Gaming Hyena
Tropico 2


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S & M is all the rage here on Pirate Island, as this female leather clad pirate demonstrates.  In the upper left hand corner your advisor Smitty gives you another useless piece of information. You go girl!

Tropico 2:  Pirate Cove


             Even though I review games mostly in my spare time, occasionally it can be grueling work.  Not every game out there is an Age of Mythology, the gaming world is littered with the wrecks of bad games.  While I can't really say that Tropico 2 is a bad game, it certainly is one of the most uninspired and mediocre games I've played in a while.


Booty Call


Being a pirate in the 1600s was apparently a very hard profession.   In addition to looting and pillaging their way across the Caribbean, pirate captains also had to build their captives hotels and churches to stay in.  At least, this is the impression I got from playing Tropico 2, as most of your time as pirate king is spent making sure your captives and pirates are nice and comfortable.  While real pirates would have probably just shot the bellyachers and been done with it, unskilled captives are oddly enough one of the most precious resources in the game (more on this later).  Pirates like anarchy, while your captives like order.  Needless to say, it is almost impossible to make either group happy, especially since the captives commute to the pirate areas to work.  Luckily, you are often be relieved from the experience of replaying your island since the game sports several bugs that make loading a save a game of chance in itself.  Much like a case of food poisoning, these magically corrupted save files cause Tropico 2 to curl up in the fetal position and force you back onto the desktop.  I'm sure this will be fixed with subsequent patches, but Im sick of apologizing for game designers releasing buggy games.  If your game contains bugs that make it fundamentally unplayable (or wont let you save your progress), then fix it before you release the game!  To help you through all this, you are provided with an advisor, Smitty.  For some reason, Smitty looks like he just came back from a gay pride parade.  With a sassy finger in the air and his "don't go there girlfriend" look on his face, Smitty is by far the most blatantly homosexual character introduced in a game in recent memory.  Perhaps your pirate isle is an equal opportunity employer, I don't know.  It doesnt help that Smittys lines are spoken by a reject voice actor from a Lucky Charms commercial.  Seemlessly blending an Irish brogue with a generic stereotype of a sea captain, Smittys voice is irritating enough to split glass.  Needless to say, Smitty is full of exciting messages to tell you every couple of seconds, and oftentimes repeats the same message over and over to make sure you know how important it is to build that pastry factory so the pirates can have pastries (no, Im not making that up).  For a good laugh, look at this portrait when hes speaking and try to imagine your swishy advisor speaking with the gruff voice.  His warning, "maybe you 'taint noticed, captain, but there arent enough winches around here" will either have you rolling on the ground with laughter or seriously questioning your own manhood (or maybe both)


I have met Tropico.  Tropico was my friend.  And you sir, are no Tropico.


            Good sequels extend the gaming franchise; Tropico 2 merely copies the first one.  The basic layout is the same as the original.  Despite being set 300 years in the past, most of the buildings are ripped from the original.  This can lead to some bizarre building choices in the game, such as when the pirates are cultured enough to plant crops to make pastries, or industrious enough to operate a cigar-making factory.   Luckily, unlike the previous game, they are staffed with captives (or slaves, whatever you want to call them) who you do not have to pay.  Although Tropico 2 is sugarcoated with Caribbean flare, it does raise a couple of moral issues.  For example, you are forcing unwilling women to become unpaid wenches at the point of the sword to satisfy your pirates lusty cravings.  Oh well... Unskilled workers are for some reason very hard to find.  You can kidnap skilled workers to do their jobs, but they cost money to do so.  So basically you either dont build a lot of stuff or spend all your money on skilled workers.  What fun.  Somehow, although many of the graphics are blatantly copied from the original game, they managed to make them look worse.  The graphics look grainy and ugly, yet somehow manage to take up two CDs worth of space.  The factions are back, although they have a much lower profile in Tropico 2.  Faction leaders never pester you for anything, and their followers will silently grow more and more unhappy as you blithely ignore their need for a tavern or cigar factory or whatever they happen to want at the moment.  Of course, since you dont have to worry about elections it really doesn't matter if theyre happy or not.  Time has been slowed down significantly on this game, perhaps to make it a tad more realistic (so people dont spend 8 months in a tavern drinking).  Unfortunately, this means that games take even longer than before to finish.  The increased length of the game combined with the save killing bug means it will be virtually impossible to actually finish a long game (this may or may not be a good thing, I haven't decided).  On a positive note, construction is much more speedy in Tropico 2 than in the original, meaning it takes only 2 years instead of 4 for your workers to build a shrub or remove a tree. 


Cam"pain" Mode (Ha! The pun is delicious)


            With the horrors of the game basics behind us, let us turn to the campaign mode.  One of the biggest changes since the original Tropico is the addition of a campaign.  Basically your character ends up being the Jimmy Carter of the Caribbean, as you go around pacifying pirates, helping out the colonial powers, and whatnot.  Actually, the overall storyline is very weak, and only serves as a pretext to get you to complete your objectives in the next mission.  Harry Morgan wants a pirate ship, build him one.  Suck up to Britain to get their protection.  Your pirates are stupid, build them schools.  Blah Blah Blah.  Although like most campaign modes you cannot build all the buildings until the last few missions, the game still operates as if you could.  Thus, prisoners will demand churches that cannot be made, while pirates will demand structures that you cannot build yet.  Needless to say, this adds another element of "challenge", and by "challenge" I mean evidence of a poorly made game.  There are only three video cutscenes in the game: the intro movie, the winning movie, and the losing movie, and these dont really draw you into the campaign much.  It's a real shame that the campaign isn't more exciting, since it is the centerpiece of the whole game.  Youd think they would have used some of that space on the two CDs to inject some plot, or even some random clips of pirate ships, but alas they did not.  On the bright side, the music isn't bad, and features several Caribbean tunes like the first game. 


            Tropico 2, while a hassle, can be enjoyable to play at times.  If it had been an expansion pack for the original, it would be much easier to overlook the flaws.  But it's not.  Instead, you have a so-so game thats only worth playing because it so closely follows such a good original.  I'd advise playing the demo first before rushing out to buy this one, matey.

GamingHyena gives Tropico 2: Pirate Isle 6/10.