STAFF REVIEW of Operation: Tango (Xbox One)

Friday, July 30, 2021.
by Peggy Doyle

Operation: Tango Box art Communication is key. That’s important whether in a relationship or helping someone diffuse a bomb about to end the world.

Developed by Clever Plays, Operation: Tango is an online only co-op puzzle adventure game. A pair of players take on the roles of two spies, (an agent and a hacker), and help one another through many puzzles and mysteries while trying to take down the evil villain known as Cypher.

Verbal communication is the most important part of the game, as each player will see something different on their screens and have access to different mechanics that will help their partner solve a puzzle. Unlike other online co-op games I’ve played you only see your own screen in Operation: Tango so you have no idea what your partner is seeing.

In Operation: Tango, there are six missions to complete, including breaking into a billionaire's vault, stopping a runaway train and diving into the Dark Web. The puzzles associated with each mission can sometimes be very simple, like finding and inputting an easily discovered passcode or dodging internet security sentinels, but the variations in the puzzles and the sometimes goofy solutions are part of the game's design and contribute to its charm. Many of the longer puzzles are clever and engaging, leading to rather amusing, and sometimes frustrating, communication situations. Puzzle design in Operation: Tango often leads to satisfying ‘a-ha’ moments when you figure out what you should do and successfully come up with the solution.

Generally speaking, the Agent’s parts play out in first person while the hacker remains ‘online’ and from a distance. There are many situations that the Agent also needs to use their hacking skills to solve the puzzle. I would have liked to see more distinction between the roles and perhaps some more action from the Agent. Since the Agent had no combat skills it often boiled down to two hackers in a mission. One was merely walking around while the other sat.

On a technical level, Operation: Tango is impressive. The UI and interfaces for the various puzzles are clean and engaging, never giving too much away and always encouraging players to click around and explore. In-game chat was clear, but I primarily used Xbox party chat when playing. I did encounter a few errors in the game with being disconnected from my partner. I thought this may have been related to us playing across the globe (Canada and Australia), but it also happened when playing with a partner close by. If players do experience a glitch and get kicked from the game, both players can reconnect and choose to restart exactly where their agents left off thankfully.

Unfortunately, Operation: Tango isn’t very long. With only six missions to the story, the game may only take a few hours depending on how quickly partners can pick up the solutions to various puzzles. My playthrough as the Agent took about five hours. Although you could extend your game time by replaying the game and playing as the opposing roles (this is required to get all the achievements on Xbox) and see the other point of view throughout the missions, you have a distinct advantage knowing what you already saw on the first time through. It doesn’t mean it won’t be enjoyable but would take away from the suspense and intrigue of figuring out the puzzles.

For every mission that was interesting code breaking, there were many button mashing/rhythm matching sequences. One in particular required me to grab a pen and paper to track the colours so when my partner called out ‘now’ I knew what colour was needed. Infuriating to me, were the ball moving puzzles where one person controls the vertical movement whereas the other controls the horizontal while navigating the puzzle.

Only one player on the team needs to have purchased a copy of Operation: Tango. Additional players can pick up the free Friend Pass to join a game. Players with a Friend Pass won't be able to create a new game or receive achievements, but they can still access all the other features. Operation: Tango also supports cross play, so it should be very easy for players to jump in with any of their friends.

I was extremely lucky to play Operation: Tango with a partner with whom I have fantastic communication skills. This meant that we were able to work together easily on the puzzles in the game. However, as he suffers from arthritis in his hands, he struggled with some of the repetitive and quick time reactions needed to complete them. This was something that I had not anticipated and is important to note if there are any players with mobility issues. There is no way to adjust these settings to increase accessibility unfortunately.

Any classic spy film needs a great soundtrack, and Operation: Tango has just the right amount of adrenaline music at the right time. The music speeds up slightly in points where you would naturally be more stressed and your heart rate would rise. Like when the clock is running out of time, and you start speaking louder and faster to your partner. The soundtrack definitely had a James Bond type vibe to it. No mistaking that this was a spy game if you heard just the opening music.

While it lasts, Operation: Tango is great fun. The puzzles are engaging and never too simple to solve, but they are also not so difficult as to become frustrating. Operation: Tango forces players to find new ways of communicating, often leading to funny outbursts and miscommunications. Operation: Tango is clever, well-designed and engaging. It has a good mix of silly puzzles and those that require more thought. Although short and not all that replayable, it’s well worth a play through with a friend who has patience and a keen eye for detail. Fans of co-op puzzlers should consider trying their hand at this game.

**Operation: Tango was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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