Solving puzzles as a spy duo in Operation: Tango is fun, but it must raise the suspense
Why is the IT guy always the most boring? You know how it goes – the cool agent walks into the safe, sneaks through a laser grid, and dodges the pressure-sensitive floor while the sarcastic nerd sits in front of a computer hacking the cameras and shredding the wrong one. cybersecurity. Operation: Tango offers the possibility to reverse this movie stereotype or to experience it yourself. It’s a two-player spy game where one person controls a special agent and the other controls a hacker, and you have to use voice chat to solve puzzles (and chests) as a team.
It’s a fun concept, but can Operation: Tango hack it? (Sorry – annoying computer scientist here, remember.) We sent two agents into a preview of the first two levels of Operation: Tango to see if the globetrotting spy life is as exciting as it sounds. .
We s: A friend of mine used to joke that all of us PC Gamer writers get excited every time we hear the word “asymmetric”, and I hate to say it, but he was right. About me, anyway. I really like the idea of Operation: Tango, each player having access to a limited amount of information and having to communicate it to their partner. I started out as a hacker and was able to tune into cyberspace to watch Chris make his way to a vault through security cameras. At first I didn’t have much to do other than press a button to start an elevator. But then we had to work together to crack the vault password by navigating a ball through a small maze. Well I say maze, but we really had to avoid a few obstacles, me controlling the ball with W and S and Chris controlling it with A and D.
My next challenge was to guide Chris to some secret “trigger” spots on the floor to stand on, which was a good test of the communication you need in Operation: Tango, but was it pretty simplistic? I think a lot of the time I spent as a hacker kinda waited for things to happen, which I guess is true for movies, but not exactly thrilling.
Chris: There’s something inherently cool about communication being not only useful but essential in a game, and it’s interesting to solve puzzles that we both see differently. I think the biggest fun here, however, was figuring out how we were supposed to solve the puzzle, not necessarily the part where we actually solved them. Realizing that we both controlled the little dot in the maze was cool. Can lead the point through the maze four times? Not really rewarding.
Being the person breaking in didn’t seem particularly dangerous or stealthy to me either, and I never really felt like a secret agent. Even with drones patrolling one level and a death ray in another, it gives a more puzzle game feel than a stealth game feel. Rather than feeling like an infiltrator, I mostly felt like I was walking (sometimes in a sprint) from one puzzle to another.
We s: Agreed. The moment Operation: Tango kind of sparkled for me was when I hacked into the server and was able to walk around cyberspace in first person bulk. Chris must have used a terminal to draw a virtual floor I could walk on, but when I got caught by a roaming “safety” red energy field, he just backed us up for a few seconds to try again. Another time Chris got caught by a laser grid as he tried to break into the safe, and the same – just a little backhand.
Operation: Tango focused on the heist scene gadgets – the cool stuff like the pressure-sensitive ground in Mission: Impossible – but that’s not what makes the heist scenes so fun. The most important thing is voltage.
Chris: Another thing I wanted to do while completing this demo mission was to dig more around the premises. There were desks with computers that I walked over to, but they were just landscapes. It would have been nice if there were secondary objectives outside of our primary objective. A few small mini-goals, like hacking one of these computers or gathering additional information along the way. But maybe it would only be interesting for the person playing the agent inside, because the person playing the hacker usually can’t see what you see.
We s: The demo level didn’t make a very good first impression, but I have to say the second level we played was much better. It involved more problem solving than just traditional puzzles. I felt a moment of true hacker skill when I deduced that I had to copy an employee’s ID to get you into the building and then schedule an appointment for you to be clear to access the floor we needed. The puzzles were also more complex, and as a hacker I got to watch some really fun visualizations in cyberspace. Wooooo, hacking!
I would play more Operation: Tango levels like this, sure, but it feels like something is missing here. Like you said, the levels are pretty empty – figuring out what to do seems too straightforward as there aren’t many red herrings to distract us or complicate our path to the solution. Without these, would you be better off playing through these levels more than once, swapping roles?
Chris: The second level was much more fun and elaborate. But there is always something lost when you switch roles and go through levels again, which we did, even though some parts of the puzzles are hit or miss. It’s interesting to see the puzzles from the other player’s point of view, but once you know what’s expected, there isn’t much replay value.
I feel like I just complained! I always had fun, and the puzzles aren’t bad, none of it left me feeling like a high-tech hacker or a stealthy undercover agent. Hopefully the full game will have some more.
We s: The aesthetics are really nice, especially since the secret agent is running around the building. However, the hacker spends a lot of time looking at the menus. I think the theme maybe set my expectations too high, as it really isn’t a spy game with the danger and excitement that comes with it. It is a puzzle game with a spy skin. Despite the operation: Tango being much more involved, I never felt the urgency Keep talking and no one blows up. But maybe the lower stakes make it an ideal game to play with a non-playing partner?
Chris: Yeah, and I think it could definitely be a good entry into co-op games for people who don’t play a ton of it. And it looks like it’ll be easy to get someone into the game with you: it’s cross-platform, and only one player really needs to own Operation: Tango. The person they invite doesn’t have to purchase it themselves, they just need to download a Friend Pass to play. Pretty cool!