Published on October 16th, 2019 | by Stephen Riley


Tropico Mobile Review

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El Presidente Returns on Mobile to Overthrow the Competition

As the years pass by, the island of Tropico faces threats large and small, foreign and domestic. Decade by decade, Tropico will know political instability, international interference, and the occasional nuclear test conducted perhaps a tad too close to the island. Nonetheless, Tropico remains to rise from the metaphorical or literal ashes. This rings true for the titular island, as does it for the series and its iterations. The banana republic simulator stands the test of time, and excels even in its first venture into the mobile realm. This franchise entry, an Android/iOS port of Tropico 3, is a must-have for all hardcore mobile gamers.

The mobile edition of Tropico will be mechanically familiar to those acquainted with city builder games on PC. Players assume the role of “El Presidente,” the newest despot to ascend to power on the island of Tropico. And to make things more enjoyable, El Presidente comes complete with a wide range of personalization. Players can choose from a wide variety of historically significant Central American heads of state, or they can design their own autocrat, replete with all the pros and cons both desirable and unfortunate in any liberator of the people.

Should the player desire to control an alcoholic, paranoid, former travel agent who rose to power through a business deal, can they? Indeed, they can. Rule as a womanizing, zealous nationalist? Of course. But can said womanizing, zealous nationalist also fart uncontrollably? Most assuredly, and with very real in-game consequences. Right off the bat, there’s a customizability and a tongue-in-cheek flavor to Tropico that sets it apart from the pack. The style alone will hook new players, as well as satisfy veterans.

Same as the Old Boss

The remarkable thing about this iteration of Tropico is that, essentially, nothing’s been done differently. And while retreads are not usually held in high regard, Tropico constructs itself (or re-constructs) in a way that makes a re-visitation of a previous entry impressive. Feral Interactive have taken an excellent PC game and put it on mobile with no downgrades. The graphical quality is identical. There are no significant differences in the frame rate. They’ve even consolidated the UI to accommodate for smaller screen sizes, and in some cases the changes are debatably an improvement. Important information once contained in a bevy of tabs is represented by bars representing the urgency of each need. The most important of these needs will scroll across the screen, alerting the player to what they should be working on.

Incredibly, there’s a near indistinguishable difference between Tropico’s performance on mobile and on PC. Feral Interactive’s work here is an impressive accomplishment. This is considering, more often than not, that mobile ports of established franchises tend to come bogged down with micro-transactions, time gates, or other performance issues. Thankfully, there’s none of that here with Tropico.

It’s Not Easy Being on Top

This game’s a tricky puzzle to solve for beginners. Players arriving on the island for the first time may attempt the campaign once they’ve completed the tutorial, and I think that’s a mistake, if a very understandable one. The campaign immediately demands from the player an understanding and execution of the game’s systems not easily intuited. Newbies will be dissuaded by what the game asks of them in the earlier campaign missions. However, heading straight for sandbox mode remedies this. Playing around on the easy and moderate maps will allow players to figure things out. With every tool at the player’s disposal, it’s easier to test what works, what doesn’t, and what structures and services synergize with what.

This, however, also leads to one issue that does plague Tropico on mobile. The touchscreen controls take some getting used to. Tropico is a game that will require a good deal of map navigation, along, at times, precise selection of some at times minuscule models. This, at first, proves difficult with touch controls. To the benefit of the game, however, this problem isn’t insurmountable. With enough tinkering on the player’s part, navigation and selection become more than tenable.

A Game for the People

Tropico on mobile doesn’t do a lot of things wrong. It takes an already established franchise, adapts debatably its best entry, and does so without diminishing the game’s quality. This, all on a new platform where content-rich games like Tropico can run into mechanical problems. It’s well worth the $12 price tag, and is easily one of the best city builder games available on mobile.

Is it Hardcore?

As hardcore as it gets.

Tropico is an absolute joy to play, and well worth the slightly steeper price tag. A challenging yet very accessible city simulator, Tropico is sure to please fans of the series as well as interested newcomers, even if the learning curve is a bit steep at the outset.


About the Author

Stephen Riley writes games, and writes about games, and writes about writing games. Been here since Genesis. Just wants to write for or about games. That’s it. Yeah, that sounds good.

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