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You think you’d be a benevolent leader, truly caring for each of your citizens.

But what happens when the Russians threaten to invade? Or the local gangster demands that you repay a certain favor by eliminating one of your citizens? Or the local voodoo priest threatens you with a curse?

Those sorts of decisions are crucial in "Tropico 3," a quirky T-rated city-building game developed by Haemimont Games for Kalypso.

The game offers a humorous spin on the Cold War, when the United States and Soviet Union were waging a tug-of-war in the Caribbean. You play as the leader of a small island nation, trying to build your economy and keep your residents happy — or at least under control. You start off by creating your persona using a wide range of personality traits — and disorders — that can give you certain bonuses or determine how different factions view your regime.

You generally begin with a presidential palace, some farms and a few other buildings that serve as the nucleus of your budding nation. You can then build housing, farms, mines, factories, government buildings, hotels and tourist attractions. Your building funds come from exports and international aid provided by the Americans and/or Soviets.

As with similar simulations, you need to balance your economic growth with citizen happiness. That can be tricky because of the large number of factions, who often have conflicting needs and desires. You will inevitably irritate someone — sometimes enough to spark an assassination attempt, revolution or voodoo curse. And if that’s not enough to worry about, you also face the possibility of invasion by either the Americans or the Soviets, as well as devastating hurricanes.

The game offers a 15-mission campaign with progressively harder challenges. You can also play a "sandbox" mission that lets you determine the parameters for your game. Both modes are fun and addictive, offering a wide variety of challenges.

The graphics are pretty good, allowing you to zoom from far overhead down to a ground-level view with a decent amount of detail.

The controls work pretty well once you get over the steep learning curve. Unfortunately, the tutorial isn’t too deep and you’re left to figure out some things on your own.

The game also has more than its fair share of glitches. They’re always resolved by restarting the Xbox 360 — but are still annoying.

The game’s soundtrack offers plenty of Latin tunes from the Cold War era as well as humorous comments from local radio announcers — though both tend to get repetitive after a few missions.

If you’re a fan of city-based simulations, "Tropico 3" will probably be your ideal Caribbean getaway.

Platforms: Xbox 360

On the Web: www.tropico3.com

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