Operation:Tango, Game Review. Get your PHREAK on!

"Look for someone suspicious I say, are we looking even for a man or a woman?" My wife responds vaguely, "no idea what would ...

"Look for someone suspicious I say, are we looking even for a man or a woman?" My wife responds vaguely, "no idea what would be suspicious. I can see some apps on their smart glasses".  "Well that is no good at all" I respond, "I can see those too but I have a names with them. I guess we have to match them up?" The tension grows as we have been at it for a while now and this train probably won't be on going forever we need to find our suspect before the train reaches its destination. The fate of the free world depends on it. You must be missing something" I snap at my wife.. it is then I realize another window in my U.I. "Oh wait. I have the passenger list ..and our suspects name is on it. .. whoops" Her silence followed by a sigh speaks volumes.  Well at least we can now match up apps, locate the target and start hacking, we better hurry. This is tense. ( A good thing I did not know yet about those upcoming security drone section).

What is it?

Operation: Tango is an asymmetrical spy thriller in which you pair up with a friend  and work together to bring a high-tech global menace to its knees. You will complete dangerous missions across the globe in a high-tech near-future world. There is no solo play, after all it takes TWO to TANGO. and you and your partner will take on roles as AGENT and HACKER, working together stop the threat by cracking the code, hacking into networks and retrieve data, destroy information and even dismantle bombs. With two totally different points of view of the situation , each only having part of the whole picture and only your voice to link you it is crucial that you communicate everything you see and hear to be successful. 
The gameplay in Operation:Tango is a 1st person view game but with two distinct different experiences for the players.  If you have ever played any of the "we were here" games you get the idea. The twist in this game is the parts you will play.  One person will take on the roll of the  Agent and move around in the real world, finding clues, physicals hardware and pushing all the buttons and levers to get access to all the hands on stuff. You will get access to computers, move around the building look for password information left out, names, ip addresses or use your hacking tool to make connections for your partner to move around in the digital space and help you get trough the building.

In our playthrough, I played the hacker and my wife was playing the crafty Agent taking the danger head on.

Player two takes on the role of a sly computer Hacker and is hanging back in cyberspace in an interface that me feel I was staring in the 1995 movie "Hackers". You will get access to files, logs, camera systems, elevator, calendars etc. You can help give fake id's to your partner and open doors, move elevators and disable technology.  Some areas can be locked out but your partner can give you an i.p. address, password or simply interface with a computer or network in order to help you brute force your way deeper and deeper into the network. 

In some instances you will actually walk around through cyberspace in digitized form trying to make your way through hazardous traps as your partner generates tiles underneath you through an interface, preventing your from falling through the floor and be de-rezzed. In other moments they guide your through a tunnel through numerous firewalls on your way to the data core.

No matter what perspective you play, it is important to understand that you both have half of the solution to the puzzle and see only half the clues. It is absolutely vital that you communicate all the time, but also listen. No matter what do not leave out details, even if they do not seem important to you.  

Think of the game as an escape room but one where you are physically separated from each other. Trying to convey information in such a way that it could make sense to the other person who is perceiving information in a whole different way both on screen as in their own perspective is challenging and can lead to small moments of hairpulling and frustration followed by a true endorphin rush, and high (air) fives as you solve the problem.

Each level gives you a bit of the story and a small description about the mission such as "find the thief". Or "Break into this building and make a copy of these files".  However the introduction does not spell out what obstacles you will face and how you have to solve them. And with the clues split between two players it can be confusing at times on WHAT exactly you need to do. There is no true tutorial and there is no on screen instruction to help you. The game does come with a hint system but you and your partner have to both agree to use it, my wife is stubborn she would not let me use it in our first playthrough. We checked after we played through the whole game and I am glad she decided not to. The hints were more then just a small clue but almost an entire step -by-step of the objective. If you can hang on , play without them.


Her POV:

If you fail the game brings you back only a small step in your progress instead of having you play the whole mission from the beginning again and I was glad this was the case because having to start from go would have been a big hit on motivation. 

Throughout each mission there is a lot of variety in things you are asked to do. A few times there is a reach back to earlier missions but the designers manage to keep things fresh throughout the game.


Let me just come right out and say that I love the style that this game has, it feels like a crazy mix of futuristic setting with a 60's spy thriller vibe and a dash of 80's attitude. The character designs have a unique style especially the protagonist but we found it a pitty that we could not switch roles but not move the character over so the female lead is always the Agent and the Male lead is always the Hacker. Not too big of a deal as it is mostly a 1st person game. But the option would have been nice.
The graphics are cartoonish in design but beautifully presented with various lighting and effects. 

The Agents has a bunch of great gadgets to her disposal and is easy to move around with easy to understand controls.  From the hackers perspective I sometimes felt a bit isolated in the times I had to wait and we could not figure out what to do next. So I would browse through the different things I had access to, play with the cameras if they were available or mess with background music etc.  I wish I would have had a few more opportunities to feel what was going on in those moments but when the action started I felt like a true Hollywood style cyber hacking, it made me wish that real IT work was just as exciting. 

Because Operation:Tango leans heavily on communication so it comes with its own built in voice coms and it is important you have a good head/mic set. Me and my wife are in the same room so we could yell out loud and did not really test the in game coms much but from what we tried it sounded very clear. You can probably use other methods of communication such as discord or phone, but in some moments of the game timing is everything so you have to make sure you are at least in decent sync.

The music has the right spy thriller feel loaded with jazzy brass, whining guitar and hard hitting trumpet stabs. But as some moments felt very repetitive and I would have loved to have heard some longer compositions. The beeps and boops of the various gadgets and computer parts were very immersive and at certain moments I felt like a composer in his own cyber hacking symphony.

For those achievement hunters out there, the game comes with 24 achievements to unlock.

Final thoughts
I always wanted to be in mission impossible or be a cyber mastermind unlocking the secrets of the Darkweb. And with Operation: Tango I could feel like a skilled spy completing these task on my way to save the world. Together with the help of my master spy wife of course.
Due to the fact that part of the fun is to solve the puzzles together I have been trying to stay vague about the game's different levels and what you can expect. The presentation of the world the game world is really well done and sucks you in creating a tense and exciting experience.

The game did feel a little short and we wished you could change characters not  just swap roles. The moments where there was just no obvious goal to a puzzle could be annoying a bit because we felt so lost, but then again we could have taken a clue any time if we wanted to.
The puzzles were not too difficult but became harder because of the split information. The better you communicate the easier it is. Forget details or do a poor job of making your partner understand what you are talking about and you might be in for a tough time until you finally sync up. Reaching the goal is euphoric and a great experience. 

Coming in at around 5 hrs. of gameplay Operation:Tango is definitely a short game but at only $20 it comes with the ability to use a friends pass in order to bring a friend along for the ride . And when you are done  you can switch roles and play through the game again. All together that is a fun experiences with good value. Value that has just become even better as, at the writing of this review, it has been announced that the game will be part of PS5 PlayStation Plus for the month of June 2021 as a free game. That includes FULL CROSSPLAY! The game is truly designed and delivered to get a fun co-op experience. But once you played through and perhaps once more in reversed roles you will have seen it all. This makes me  sincerely hope that we will see DLC for Operation:Tango so we can dive back in as soon as possible. Now excuse me as I have a firewall to hack.

 *about the title of this article. PHREAK refers to PHREAKING. ;)

Game information

Developer: Clever Plays
Publisher: Clever Plays
Release Dat: June 1st 2021
Platforms: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC (Steam)  
Review platform:  PC (Steam)
Genre: Co-op puzzle adventure 
ESRB: Rating Pending
WebsiteOperation Tango - Clever Plays (operation-tango.com)


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