I can distinctly remember that day way back when I was ten years old, going to the local library and watching as a bunch of kids gathered around the only computer there. They were playing Sim City 2000, a game which would quickly become one of my favorite pastimes, and one which I still look fondly upon today. But the Sim City franchise saw a swift collapse with the release of the underwhelming Sim City Societies, so when I was asked to review Tropico 4 which I had heard was a similar experience to that franchise of old, I was more than excited. Although the game has been panned for being little more than a minor upgrade of Tropico 3, having not been familiar with the franchise until this point, I am going to try to offer an honest review based on the merits of the game itself. So light up a Cuban, peel a banana, and let’s get into Tropico 4.
SWEET, CUBAN TOBACCO
The World Is Yours - Tropico 4 is an island simulator in which you are creating and maintaining a dictatorship, and it does a great job of selling this and immersing you in the environment. I was initially unimpressed by the standard “build this here, build that there” approach early on. After I whisked through the brief but informative tutorial and learned all of the game’s tiny factors, though, I was sold. There are many things to consider such as food production, importing and exporting goods, and monitoring citizen happiness, which acts as the backbone for the game. Though it operates on a smaller scale than Sim City, it feels much more intimate because of this, and will be a real thrill for anyone who enjoys playing God.
Sweet As Sugar - Most importantly, Tropico 4 is a lot of fun. The interface is simple, and though there are a lot of things to consider when constructing and maintaining the island, there isn’t a huge level of micromanagement to worry about. With a campaign setting available, and with each campaign having multiple player objectives that yield small rewards, it feels a little more focused than some games of this type. But with a full sandbox mode also included, there will be plenty here to keep anyone occupied long after the campaign is finished.
White Sand, Blue Water - To close up the package, the game is incredibly well presented. The music in particular is absolutely fantastic, keeping a heavy Cuban vibe the whole way through, and the dossier overlays, silly caricatures and heavily accented voice acting helps maintain a very light hearted theme, especially considering the somewhat dark subject matter. (Just you try and tell me that my sweat shop canneries aren’t kind of twisted. I dare you.) Apart from a bunch of calculations and numbers being processed in the background, there really isn’t too much to games like this, so presentation is a fairly important element and Tropico 4 does it very well.
CORN FOR DINNER AGAIN?
By The Numbers - I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about the game, except that at a certain point, it will no longer be difficult or interesting to run your island. Tropico 4 offers many opportunities to adapt, but there is often only really one right way to proceed. Campaign mode can feel a bit rigid at times because of this; even though specific objectives are nice for those who need guidance, they often feel like an unwavering blueprint on the types of buildings you should construct, and in a sandbox game such as this, following a specific build order can get boring pretty quickly.