The 80s action movie pastiche is an odd beast. Those who were around to experience Stallone, Schwarzenegger and co. first hand usually greet 80s nostalgia trips like one greets a hilarious yet obnoxious old school friend; we eagerly usher them in for some rose tinted fun and frolicking, then usher them back out just as eagerly when something better comes along. For those of us (myself included), who didn’t experience said 80s action schlock first hand, and had to catch up on VHS or DVD much later, tend to have a more mixed response to parodies and tributes like The Expendables. Simply put, we’re not in on the joke. Sure we get it and we can appreciate it for what it does, but we “weren’t there man”, so such things have to go that extra mile so as to provide more substance and value than some in-jokes about Predator.
Tango Fiesta feels very much like an unlicensed arcade version of The Expendables. 1-4 players take control of typical 80s action heroes and blast their way around 2-D environments. They encounter unending waves of enemies whom must be riddles with bullet holes so that some houses can be destroyed for no reason. The whole thing is about as deep as a homeless man’s pockets, but that’s part of what gives Tango Fiesta an old school sense of quick, dumb fun.
The game sticks to its main theme fairly well without being too obnoxious; you can currently blast enemies as a RoboCop knock off with some fairly standard ‘Nam era weaponry, all the while enemies will scream their Wilhelm screams and the soundtrack pumps out its infectious hard rock/steel drum beats. The developers have certainly nailed the 80s pastiche part of their goal, now they just need to flesh it out into something that resembles more than a ten minute Newgrounds shooter.
Although the action is fairly solid – enemy fire travels slow enough for you to be able to dodge it with a reasonable amount of ease, and shooting waves of thugs is about as satisfy as it can be – there isn’t a ton of variety on offer when all’s said and done. At this stage in development there’s effectively a single beach terrain that gets randomly filled with huts, jeeps and burly men each time, which means there’s little fun to be had after a few attempts. Each level tasks you with the same “blow up the house” objective until the inevitable boss fight, and there’s really nothing more to it. Enemy types don’t vary to any interesting degree, nor does the weaponry available to the player, and since there are no interesting secondary (or even primary) objectives, it simply isn’t enough for an action game’s combat to go stale this quickly.
Even for such a simple game Tango Fiesta still comes with its fair share of bugs at this stage. There are plenty of issues with collision detection, objective markers and so on. Never enough to ruin the game entirely, but enough to sour the experience considerably.
Of course it’s more than possible that Tango Fiesta will eventually be fleshed out with more stages, enemies, weapons and objectives. It’s early days yet, so no one should expect maximum polish or extensive play time. As of now, Tango Fiesta is fun for a decent half an hour with your friends – the sort of thing you play for a pound in your local bowling alley or arcade. Split Milk Studios have laid the ground work for a fun arcade-y multiplayer shooter, there just isn’t nearly enough game here to justify a real recommendation yet. Things look promising for Tango Fiesta, though not overwhelmingly so.