Our retro gaming indie development radar has picked up the phenomenal Tango Fiesta – a multiplayer shoot em up in the style of, well, you’ll see. I caught up with Spilt Milk Studios head honcho Andrew Smith to get all the details. You can purchase Tango Fiesta on Steam here. Get to the chopper!!!
Hi guys – great to have you here at Arcade Attack!
Thanks very much, it’s lovely to be asked!
The seed of Tango Fiesta was born at a game jam in 2013. Creative Assembly sponsored a jam at Eurogamer’s Rezzed show, this was back when it was up in Birmingham. We didn’t know what the topic would be, but we’d have 8 hours to make a game from it and as a group of 4 we’d had some great fun at jams before. As it turns out the topic was The 80’s (literally drawn from a hat), and as huge fans of 80s action movies, we thought the most amazingly 80’s game we could make would be based off of one of the most iconic scenes in Predator – where they shoot the jungle AN AWFUL LOT and totally miss the bad guy. Anyway, once we’d finished with it people seemed to really dig the vibe, and we decided to work on it some more in our spare time until we realised we had enough of a game that we could pitch to publishers. Which we did, successfully. The rest is history! (love it – Ed)
What were your favourite 80s action films and why?
Die Hard is my favourite movie of all time. It’s just so brilliantly directed, the script is full of quotable lines and Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is the single greatest movie villain of all time.
But then some of Arnie’s classics are too amazing not to mention. I think of the ones we chose to homage in our game, my favourite is probably Predator, it’s a lot smarter than people give it credit for.
The game has a very Chaos Engine/Smash TV-esque charm about it – what retro games (if any) inspired Tango Fiesta?
I’m so glad you called those two out –we were specifically inspired by them both. Funnily enough Smash TV is itself inspired by Running Man, and when we decided to put a Running Man-themed world into Tango Fiesta, it made perfect sense to try and riff on both the game and the movie at the same time. We ended up with a ‘homage-ception’ thing going on. Chaos Engine’s chunky characters and colourful graphics were a big reference point for us too, but even older games like Gauntlet and Ikari Warriors were touchstones too. Gauntlet for sheer volume of enemies and relentless 4 player action, while Ikari Warriors was a good reference for the style of gunplay we wanted to not only recall but improve on and modernise.
I think there are quite a few things that make this different:
The co-op is the biggest focus for us. There’s nothing better than getting round a couch with mates and we’ve designed Tango to be perfect when played with 4 players, we want more players, because that means more bullets, more explosions, more heroic moments… As such we dedicated a lot of time to making sure the game worked with 4 players online as well as locally. We designed Tango Fiesta as a 4-player focused game and proper online functionality is an absolute must to make good on the promise of all that co-operative fun.
There’s constant action but with our own twist – we never let the player rest because 80s action heroes never rest! It’s not just in amount of bad guys and variety of weaponry though. We’ve tried really hard to engineer systems that encourage proper 80s action hero behaviour in players – the combo system explicitly makes sure your combo will only start to drop if you stop dealing damage, while kills obviously increase it. Add to that a crazy amount of guns, multiple different player characters, combined with random levels, and the chaos just never ends. there’s a lot of depth in Tango’s system that most people seem to assume wouldn’t be in this kind of game. We’ve seen players discovering neat tricks based on light characters using guns with tons of knockback to dodge around bullets, and all kinds of madness.
Finally, everything’s so colourful, chunky, bright and fast, not to mention screen-filling when 4 players are blasting through the game, that I think makes it really stand out amongst the crowd. There’s too much brown in games!
How did Spilt Milk (Studios) come to be and what other projects are you working on/have worked on?
I set the studio up after working in bigger games company for a few years and getting fed up with enormous projects that never had a guarantee of being released. I worked as a Game Designer on a couple of amazing projects during that time (Flock! and Final Fight: Double Impact at Proper Games, for Capcom) but I just had a hankering to start my own thing.
We made Crunch, co-created Hard Lines for mobile, before starting a project called Lazarus (we do a lot of dev diaries like this series on it) which got shelved weeks before release… It was a great game and we still love it but it was a self-funded thing and Tango Fiesta happened to pay us way better 😀
We might well revisit those other projects, but only time will tell! Not only that, but we launched a very short comedy JRPG called The Legend of Tango. It’s about the birth of Tango Fiesta, and it’s free on Steam (right here).
Up next for us we’re looking at how best to improve and support Tango Fiesta because we know it’s going to be huge, and then also what we want to do after. It’s a weird thing trying to spin so many plates, but we love making games so we’re never going to stop!
What was your first console?
The wonderful SNES. I guess technically I had a Commodore 64 before then, but that was more of a home computer right (we’re happy to agree 🙂 – Ed)? I got it relatively late in the console’s cycle. I bought it shortly after Donkey Kong Country came out and it basically changed my life overnight. I still have lucid memories of games I used to play on that bad boy, sat too close to a tiny portable telly in the living room and it started my life-long love affair with Nintendo too.
All of them! 😀 (we might have to shorten this slightly… – Ed)
I was recently asked onto My Favourite Game podcast by Jonny Cullen to talk about how Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past is my favourite game of all time, so it’d be daft not to include it. But other games I loved were Super Mario World, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong Country, Secret of Mana (my second favourite action RPG after Zelda 3, I never really got on with turn based stuff), Unirally (Uniracer), Half Life, Mario Kart (I still wish they’d make a classic Battle Mode in the recent ones (us too – Ed)), Guardian Heroes, Metal Gear Solid, Virtua Cop and many many more.
If you could go for a few drinks with any video game character, who would you choose and why?
I reckon Bowser. He seems to be misunderstood, and could probably hold his drink quite well. Plus if we got a bit worse for wear I think he’d have a few brilliant stories about Mario.
Thanks Andrew and the team! You can buy Tango Fiesta on Steam right here. Do it, do it nooooowwwwww.