When I bought the 1,700+ itch.io bundle, I had no clue how to handle it. Where on Earth would I find time for all these games? How do I even start? Well good news for my life: a tool existed that randomly picked games for me. It landed on El Tango de la Muerte. A 1920's tango-based rhythm game set in Argentina? Yeah, that was enough for me to think it'd be amazing, so I was all for it. Is this a tango that's worth dancing?
El Tango de la Muerte takes place in 1920's Argentina and follows a young man named Luciano. He's determined to win over Martita, the love of his life, and plans to do so by dancing the tango with her during her birthday. However, tragedy strikes when Luciano and his best friend Fabio get into a bar fight and murders the corrupted mayor. Now the two must flee the country, but Luciano promises to one day return to win Martita's love. It's a cute little tale that manages to feel heartfelt, even if it is almost the exact story you'd expect from this situation.
Each level you'll do something that vaguely looks like the tango, even if it means you're fighting someone else or drunkenly swaying around a bar to remember your mother. The only four keys you need to use are the arrow keys, and all you have to do is make sure you move to a new grid just when the spot in it lights up. Time it right, and you get points. If you move into an unlit grid, or if you let a lit grid linger too long, you'll find yourself getting a bad note. Gather ten of these and you'll lose, although bad notes do deteriorate after a few seconds so you really gotta nab them all at once if you don't want to continue your tango quest.
As you advance, more elements will be added to the songs, although you'll still only use the arrow keys to move around on the grid. Some spaces act like bombs that can destroy all lit grids nearby it, others will shoot lasers that can hit all lit grids in their path. One level has you switching between two different couples through the song, and one of the couples has reversed controls. Another requires you to dodge cats that will stun you if you hit one.
Sometimes a fight will break out, and they're almost the same as dancing. The only difference is that some grids will be replaced with fists, and they'll alternate between green and red every second or two. If you step on a grid while it's green, you'll punch your opponent. Step on it while it's red, and you'll be punched, getting a bad note. You can't really knock out your opponent, it's more just another flavor of dancing and making sure you don't get hurt during the song, but it's a cute addition and makes for dramatic soap opera-style aggression.
As a rhythm game, everything lives and dies by the soundtrack. In the case of El Tango de la Muerte, it lives. The soundtrack consists of 13 original songs by the Argentinian band YIRA. It's full of terrific toe-tapping tango songs, several of which have an interesting electronic edge. One song is entirely in spoken words while the band plays, something that manages to be extremely entertaining and fitting with the scene. This is a soundtrack I'm more than happy to throw onto my personal playlist.
As my first venture into the massive Itch.io games bundle, El Tango de la Muerte is nothing but a success. It immediately makes me happy to have gotten the bundle and was worth the price of admission on its own. I love how creative a weird tango rhythm game can be, and the fact that it has such a great soundtrack to go with it is just a bonus. If you've been staring at the bundle in distress, I suggest starting here.
TechRaptor played El Tango de la Muerte on PC using a copy purchased by the player.