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Video Game / Hidden Agenda (1988)

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In the confusing days following the dictator's fall, a Junta of the Insurrection has been formed by representatives of the three major political parties. Someone must lead the country in its hour of need. By popular mandate, that someone is you.

A Political Strategy Game set in the Banana Republic of Chimerica, which is struggling to get back on its feet after 40 years of dictatorial rule. As Presidente, you must balance the demands coming at you from all sectors of society with Chimerica's vulnerable position as a Third World country in the middle of the Cold War.

You can play it here.

Tropes found in Hidden Agenda:

  • Authority in Name Only: You, if the US-backed military elements drive out their Soviet-friendly counterparts. Eventually, Colonel Ehrlich will just do what he wants no matter what you decree, giving the same answer either way (brusquely thanking you for your opinion, then saying his soldiers know what to do).
  • Bilingual Bonus: Each ministry has a Spanish motto.
    Defense: Fuerza y seguridad (Strength and security)
    Internal Affairs: De muchos al uno (From many to one)
    External Affairs: Jamas dice 'tio' (Never say 'uncle')
    Agriculture: En granos confiamos (In grains we trust)
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: If you follow the advice of Popular Stability or Christian Reform, you'll have a civil war on your hands, death squads running rampant, and the Army effectively in control. If you follow the advice of National Liberation, you'll have a civil war on your hands, an American embargo that destroys the economy, and Chimerica in the arms of a Soviet Bloc that really can't provide much help. A careful middle path can leave death squads running rampant under an unelected dictator...but the nation will be at peace. And, no, you can't have a free or fair election and have a military that will actually obey orders all the time.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • The in-game newspapers are rife with propaganda, particularly USA Yesterdaynote , El Independientenote , and Chimerica Ahoranote .
    • If ministers or influentials dislike you, they might say they'll obey your orders, but implement their own favored policy instead.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Even if you manage to make most things in the country better, you'll still likely have a crisis bearing down on the country that doesn't get resolved by the end of the game's short timeline.
  • But Thou Must!: Your only choice in a crisis situation is between the demand on the table and the relevant minister's advice. If the minister agrees with the demand, or no minister is assigned, you have no choice but to implement the proposed policy. (This can lead to a chain reaction where other groups outraged by your "decisions" immediately demand that you reverse them, and without a minister, you'll be forced to cave in every time.)
  • Capital City: Poyais, home of the National Palace.
  • Comical Overreacting: Father Julio as a cabinet member. ANY disagreement with him, no matter how trivial, has a good chance of his launching into a "Weep for your children, Jerusalem" jeremiad.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: All of the photographs.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The game indicates that some countries just aren't ready for democracy. As seen under People's Republic of Tyranny, if you hold an election one of two factions of the military (whichever is dominant) will take control of both the election and the country and potentially start a civil war. The only way to keep the military on a leash is to become a dictator yourself.
  • Divide and Conquer: You can avoid a civil war and maintain some measure of control over Chimerica by enforcing a balance between the communist Subcomandante and the right-wing Colonel. This comes at the cost of being unable to embrace democracy or stop the death squads.
  • Do Not Adjust Your Set: Insurgents can seize Radio Chimerica and proclaim your downfall.
  • End-Game Results Screen: Encyclopedia PaxAmericana (US Tricentennial Edition) delivers the verdict of history on your rule.
  • Failed Future Forecast: Narrowly dodged. The game was released in 1988, and takes place over three years of the Cold War. However, no dates are given, so it reads today as an Eighties period piece. (The manual implies a mid-Nineties setting, but it also gets several characters' names wrong.) Then again, the ending recap comes from the Tricentennial [presumably 2076] Edition of an American encyclopedia, described as being from "over a century" later...
  • Farmer and the Viper: Grant amnesty to Farsante's Former Regime Personnel and they form LIMPIAnote , a paramilitary terrorist organization whose death squads proceed to kill a lot of people.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: You can enact a curfew.
  • Fictional Political Party: National Liberation is left-wing, Christian Reform is centrist, and Popular Stability is right-wing. Each offers three nominees for your cabinet, which has four positions to fill — so you'll need to hire from at least two parties.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Where to even begin....
    • Leading a country is tough. Leading a country successfully is even tougher. Leading a Third World country filled with socio-economic wounds just days after a dictator's fall with actors on all sides of the political spectrum willing to commit atrocities while in the middle of the Cold War as both superpowers eye your small nation is a nightmare.
    • You can't make everyone happy, there is no Golden Ending. You simply cannot fix all of a country's issues (especially one as damaged and divided as Chimerica) in just three years.
    • Just because you're in charge does not mean those beneath you will always tell you the truth, nor does it guarantee that they'll always follow your orders or won't have an agenda of their own. Even advisors you may trust might omit important details about an issue.
    • As someone in power, even well-intentioned decisions you make can unintentionally cause misery and get people killed.
    • Related to the previous, figuring out the truth of a situation can be very difficult, especially when you might be being lied to without realizing it, but you can't just always wait for all the facts. You just have to make the best guess you can and hope it doesn't backfire. Sometimes, you simply cannot know something was the wrong choice until you make it.
  • Hated by All: Farsante. Practically everyone turned against him regardless of their position on the political spectrum. However, the trope is also subverted in that a few of the major characters only turned against Farsante to save their own skins...
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: You're asked for a first, last, and mother's maiden name (which is customarily appended in Latin America). If you skip this step, you become Juan Incognito Anonymous.
  • Meaningful Name:
    Chimerica is a chimera of a country. Body of El Salvador, neck of Nicaragua, claws of Cuba, head of Haiti, it is a composite of different parts that together form a beast representative of all.
    • Also each minister in your cabinet has their own hidden agenda and if you violate it they'll launch a coup. Notably the game doesn't ever tell directly you what their hidden agenda is, you have to work it out based on their profile, their words and reactions, the timing of a coup, and sometimes what other characters say.
  • Mob War: Between Colonel Ehrlich (the US-backed military commander) and Sub-Commandante Correa (the Soviet-backed commander). They jointly run the military even though they hate each other, and keeping them both around is VERY tricky. One will oust the other 99% of the time, and that will dictate Chimerica's political alliances for the rest of the game.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Generally, the game ends with either you surviving to the end or being overthrown. There are two exceptions, both revolving around the National Liberation Party:
    • If you keep the NLP active in your government but pass enough policies they hate, you may receive a sudden alert that Father Julio has engineered your peaceful ouster via the legislature. The game immediately ends and goes right to the summarization.
    • Similarly, if the election comes with Sub-Commandante Correa running the army and you are the Christian Reform candidate, the game will end with a polite letter from the election commission informing you of your loss to the NLP candidate.
  • Off the Chart: Glitches can cause this. 108% of your population is starving!
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: This happens if you run an election.
    • If you run an election with Ehrlich in command of the army, the army will assassinate the civilian election overseer (a priest, naturally) and assume control of the election itself. Of course, the actual popular will becomes irrelevant at that point.
    • If the army is controlled by Subcomandante Correa, it's less blatant, but the army will control the nation's TV and radio, limit the opposition's speaking time, and ensure that the Barrio Defense Committees (a form of local council democracy distinct from Western-style electoral democracy) are the cornerstone of elections and government. National Liberation will win a Landslide Election.
  • Press X to Die: Surrendering to a coup has a 100% chance to end your game. There's also a certain decision that will trigger a Game-Breaking Bug and leave you with no option but to exit the game.
  • Pretentious Latin Motto: Político Ex Machina.
  • The Purge: Elements of the military will do this, if you empower them to. Or if they decide to empower themselves to do it. You can counter this by supporting one side's Purge or by aggressively balancing both sides.
  • Realpolitik: The tug-of-war between US and Soviet influence is a major theme. Even within Chimerica, it's impossible to make everyone happy.
  • The Starscream: Be prepared to defend against coups from ministers who dislike your policies.
  • Torture Technician: Padilla, Farsante's chief interrogator, was nicknamed "Blowtorch Bob" for his favorite implement. He also subtly threatens you whenever you interact.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: More than a few characters are not as innocent as they seem, not all of their lies are obvious, and some things are never directly stated, forcing the player to read between the lines, listen to characters offering alternative viewpoints, and note when their words contradict either something you already know or what another character says.
  • Vote Early, Vote Often: How Farsante is alleged to have stayed in power.