Tony Tough and the Night of the Roasted Moths
A game with a name like Tony Tough and the Night of the Roasted Moths gives you a fair idea of what to expect and indeed, look forward to ... and it doesn't disappoint. I was hooked from the opening sequence that shows a young Tony being bullied from afar by his slingshot-wielding neighbour. In a classic illustration of the notion of "what goes around comes around" the bully gets his just deserts when, as a result of his actions, a Halloween Jack O' Lantern lands on his head and he can't get it off.
Thirty years later and the still diminutive Tony is working as a Private Investigator ... of sorts. Despite years of ridicule and humiliating failure, Tony is convinced that he is about to foil an alien plot by finally catching the mysterious swollen headed thief who makes an appearance every Halloween to steal candy from babies. But first he needs to find a really good wig.
While Tony is searching for a suitable hairpiece in the dingy basement his 'dog', Pantagruel - a purple Tapir - is kidnapped and the taunting note left by the perpetrator leaves Tony with no choice but to go to the Halloween fun park to rescue his buddy. This is despite his ridicule of the tiresome celebration and his determination to ignore it.
It's taken a while but this third person; cartoon-style adventure game from Italy has finally had an English release courtesy of Got Game Entertainment. And the wait has definitely been worth it. Clearly inspired by LucasArts' favourites, such as Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle - even the infamous purple tentacle is on display - Prograph have produced an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable game that will now reach the wide audience it deserves.
Apart from the beginning in and around Tony's office, the game takes place entirely in two settings - the fun park and the castle and surrounds, once you get to it. Yet there are extensive locations in each area to explore and lots of amusing things to do. The writing is excellent and illustrates the benefits of a 'liberal arts' background, and it's the only game I know that scientifically proves that matronly authority figures really do have eyes in the back of their heads.
The production quality and attention to detail is such that I can confidently state that the game loses nothing in the translation, and the voice acting is uniformly good and very professional. Tony's slightly grating nasal monotone is perfect for the character, and his attempt at Shakespearian drama is well worth a laugh, completely devoid of inflexion or any semblance of acting ability. Though small in stature, his heart is as big as the moon that bathes the fun park in its eerie glow.
From the time I gained control of the game in Tony's basement office I was in my element. The full screen 2D cartoony graphics have that delightful, slightly warped appearance that sets the tone for the story and puzzles. You just know you will be using mundane objects in crazy and inventive ways, often with humorous results. And, providing you approach it in the right frame of mind, clues abound in the description of items, conversations, and even in the scenarios of the problems to be overcome. Sure the puzzles are quirky, that's what makes them fun, but they do follow a wacky kind of cartoon logic. Of course there are also red herrings to mislead, so you will certainly need to keep your wits about you. This is one game that positively encourages you to try different things and always rewards your efforts with a quip from Tony, especially if you are on the wrong track. You won't die, but you'll very likely get stuck as the convoluted nature of some of the puzzles means that you're sure to be juggling several problems at the same time. Catching the cat is easy when you know how, and so is outsmarting the alligator, but they are just two tiny steps on the way to finding the potion ingredients for the fortune-teller and ultimately catching up with Pantagruel.
Navigation is easy, just point and left click and Tony will walk to that spot. The cursor changes to a flying yellow duck to indicate paths to new locations, and you can speed up Tony's walking pace in the options menu. Once you enter the fun park and commence exploring Tony will sketch a map in his notebook so that you can use it to quickly zap around to familiar places. Characters and items you can interact with are named on-screen and right clicking brings up a medallion graphic from where you can choose actions such as 'examine', 'talk', 'take' and 'use'. You do need to hold down the right mouse button or the medallion will disappear. If you have played Curse of Monkey Island or Gilbert Goodmate you will be right at home with this. You can choose to have your inventory at the top or bottom of the screen, with the further option to have it always visible or hidden until you move the cursor over it. Select an item from your inventory and your cursor will change to represent the item you are now holding. You can also right click on inventory items to reveal further options, and there are more than enough save game slots, 95 of them!
Conversations and Tony's comments are all subtitled (you can turn them off if you want) and you can set the length of time the text appears on screen or simply click through it. With important characters Tony will have a range of responses and questions to ask that you select from a menu that pops up. Some are clearly related to the task at hand whilst others allow Tony to go off on a tangent. For example, if you keep on asking, the parrot will tell you a string of jokes, some of them slightly bawdy, it is a pirate's parrot after all. It's up to you to choose how 'wordy' you want the conversations to be, so don't think that you need to exhaust every possibility in the hope of learning something new. On the other hand, if you're stuck it's a good idea to return and scrutinise some conversations carefully as they do have hidden pointers.
A great feature of this game is that it acknowledges when you have done something and updates the conversations to reflect this. Another great feature is that, like Monkey Island, you are offered the choice of easy or hard modes when you first start the game, making it suitable for less experienced players as well as seasoned adventurers. You can even choose to play in sepia tones. But for me the quality of this game shines through in the writing and in the myriad of tiny details such as being able to identify items before you pick them up, and having them 'tagged' in your inventory so that you always know exactly what you're carting around. Tony will even chat about inventory items, and he has a whole repertoire of wry comments ready when you look at or try to do something in the gameworld. It's this attention to detail and wealth of feedback that brings the gameworld to life and makes it immersive and even 'real' - all without the 'benefits' of the latest 3D technology.
Tony Tough and the Night of the Roasted Moths is a truly entertaining 'old school' adventure game that may test some players, but then, that's why an easy mode is provided so that you can find your feet before tackling the tougher challenges of the more difficult level. Really, this is a game where it's hard to pick fault because the designers show that they know their stuff so well. The story is witty and charming, and Tony's character sparkles courtesy of the clever dialogue. His need to please, his love of animals, his disapproval of smoking, and his secret yearning to be bigger, all combine to shatter his fragile 'tough guy' exterior. You could call Tony a 'soft -boiled' PI, and if you are a fan of humorous graphical adventures and enjoy exercises in stretching your imagination and improvising, you'll also have a lot of fun with this one.
Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2002.
All rights reserved.
Win 95/98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium 200 (Pentium II recommended), 32 Mb RAM (64 MB recommended), 300 Kb hard disk space (150 Mb recommended), 8x CD ROM (16x recommended), DirectX 6 or higher on disk).