Review: Tango Fiesta Is An ’80s Romp With Wit But No Shine
Tango Fiesta takes you back to the '80s in a top down arcade shooter that gives you two options: kill everything, or kill everything with friends.
- Worth The Time?In the grand scheme of things probably not.
- Things LovedGood humour; colourful visuals; fun boss battles.
- Things HatedMenus aren't well designed; difficulty spikes can be really irregular; levels are extremely repetitive; lack of variety; inconsistent design; it doesn't do anything with its gameplay to set itself apart.
- RecommendationTango Fiesta won't be your first choice in a crowded action space. At this price you're better off looking elsewhere, as the game doesn't stand out.
- Name: Tango Fiesta
- Genre: Action, Arcade Shooter
- Players: 1-4
- Multiplayer: Online and local co-op (4 players)
- Platforms: PC
- Developer: Spilt Milk Studios
- Publisher: Mastertronic
- Price: $12.99
- Reviewed On: PC
Tango Fiesta is like many humble indie projects that try to capture nostalgia and take us back to a quirkier and colourful time of gaming. It’s an arcadey shoot-em-up packed with colour, humour and explosions, and aims to glorify the 80’s action films in one messy romp. While the goal here is admirable and the execution has merit the reality is that Tango Fiesta falls victim to relying on nostalgia over setting itself apart, and the result is mixed.
The game is a top-down cooperative shooter for up to four players, complete with a single player campaign and online and offline co-op. The level-based campaign follows the story of John Strong, also known as the greatest hero the world has ever seen in said campaign. However despite the quirky narrative focusing on him, you’re free to play as other characters in the actual missions. The story is full of bizarre events and witty humour, and sees an older John Strong telling players the truth of what happened to him in the 80’s. It’s a story that involves wars, murderous jelly monsters, zombies, time travel and killer game shows. We didn’t exactly say that it makes much sense, but it’s a fun ride.
Each new level is unlocked prior to completing the previous one, and at the end of the chapter you’ll face a boss before you progress onto the next world. You’ll get to select your character as well as your loudout before you begin a mission, and each character differs cosmetically and in their stats like health, speed and damage. While your character choice doesn’t make much of a difference in the early stages of the game, in the later more challenging levels you’ll definitely need to mix it up depending on what you have to deal with.
The game’s structure lives up to the simplicity of the older times, and that’s something that ends up being to the game’s detriment. You’ll simply land slap-bang in the middle of a large procedurally generated level, be given objectives and told to complete them while fighting armies of enemies at the same time. The problem is that throughout the entire game your objectives remain the same, whether it’s to destroy a certain building or target or capture a point. It never changes, and that makes things become extremely repetitive very quickly.
The boss battles then become the game’s saving grace in terms of variety, and fortunately they’re pretty fun and full of quirk in the dialogue exchanges. We quite enjoyed these when they showed up, as they were a chance for the game to run a bit more wild and mix things up as opposed to just taking on the same drones endlessly. Things may change everywhere aesthetically, but for the most part the gameplay remained almost the same until a boss fight.
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The gameplay is very simple. You’ll control your character with either the keyboard or the mouse, although the use of a controller is encouraged. You’ll move towards your objectives in the levels while shooting, stabbing and grenading all enemies who dare to stop you. Enemies don’t stop coming, levels and objective locations are randomised and a level isn’t complete until said objectives are.
While it’s fun for a while the problem we found, aside from the repetitiveness, is that there’s just little stopping you from running straight to your objectives when you land into a mission and finishing them to move on with the game. There’s no point killing dozens of enemies unless you’re cash or points farming for some obscure reason. Sure you can buy extra weaponry, but they’re pricey and some of the expensive ones, like the chainsaw, are useless. The starting weapons are more than enough to deal with the bulk of the game, and we ended up finding little to entertain us within each level.
The other problem is that difficulty spikes are quite irregular. Most of the game can be really easy and straightforward, especially if you’ve selected the right character for the job. Yet towards the end there are some absurd hikes in difficulty that bordered on frustrating, as we were simply overwhelmed by enemies. Perhaps stronger weaponry is needed towards the end, but as mentioned previously the motivation to farm cash is extremely low when it’s repetitive.
It’s easy enough to identify which character you may need for each level though, as you may be taking a lot of damage and require a more durable character, or may need to race to your objectives and thus need a speedier one. John Strong, the main character, is often the best and most-rounded character for the job, so we stuck with him.
A pet peeves we had though was selecting your characters and equipment, because navigation isn’t that well-designed. If you want a different character or want to buy new weaponry, you can’t do that on the fly or after a mission in the case of the latter. You pretty much have to quit in order to visit the gun shop or restart the mission and load it up again with a new character and gear.
In spite of all these criticisms though there are many aspects of Tango Fiesta we couldn’t help but enjoy. It’s got charm, nostalgia, good humour and colourful visuals. It’s got what it takes to make you smile, and has some fun boss fights to reward you at the end of each level. We wouldn’t say that we regretted our time with the game.
The main problem is just that there’s very little Tango Fiesta does to set itself apart. There are dozens of indie games like it that offer wit, charm, nostalgia and childlike fun, but they have better and more varied gameplay. A month ago we reviewed one such game called DiscStorm, and if you look out there you’ll find gems like Broforce. This game just doesn’t do much with its gameplay to differentiate itself or remain entertaining for its full duration.
That makes it unlikely that the campaign’s handful of chapters will keep you until the very end. You can breeze through the game in about three or so hours, and what you’re left with is the chance to play the campaign again with friends or online. Unfortunately we couldn’t test the online component as we couldn’t get a game lobby. That aside the multiplayer doesn’t do a whole lot to fix the lack of variety and overly simplistic gameplay. It’s a simple pleasure that’s too simple.