Currently there seems to be no end to the wave of retro-inspired indie games. Even by simultaneously paying homage to 1980s action films such as Commando and First Blood, Tango Fiesta faces stiff competition from the romping good fun of Broforce. In such an over-crowded battlefield, Spilt Milk Studio’s musclebound meatheads need to come out fighting.
Rather than the fiery platform japes of Broforce, Tango Fiesta is a slower, top-down shooter in the vein of 1986 arcade hit Ikari Warriors, itself a tribute to the Rambo films. In that sense, this is a sort of videogame equivalent of The Expendables – a throwback to a derided genre and a guilty pleasure for many – but in Tango Fiesta’s case it relies on more than just Mickey Rourke to do the heavy lifting (otherwise known as acting).
Like many of the films that have inspired it, Tango Fiesta’s narrative is fairly frill-free; choose from one of six mercenaries, get parachuted into a procedurally generated warzone, highlight your mission objectives and kill a shedload of bad guys in the process. These are peppered with regulation boss fights that further draw on the game's source material – for example, seemingly indestructible foe Gordon Bennette bears an uncanny resemblance to Schwarzenegger’s similarly-named nemesis in Commando.
Along with the line-up of tick-box heroes (the ripped John Strong, the cigar-chomping Miller and somewhat familiar Bionic Cop) Tango Fiesta brings the laughs for those who grew up on a steady diet of VHS action movies and their equivalent 80s arcade counterparts. Its solid, if simple mechanics are a nice throwback to when ‘bullet-hell’ wasn’t even a term and as such it’s an easy pickup for most abilities. That’s not to say it doesn’t pack a challenge as there are plenty of choke points that will find your hero pulped into a bloody mess. Then again, you don’t have time to bleed, right?
Single-player is challenging enough but the real fun is in co-op. Testing the game prior to its official release, online matches were close to non-existent. However, couch multiplayer can take up to four players and whilst that’s probably a bit too chaotic (though we can’t say for definite – four friends is a lot to drum up in the flesh these days), playing with one more comrade is definitely the meat and potatoes of Tango Fiesta. Hopefully a full release will see the online matchmaking boards become a little busier.
As a burst of good old-fashioned fun, Tango Fiesta hits the spot, but it isn’t long before some gripes wedge their way in. Despite the strong roster of characters, there aren't many characteristics to differentiate them. Speed, ammo and health differences seem negligible and everyone gets pretty much the same weapon set up. Who you choose will most likely come down to aesthetics. Gameplay remains fairly similar throughout the multitude of missions, so once you’ve finished one you’ve effectively seen them all.
Still, Spilt Milk’s long-gestating project remains a blast in small, concentrated sessions. If you’re more of a solo renegade like John Rambo, then its charms may be a little more limited. However, if you’ve got a friend to play the Dillon to your Dutch, then Tango Fiesta is worth a pop. Pleas for your colleague to “Get to the choppa” are optional but highly recommended.