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Tropico Hints and Cheats

Tropico is an irreverent little game. You play a Latin American dictator (Che Guevera, Fidel Castro, Eva Peron; your call) and you run a corrupt banana republic. The feel is similar to the old board game Junta, but the game mechanics are better.

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There can be something faintly uncomfortable about playing Tropico--the balance between sardonic political mockery and trading on base stereotypes is a tightrope act, and there's something entirely too metafictive about playing a $20 American-made computer game about the American commercial exploitation of impoverished third-world countries. (I, uh, don't think a lot of Latin American peasants are seeing any of Tropico's profits.) Still, it's a good game--you erect buildings and direct an economy in the SimCity tradition, meanwhile managing your population (either by providing for their needs or by terrorizing them into submission, or some combination of the two). Occasionally a hurricane sweeps through, or the Americans decide to invade for no good reason. You can play the game free-form or try to conquer one of several pre-designed scenarios, all to the beat of an infectious Caribbean soundtrack. The sequel, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, is even better. The Tropico games aren't as addictive as the SimCity or Civilization series, but they do contain some of the best elements of both. All in all a fun play.

Anyway, here is my mini-strategy guide with the things I've learned about Tropico so far, in case anyone out there is in need of a hint (or if I am, when I come back to the game five years later--I've been known to do that. :-D )

Buying Tropico

This game is still in print, so you shouldn't have any problem finding it at your favorite software store. You can get it bundled together with its sequel, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, for an especially good value. You can buy it online if you like too--here's a link to the two-CD bundle, called Tropico Master Player's Edition (Amazon affiliate link.) You can also buy Tropico 1 only, but Tropico 2 is at least as entertaining and has a nicer interface, so I'd recommend getting the 2-CD set (that's what I did).

Tropico Cheats

It's possible to download a trainer for Tropico, but there's actually no need to do that, because Tropico comes with an in-game cheat code system. Just hold down CTRL and type one of the following cheat codes:

PESOS -- + 20,000 dollars
CONTENTO -- + 10% happiness to all population
RAPIDO -- eliminates delay before buildings are built
MUERTO -- deletes a unit

You can also use Tropico's scenario editor for more substantial cheating if you need to (i.e. altering buildings,) but even when I was playing with my children, the Tropico cheat codes built into the game were plenty good enough for me.

Tropico Hints and Tips

Wind: The weather system in Tropico is very annoying, because the clouds obscure part of the map most of the time (forcing you to wait until they pass or zoom in closer). However, they do impart one very important piece of information: which way the wind blows on your island. It's very unrealistic, but the wind never changes in this game. So one valuable tip is to build all your pollution-creating industries downwind of the rest of the island, not vice versa.

Housing: This was the biggest headache in the game for me. I never did manage to keep up with housing needs--there would always be shacks lying around. Shacks are bad; the people living in them become discontented, and they lower the quality of everything in the area (including tourism). Better housing isn't expensive, but it takes forever to build. By the time my workers would get a new apartment building up, enough new immigrants would have arrived that I'd need another one. It makes it hard to build any of the other crucial structures on the island (workplaces for all these citizens, for starters). My best advice is never to fall behind on housing in the first place. Always keep one tenement or apartment building ahead, and start construction on a new one as soon as people start to move into it. You can also free up more housing by building an army base (which you probably need for other purposes anyway). All soldiers and their families immediately move in there, and the housing quality is good, so they're happy about it--letting civilians move into their old digs.

The Homeless: Even if you have enough housing, some people won't move into it. That's usually because they can't afford to. People won't pay more than 1/3 their salary on housing, so you need to make sure your buildings are affordable to the people you want living there. It's OK for housing units not to turn a profit as long as your businesses are--it's often easier to subsidize the housing than to raise workers' wages so they can afford higher rents. Some citizens won't have any income, however (usually senior citizens, children, and the unemployed), and will always set up shacks. To avoid this, you need to set up a cheap tenement that is rent-free and regularly evict anyone with a job from the premises. Implementing social security will help the old folks and kids, but not the unemployed, and unlike in Tropico 2, there's no place to keep and regularly check on unemployed folks, so you need to have someplace for them to live or shacks will start popping up in inconvenient places.

Employment: There's an overlay button that will allow you to quickly check the employment level of your buildings. Use it frequently. Your sim Tropicans die without warning, particularly if they are old or health care is bad, and you may find an important building suddenly unstaffed. Try to keep at least two employees at each location to guard against this eventuality.

Education: You can hire educated workers from overseas, but they're shockingly expensive. It's much cheaper to build a high school and a college of your own. Hire just one or two professors--not that many of your people will go to college at a time anyway, and they're expensive. Once you start pumping out graduates of your own, you'll have enough college-educated workers to replace them when they die.

Links And Other Stuff

The official Tropico site has screenshots, downloads, the latest game patch and a FAQ.

Cafe Tropico has an online Tropico forum, a partial game manual, and some good information on using the scenario editor.

Seņor Fox's Tropico Guide has a thorough Tropico walkthrough and compendium of game hints.

Tropico Demo Download the demo for the Tropico game.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Happy gaming!

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