As I’ve matured as a video game consumer (or got older), I’ve grown more fond of titles that challenge me mentally or provide a good social experience as opposed to test my reaction quickness or hand-eye coordination. Operation: Tango seeks to accomplish both of these by focusing on cooperative puzzle-solving. Designed, no, required, to be played by two players who are in voice communication, Operation: Tango puts you in the shoes of a pair of heroes working for some unknown organization tasked with keeping everyone safe. When a big bad evil guy aims to wreak havoc, you are called upon to step into the roles of agent and hacker. Each role has unique tasks to perform while working closing with the other to overcome challenges and find means to an end.
Montreal-based developer Clever Plays has broken Operation: Tango into six missions, each following in the prior’s footsteps. After you decide who takes on which role, you’re thrust into the action and asked to complete a specific objective. Details are provided via your earpiece by your handler, and the entire experience feels very much like every spy thriller movie you’ve ever seen. While Operation: Tango may not be shy on tropes and stereotypes, it manages to promote coordination and problem-solving in ways that truly bring the two players together.
Since neither player can see what the other’s exact situation is, trial and error and good communication eventually lead to solutions. You’ll typically spend a bit of time trying to assess the situation, then come up with a solution, which when proven effective, is extremely satisfying. Once you’ve finally overcome the obstacle, the sense of accomplishment fills you with the kind of joy you may remember from your childhood; there’s something very genuinely gratifying about solving puzzles in this game.
Most puzzles aren’t so difficult as to get you stuck, but if you do, there is a hint system available. Even this, however, requires agreement from both players to proceed to get some assistance. During our roughly four hours of gameplay, we’re proud to say that we never once had to use it. That’s not to say that we weren’t baffled at times, but it just made the experience of finally finding a solution all the more enjoyable.
Graphically, Operation: Tango is pleasing to the eye and gave us fond memories of comics such as Inspector Gadget and other titles from the same era. There’s nothing too flashy, but the overall presentation fits the overall theme and was immersive enough to let the cooperation, puzzle-solving, and friendly banter shine through. Speaking of friendly banter, we definitely recommend you play this game with a good friend or like-minded gaming pal. There will be screw-ups along the way, but in our experience, the balance between frustration and easy challenges was just right. There were a roughly equal amount of “whoops, my bad!” and “yeah, that’s what we have to do, do it again!” shout-outs during our gaming sessions.
If there’s one drawback to Operation: Tango, it’s that once you’ve played through the six missions, you’ll probably never return to the game. Perhaps you’ll play it again with the roles reversed, the once you’ve solved the puzzles, no matter your perspective, the core appeal of the game is behind you. We hope that Clever Plays has plans for additional mission packs, as Operation: Tango delivers a supremely entertaining and rewarding gaming experience. The fact that Clever Plays throws in a free friend pass for every purchase is just the cherry on top.
Operation: Tango is available on Steam for PC and is also one of the free titles for PlayStation Plus members this month.