Reagan Gorbachev is as ridiculous as you’d expect it to be considering it’s name. You play as US president Ronald Reagan and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, captured during The Reykjavík Summit on 1986 by military extremists. The two must put aside their distrust of each other and work as a team to escape their captors.
In order to escape the extremists you must switch between both Reagan and Gorbachev to utilise their unique abilities. Certain doors are locked and can only be opened by a specific person, denoted by their colour. Meanwhile, Gorbachev can also hack computer terminals. Levels are also typically setup with puzzles and traps that require the use of both characters independent in order to proceed, such as pressure pads that opens doors. As such you’ll need to frequently switch between the two, which can be a bit frustrating if you’re playing alone as the friendly AI isn’t as responsive as the unfriendly.
Enemies patrol each level, some armed with guns whilst others just use their fists, and whilst it’s possible to sneak past many of them, violence is often the more efficient and safer choice. When not controlling one of the characters, the AI steps in, responding to your orders to follow and stop and reacting to threats, however, their reactions are slower than that of your enemies’ and yourself, often meaning the character’s death, and it only takes one of you to fall for that level to be failed. placing each character strategically and maintaining control of the one likely to face an adversary is certainly the best option – or bring in a friend to play via local coop – and both characters are well equipped to deal with threats.
As Reagan you’re equipped with a katana and can slice and dice anyone you come across, Gorbachev meanwhile has a poison dart blowpipe for attacking at range, although with a slight delay whilst the poison takes affect. It certainly encourages you to switch between the two to deal with different combat situations, but either world leader can still knock an enemy out if they get behind them, so you’re never really cornered. Furthermore, weapons can be picked up and used and range from silenced pistols, assault rifles, grenade launchers and even rocket launchers powerful enough to destroy walls. Using what you find to best deal with a level’s layout and enemy placement is the title’s primary challenge and source of enjoyment, and figuring it out is certainly fun.
It’s all very reminiscent of the original Metal Gear titles on the NES, with it’s top down view, 8bit graphical and level layout aesthetic, and the on-site procurement of weapons with the option for stealth. And it works well to offer different options in completing a level. And with a timer and online leaderboard highlighted at the end of each level, you’ll certainly feel compelled to re-try levels and find the most efficient way through.
It quickly becomes very challenging, though, with levels getting bigger and more complex, filled with enemies and traps. The traps punish those not paying attention but are creative and useful once you do conquer them, even to the point of offering an alternative way of dispatching the enemies on a level. However, the enemies themselves pose the greatest threat and some poor design makes them even deadlier. You can survey the area before moving forwards by holding X and moving the camera with the analogue stick, however, you’re restricted to how far you can look. This frequently leads to situations where long corridors house a group of enemies at the end that you simply don’t see coming, introducing a frustrating trial and error process to figuring out a level.
Additionally, targeting enemies to shoot can easily backfire, as the auto-targeting will lock on to the nearest enemy on the map rather than the nearest enemy within the same room or corridor, often leading to you spotting an enemy and frantically trying to target them before they shoot you, only to instead target a someone harmless in the room next door. You can switch targets easy enough but in a pinch it’s not ideal, and with the aforementioned camera surveying issue you can’t see the threats coming a lot of the time.
Reagan Gorbachev is an odd premise but a welcome one, it’s interesting and pleasing to see this kind of crazy storytelling and situation in a modern title; it harks back to the days of yore on the Commodore 64. However, poor targeting and camera controls makes this a frustratingly challenging title that distracts from the otherwise fun use of stealth, action and puzzle solving.
Thanks to Team2Bit and Xbox for supporting TiX.