Coming from a very well named developer, Clever Plays, is a new entry in the burgeoning cooperative play only genre. Building in staples from the likes of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, and mixing in the promise of an intriguing spy flavour and interesting story, does Operation Tango have what it takes to draw in a friend, or is this more likely to cause a divorce? Join me as we dive head on into a world of hacking and hi-jinks…
Now, first that stipulation. Operation Tango is a game you cannot play alone; only cooperatively online. There are options in-game to join a Discord channel to find willing players, but given the sheer amount of communication that is needed between the two players, you may be more comfortable playing with a like-minded friend. It’s with that the game shines.
With that public service announcement out of the way, it’s time to see what is going on in Operation Tango. There are two characters to choose from – the Agent and the Hacker. As you’d expect, they have very different roles, with the Agent being the one in harm’s way, as it were, taking on the physical infiltration of target buildings, for instance. The Hacker inhabits a world of pure cyber: everything they see is kind of like a VR version of Tron, with nodes to hack and mazes to explore. The Agent can request help from the Hacker, for say, if they need a new identity to pass a scan, or needing help accessing elevators. The Hacker equally needs information from the Agent, with mini games based around unlocking an IP address in order to access a particular part of the network.
The gameplay is absolutely perfectly balanced here, and neatly the difficulty is also judged just right. And the development team have also thought of ensuring you cannot circumvent the puzzles too. You see, one mission requires you to find a smart phone, find the unlock code and then unlock it. The code is easy, and so we went through every phone in the storage; the code didn’t work on any of them. We had to go through our respective databases, put clues together, then access a locker (that we had already tried) before we could finally claim victory.
Looking around, describing what you see as the two screens are very different, and what seems like a meaningless bit of info to one person may just be enough to unlock something for the other person; taking advantage of every scrap of information available to you is vital. There are a couple of leaps of deduction needed, however: who would have guessed that driving a cleaning robot off the edge of a platform onto a kill switch would be required to carry on with a mission?
No two missions are the same though, and it’s very refreshing to see the amount of work that has clearly gone into crafting the missions; they are entertaining and most of all fun to play. It’s not unusual to look up from Operation Tango and find that two or three hours have just disappeared while you’ve been immersed in the world.
A good example of the thought that has gone into the game is found in the mazes that appear in cyberspace. As a Hacker, you can see digital guardians and obstacles in your way, while the Agent sees only a top-down visualisation of the maze, with no obstacles. The Agent has to make a path for the Hacker to follow, but the digital guardians will wipe out any path pieces they pass over. Communication is again key, whether that be polite and deliberate whispers, or the screaming of “Go left!” down the microphone. The levels are genuinely nerve wracking, and with timed missions coming in as well, such as trying to stop a speeding train, you’ll be feeling wrung out at times too.
The look of Operation Tango is just as awesome, with very stylised graphics, and the Hacker in particular having the most magnificent ginger handlebar moustache. The world that the Hacker sees is very virtual in appearance, but makes perfect sense, and while the Agent sees the world as it is, there are some very cool design touches, like being able to turn on a Christmas theme in the lift in the very first mission to amuse the Agent. The sound is also up to the task, but largely plays second fiddle to the voice communications, and while the alarms will make you sit up and take notice, the actual sound effects and music are never obtrusive.
In all, if you have a like-minded friend to hand, Operation Tango is brilliant. The pacing is just right, the missions aren’t too long, and there is replayability built in, with plenty of achievements popping for each level depending on who you complete it as. If there was ever the opportunity to play alone it would pretty much come with a perfect score, but I’m going to have to dock a tiny bit as that isn’t possible. If you don’t like people, this isn’t the game for you, but it is a very fun experience which excels in the playing and communicating with actual real-world folk.