September 4, 2001
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Tropico

This strange (but rather good) sim game puts you in control (more or less) of an underdeveloped Carribean island. It's not politically correct -- it's not even in the same county as PC -- but it has a certain charm. Oddly, Tropico (like almost all recent SimCity descendants) has few building variations. This may ultimately be a question of budget -- most likely the space budget for fitting the game onto a CD, for the current fascination for gorgeously detailed, photrealistic rendering and animation imposes a substantial tax on each new building type. Tropico uses every ounce of power in my Wall Street PowerBook, and some to spare, it's consistently interesting, but I do wonder whether such literal realism and such expensive chrome really help the game.

I'm convinced that realistic animation actively harms The Sims, where the near-miss realism causes distraction and encourages players to distance themselves from the protagonist. This leads to the game's ironic, half-mocking tone that is neither quite funny nor quite consistent with the game's ambitions. Still, like Tropico, The Sims was a fine game.