That said, if you have a choice, be sure to pick the PC version of Tropico 3 over the Xbox 360 game. There's the obvious and inevitable issue of lower-quality visuals, for starters. The game looks that bit more jaggedy on 360, the lighting is brash and unsubtle and textures are considerably less detailed. They've still managed to do a lovely job with the the sea, mind.
By picking the 360 version you'll also miss out on the option to design your own missions as the challenge editor only features in the PC game. But that's probably only of interest to a minority anyway, and the console version does feature a fully-fledged sandbox mode along with all 15 of the campaigns.
The real problem, as is so often the case with strategy games on consoles, is the control system. The design team has done its best but there's just no getting around it - a mouse is much easier to use than a control pad when you're dealing with such a huge number of buttons to click, items to place and statistics to view. There's a particular issue with the screens which have six or more options arranged in a circular fashion. It can be fiddly to highlight your chosen option using the analogue stick as you have to get it right on the diagonal, and the game sometimes struggles to recognise which one you want.
Attempting to lay down roads can also be frustrating. The automatic pathfinder seems to be a bit mental, often assuming you'd rather build a big curvy road than just lay one in a straight line. You end up having to put roads down in increments, stopping and starting again at every turn - time-consuming and annoying.
Once again, these issues are by no means enough to make the game unplayable or even unenjoyable. But frustration does build up over the course of a few hours and you can't help wishing you were playing with a mouse. This is a real shame as Tropico 3 could have been a great introduction to the city-building genre for console owners who are new to it.
That's if it also had a proper tutorial mode. The one it's got is pretty terrible, boiling down to 15 minutes of a man with the most bizarre comedy Spanish accent you've ever heard reading out a manual. You can only progress through the tutorial by completing each instruction the man gives you, and you can't make him repeat any of them - so if you miss one, you're stuck with randomly pressing buttons in the hope of hitting the right combo or starting the whole thing again.
The game is easy to play if you've got city-builder experience but if not, you might feel bewildered by what seems like an awful lot to remember (button presses, resource management, construction, politics, Swiss bank accounts, etc. etc.) when it's all thrown at you over the course of 15 minutes.
So Tropico 3 can't be recommended as an introduction to the genre. Nor can it be said to match up to the PC version, thanks to the lower-quality graphics, slightly poorer mode selection and inferior control system. All that said, it's impossible not to like this game. Maybe it's the classic, solid city-building gameplay. Maybe it's the unique style and sense of humour. Maybe it's the fact that, despite all the niggles, the game is still so absorbing you can spend hours on it without realising just how much time you've wasted.
Nah. It's probably the soundtrack.