Tropico draws most of its influence from Maxis' legendary series of games, primarily SimIsle it would seem. However, where SimIsle was more of a economic simulation, Tropico is a more governmental simulation. You assume the role of dictator of a small, Spanish-speaking Caribbean island. While your government does provide housing, employment, and control most if not all of the industries and medical establishments, your society is not ostensibly communist. You will have a capitalist faction, as well a religious and militarist faction. Your ultimate aim, typically, is to maintain your regime while still being forced to occaisonally hold elections every few years. If you don't do this, you risk military or political uprisings. You may also try to make your populace particularly content and well-to-do, try to be the bitch of America or Russia, or try to siphon off as much money as possible in your private Swiss bank account for when you retire.

You always take office in 1950. Unless you play a scenario, your island begins as a mere cluster of shacks and a few small farms. There are no roads, no electricity, no industry, nothing. You are given the job of both modernizing the island and keeping the ever-growing population happy. As per usual in this genre, you build homes, businesses, entertainment, and industry. You must make enough cash to offset the expenses of having nearly every aspect of your society government-run (which is actually easier than it sounds).

Tropico actually takes a very light-hearted approach to the fact that most Caribbean islands are rather impoverished and discontent. Having been forced to pound this fact into my head by reading such books as Krik? Krak! in English class, I found it a little disconcerting that the whole thing is made out to be so humorous, especially when European colonialism, and the resulting society in the Americas, is basically the indirect cause of such poor living conditions in this part of the world. Of course, it's probably a good idea not to make such a heavy handed theme prevalent in your game if you want a sell a lot of copies, and Tropico is an excellent game, despite this minor idiosyncracy.

Technically, Tropico is a bit of a hulk. If you have some major suped up system and video card, you might get some decent performance out of it, but the graphics are quite complicated and will bring low-end systems to their knees. On a side note, Tropico is one of the first games to run better natively on Mac OS X than on the older MacOS 9.x/8.x platform. Hopefully, most other new games will follow suit. Oh yeah, there's a Windows version, too.