Thanks in no small part to the success of Hazelight’s A Way Out, the co-op genre has seen a resurgence both critically and commercially. While there were plenty of co-op games out there due to the rapid success of titles like Left 4 Dead, A Way Out’s formula of telling a cooperative story while keeping things fresh and engaging has been seen by many as a fresh direction. The free copy gifted to your partner is the icing on top of this collaborative masterpiece, and it seems other companies are beginning to take notice. The latest of this genre is Operation: Tango, a co-op spy title where an agent and a hacker must tackle daring missions that threaten global security. Does this nostalgic epic make for a great venture into the genre though? Find out in our Operation: Tango review!
The Hunt for a Criminal Mastermind in Operation: Tango
Operation: Tango thrusts you into a world of technologically advanced systems, with humans around the globe using technology to enhance their day-to-day life. With it improving by the day, spy work has vastly improved as well, with the spy agency Tango being a particular organization of note. As either agent Angel or hacker Alistair B. Fleming, you’ll head on dangerous missions in pursuit of your goal to stop the incredibly evil hacker Cypher from causing chaos. Remember though, it takes two to accomplish your mission.
The rest of the plot is mostly under wraps to avoid spoilers, yet Operation: Tango takes a very unique approach through its various missions. Rather than playing out as your standard co-op game missions, the game instead treats the levels as episodes of a TV show, with the whole game essentially acting as a pilot season for a spy TV show. This of course brings about cliches in the story itself, but rather than using them lazily, Tango wears these cliches like a badge of honor, as a shining example of the power of nostalgia. While situations throughout the game are futuristic in the literal sense, much of the events and story play out much like a Hollywood spy thriller, mashing together Mission Impossible and 007 to pay homage to two great franchises. And thanks to that approach, the title does a great job of separating itself from its competition.
It wouldn’t be a mosaic of these older beauties without some solid humor thrown in there, and Operation: Tango takes a very self-aware approach in this regard. It understands that the stakes are very over the top and, as such, it plays with that to include things such as the infamous, keyboard-bashing “I’m in” meme that we’ve all wished to see shoved 30 feet into the ground. Despite that, its use and others like it throughout the title feel right at home rather than awkwardly cringe-inducing.
For the story of an experience like this, the team at Clever Plays perfectly understands how to keep a theme consistent, and it shows. It’s a masterpiece of nostalgic spy romps, and one you really can’t find anywhere else. It’s perfectly built for many potential sequels as well, something I’m more than excited to see a few years down the line.
Hacking Your Way to Success
Choosing either agent or hacker provides a surprisingly diverse experience, and thus your gameplay will likely differ greatly. Having played as an agent alongside my good friend (who often thought he was hilarious throwing expletives up on various kiosks), I found much of my end to be the action-oriented part of Operation: Tango. I was always getting down and dirty, sneaking my way past security and offering my friend some much-needed information. Despite how much more fun I’m making the agent out to be, the hacker does offer a lot of tools to play with, making for a uniquely fun experience as you do your best to screw with your friend in every which way. This freedom to have some good old casual banter can prove to be incredibly enjoyable and lasts far throughout the experience.
With that being said, when you’re actually playing the game as you’re supposed to, the experience can feel challenging, innovative, and hectic all at the same time. Trying to complete various complex tasks with the fear of death ever-looming can get your heart racing whether hacking from safety or being in a tense situation yourself. There are a few times where I even found myself getting caught up in the fear, mangling the orders much to the frustration of my accomplice. It’s something that I felt often lacked in other experiences like A Way Out and It Takes Two, even if those games are excellent in their own respects.
While I did very much enjoy the hacking puzzles that Operation: Tango threw at me, including some clever nods to “co-op” games like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, some of the puzzles felt a lot stronger than others, thus making weaker puzzles much more apparent. A few of them felt somewhat tedious, requiring a lot of patience combined with trial and error, while others would be inconsistent with detection at best. While these issues often didn’t linger to the point of frustration, it didn’t change them being memorable for the wrong reasons. This is remedied well by the stronger cooperative puzzles thankfully but has its issues nonetheless.
And while I genuinely had zero issues with the length, it’s worth noting for fans of other co-op games like this that Operation: Tango can be a bit on the shorter side. With our issues being blind to the obvious solution included, the whole experience clocked in at just under four hours. And while we didn’t do a second playthrough from the other perspective, it’s clear that it would likely feel very similar as you know what type of information the other person has to relay. Once again I found this to be of no issue as a game like It Takes Two can feel incredibly long by comparison, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
Sprawling Metropolises and Narrow Corridors
As it’s the way of the future, Operation: Tango puts you in a large, sprawling metropolis filled with sights to see, people to meet, and panels to fail at hacking. And while it does keep its art style quite simplistic (being only a few steps up from Roblox), this type of game almost feels perfect for it. Given the over-the-top events rampant throughout the experience, a cartoonish art style only makes sense. And it sticks to this well while still building up a solid atmosphere perfect for everyone’s favorite spy duo. It can be a bit imperfect in some places though, such as some water being flowing polygons as it should while other water bodies are bluish, non-moving images. Seeing as these are rather rare though, they don’t cause many problems.
And with a game such as this, its score has to fit that cliche spy soundtrack we all played over in our heads as kids. It accomplishes this incredibly well, offering up some fast and tense tracks while keeping with the theme of a Hollywood spy thriller. It never once drifts from that, keeping things consistent and fresh. It’s not the most memorable soundtrack by any stretch, yet I enjoyed it all the same.
Despite its similarities to others in the co-op genre, Operation: Tango is an incredibly unique spy game that gets so much right about its story, gameplay, and visual/audio prowess. With it being so short, it feels akin to a small basket of incredibly good, well-seasoned fries. You won’t be chewing away at it for long, but that time you do will feel oh so amazing. It definitely has its rough edges here and there (including a few game-breaking glitches), but other areas make up for it to some extent. If you and a friend are looking for an incredibly good experience akin to Hazelight’s titans of the genre, Operation: Tango has plenty of co-op excitement, hilarity, and nostalgia to go around.
- Nostalgia flow is euphoric
- Puzzles keep things fresh and interesting
- Clever nods to other titles like it
- Free copy to your friend
- Keeps things unique consistently
- Solid audio visual suite
- Visual inconsistencies here and there
- Polish issues (including a few game-breaking)