The 1980s have brought us some of the most entertaining (and at times absurd) action films ever to be released. Die Hard, The Terminator series, Predator, Robocop, Lethal Weapon, Commando… the list goes on. Tango Fiesta is a game that tries to emulate the sheer awesome ridiculousness of the genre, and it seems to work at first. However, as you start playing it, you’ll realize that it doesn’t live up to the hype.
At its core, Tango Fiesta is a top-down shooter with basic objectives that range from shoot and destroy to pressing and holding a button at a transmission tower until it’s activated. In fact, those are pretty much the only things you’ll be tasked with – besides shooting bad guys and the occasional boss, of course.
This is Tango Fiesta‘s first problem: it gets repetitive really fast. Despite the fact that levels are randomly generated, objectives repeat themselves over and over again within a short period of time. Which would be fine, aside from the fact that they have no bearing on the plot. Why am I destroying this building? What is this tower I’m activating? What does this have to do with anything? I know 80’s action flicks aren’t known for their intricate plots, and perhaps it seems weird that I’m bemoaning the lack of narrative in a side-scrolling shooter, but Tango Fiesta‘s homage to 80s action flicks often feels skin-deep.
Combat works the way you expect it to: you use the mouse to aim your gun and fire with the left click button, you run around using the W,A,S,and D, and you can interact with objects with pressing and holding a button. You can also hook up your Xbox 360 controller to the computer if you prefer a twin-stick control method. While it works ok, one problem with the controls is that you can’t aim in full 360-degrees. You’re locked into aiming in certain directions, which drastically limits your targeting capabilities. It’s a shame, because the controls would be perfectly fine if it wasn’t for this one issue.
If you want to mix things up a bit, you can play with a few of your friends. Having at least one other person playing with you does make the game a lot more fun and easier, particularly during the last few levels which can be frustratingly difficult if you play solo. However, you may not be able to play online with other people unless you have friends to invite. I was never able to find any online game lobbies, and when I tried to host a game, no one joined.
The gameplay may be underwhelming, but some elements of Tango Fiesta are actually pretty entertaining. The main protagonist is John Strong, a former special government agent commando who narrates his many adventures throughout his life. As you play through these crazy adventures, you’ll face off against a former friend turned villain, a giant alien, and a supernatural being from another dimension, just to name a few. The cheesy dialogue between characters is also pretty entertaining, you’ll find yourself chuckling at certain moments, especially when you realize the sheer absurdity of some of the lines delivered throughout John Strong’s wild adventures. Sadly though, the story’s presentation isn’t all that engaging. Exchanges between characters are long, and the text-only dialogue sequences start to drag on after a while.
Another problem with the story is that it’s all over the place. At first the transition between scenarios makes sense, but about halfway through I was pretty lost how John Strong got to one scenario to the next. One minute you’ll jump forward in time to a dystopian future to fight in a bloodsport type of gameshow; the next, you somehow end up fighting off against zombies and ghosts in a graveyard. The individual scenarios are entertaining on their own, as they’re a clear homage to every cliche of an 80s action flick, but when the story tries to tie them together it feels like a jarring experience. It doesn’t help that Tango Fiesta‘s campaign is surprisingly short – it’ll only take a few hours at most to finish if you’re playing by yourself, and there’s really not that much else that the game has to offer.
Tango Fiesta is a game that had so much going for it, but sadly it just doesn’t live up to its potential. Between its repetitive gameplay, short length and issues with the controls, it’s a game that’s fun for a quick whirl – and might offer some fun via multiplayer – but it’s unlikely to stay on your hard drive for long.