct, new tourists that you can lure into spending money on your island paradise, randomized natural disasters that can affect your game and other features that make for a deeper and more enriching gaming experience over the original.

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As the name implies, your gameplay is zeroed in on making Tropico a paradise island for attracting the lucrative tourist trade. Most of the new scenarios included are plotted out exactly for the sole purpose of getting non-natives to visit your sunny shores. New wayfarers looking at Tropico's travel brochures are eco-tourists and spring-break students (Miami Beach must have been booked solid). And as before, Tropico: Paradise Island puts 

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emphasis on keeping track of the citizenry and visitors on Tropico. Like The Sims, you can read the often-humorous thoughts of each distinctive individual person on the island. This "Miss Cleo" ability can be a big help in plotting out your next course of game actions.

Visually, the game retains the high level of eye-pleasing graphics that were in the original game using PopTop's S3D engine, although the buildings are less colorful than the character models that make up the islanders and visitors. There also is a better frame rate present in the expansion pack because even though I was using the exact same computer as when I reviewed the original game, there was none of the slowdown or choppy breakup this trip to Tropico during the playing of the cut-scenes or when too many buildings and people were on-screen at one time.

Being a city-builder game at its basest level, Tropico: Paradise Island expands the already large selection of available structures from the original. Most of these new buildings are naturally geared towards attracting those desirable money-spending tourists to your land. You now have a tennis court, miniature golf course, movie theater, marina, duty-free shop, beach villa, conservatory, nature preserve, and a sure-fire tourist attraction, El Presidente's childhood home. Other new structures are the all-important army base and an undeveloped fort that can be converted into
an artifact dig site, museum or a dungeon for all those not particularly supportive of your leadership. Many but not all of the Tropican buildings can now be rotated different angles on the map to optimize their placement to both fit better to the landscape and your desired location. Whatever you need to erect a thriving Caribbean nation for your islanders and visitors is only awaiting the construction orders, with the stipulation that you have enough money in your reserves to build them.

Other great additions are the new edicts included for your issuing pleasure. Edicts are the laws and ordinances of the land of Tropico as you see fit to decree. In Tropico: Paradise Island, these edicts can be more malevolent and dastardly than in the original. Those foolish enough to oppose you can now be captured and thrown into jail or simply assassinated. These choices will require a strong military, and there are edicts to strengthen the Tropican army too. You can declare martial law and start military modernization to keep the troops doing all your dirty work happy. Ordering military conscription builds the army from the native Tropicans instead of having you hire foreigners to stock your troop supply. Other edicts assist in
increasing the Tropican tourist trade.


You still have the services of your "loyal" adviser helping you with hints as to what you may want to focus on during the game. For instance, if you aren't building churches for your people's religious needs, the adviser may give you a warning. If you fail to heed enough of his warnings, you face the possible revolt and uprising of your Tropican people who will make a quick end to your island regime. Having a adviser, even one with questionable loyalty really comes in handy, because after you read the initial description of each scenario's objectives and you start the game, you can sometimes get confused as to the easiest way to accomplish a successful
scenario completion because you can't re-read the original description during a game in progress. You instead have a condensed version that isn't as helpful as the initial details, so pay attention to your adviser's advice because his survival as a high-ranking official is directly tied to you staying in power.

One feature that has been a plus in both the original and the expansion pack is the award-winning musical score provided by The Daniel Indart Project throughout the game. Numerous game sites and organizations named the original Tropico's music the best in-game music of 2001's PC titles for good reason. The Latin-inspired tunes are again the perfect match in Tropico: Paradise Island for your many hours of gameplay. The full amount of music provided for the expansion pack now totals over two hours, and you'll still be humming the soundtrack melodies long after you have turned off your PC.

While there are many new great options available, Tropico: Paradise Island has a few tropical storm clouds gathered above it. The worst problem the game has is that again the building of Tropican structures takes way too long, and if you need to have a structure up and ready to go as soon as possible to help meet your scenario objectives, forget it. It's going to take about ten years passing in the game before one structure usually will be finished, particularly when it come to the larger types such as the power plant. That's an improvement over the original, but can still be a point of frustration while you are playing. There is a cheat around this, though.
Holding down the control key and typing "rapido" gives you the ability to instantaneously construct a building. With enough money, you can have a whole island of Tropican buildings completed in a half-hour of gameplaying and can focus on population management and the scenario objectives. If you need some more money, again hold the control key down and this time type "pesos" to get $20,000 deposited into your coffers each time you do it. And yes, this only works in the game, not when you are online checking your real-life bank account balance. Believe me, I tried.

Adding the inclusion of natural disasters, especially hurricanes and tropical storms, was a good idea. It was an attempt by the developer to give some more realism to the game and throw a little chaos into the mix. But this is a good addition in idea only, not in actual application. Storms hit your island at random times. You can set how often the random events occur before you start the game. My recommendation is to select the lowest setting. When a storm hits, it's just a bunch of clouds passing over the island for about 30 seconds, leaving behind a crumpled pile where one or
more of your structures had been before its turbulent onset. The problem here is that unless you have photographic memory, you'll have no idea which building was there before the typhoon annihilated it. It may take you a few years going by in the game before you realize that the building wiped out unnoticed by one of the past's terrible tempests was a necessary component to a successful scenario ending. This isn't a crippling gameplay feature if you set the random generator to its lowest setting because the chance of being clobbered by more than one storm in one particular game isn't a high probability. There are also other random events that could pop up from time to time like an economic fluctuation in export prices for one of your products that you may be producing on your island such as cigars or rum.


As before, you must really put some thought into your gameplay decisions, because every building built and edict issued will either positively or adversely affect the way your Tropican government is perceived and treated by not only the Tropican people but also the outside world. By the outside world, I'm talking about either the United States or Russia. Depending on which way you want to swing your government, you can either align with a democratic power (United States) or a communist power (Russia).

What's different than the original is that before, you just allied with a superpower and that was really all there was to it. You got their support, they built their military base on your island and occasionally threw some monetary enticements your way. But now in the expansion pack, instead of just gaining support of a political and military ally, you must keep them satisfied with the way you operate your government. If you upset them in any way with the treatment of your people or the edicts that you choose, they will stop giving their support or at least curtail it until you start heading your gameplay choices back towards the liking of your foreign
political backer.

Each and every decision you make during the game has some type of influence on how successful or unsuccessful your current game plays itself out. In the Triassic Park scenario, you need to eliminate Tropicans to clear way for your planned dino park. But if you try and accomplish this by assassinating a big number of the overcrowded populous of the island, they will flee en masse into the very tropical forest you plan to develop into your dinosaur park, making the chance of you favorably completing the scenario's objectives a much tougher task. You have to be carefully selective in your strategy, because every action causes a positive or negative reaction to how well your game finishes.

From the new gameplay and scenario options to the additional building choices and award-winning music, Tropico: Paradise Island delivers more of everything good to the promising original game. You will find that all the added features of the nicely-priced expansion pack provide an absolutely enjoyable and unique city-building gaming experience that will keep you entertained each and every visit you make to the sunny beaches that make up the sultry and sometimes dangerous paradise of Tropico.

- Lee Cieniawa

(March 5, 2002)

 

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