For ten years, diminutive private detective Tony Tough has been chasing down the mystery behind stolen Halloween candy. Now his purple companion, a tapir named Pentagruel, has apparently been kidnapped by the psychopathic candy-stealer, and it's up to you to help solve the case in Tony Tough and the Night of Roasted Moths, a 2D point-and-click animated adventure. The non-linear plot contains 61 levels, 45 characters, a bonus level, and 95 available save slots.
Night of Roasted Moths offers two difficulty settings, easy and advanced, with the former containing several pre-solved puzzles. Having failed in his dream to marry Yoko Ono and become an NBA star, Tony concentrates his efforts on solving logic puzzles and interacting with characters through a system involving a vast dialogue tree, descriptions, messages and inscriptions. Game options include adjustments for movement speed, length of time dialogue is displayed, and a hidden or pop-up inventory, as well as the capability to play in "sepia" mode to simulate old-time movie effects.
Perhaps your parents or even grandparents may remember an old black-and-white T.V. show entitled Mr. Peepers, staring Wally Cox. Peepers was a nerdy little guy, with a squeaky voice, large glasses, and generally reticent demeanor. He did, however, on occasion, thrust himself into problem-solving situations and take on a brave persona, particularly when someone he loved was threatened. If we cast for someone to play Tony Tough, it would be Mr. Peepers.
Let's set up the game premise, from the box notes: "Tony is a seasoned private eye for Wallen & Wallen Investigations, on the beat for ten years. Now, Tony has the case of a lifetime, a job for which he just may risk his neck. He must nab the swollen-headed psychopath who is stealing candy from the children, and who may very well have kidnapped Pantagruel, Tony's very devoted and oddly purple companion."
Of course, Tony's adventure moves far beyond the rescue of his "dog" (a tapir, actually). This "Sherlock Gnome" of detectives finds the entire planet in jeopardy on, of all nights, Halloween! Through 61 nonlinear levels and encounters with 45 really weird characters, our hero weaves his way through the occupants, rides and attractions of the most bizarre amusement park you've ever experienced. As Tony says: "It's going to be a long, dark night!"
In terms of gameplay mechanics, Tony Tough is rather retro: 2D point-and-click, third-person movement, mouse-managed. After installation, we are presented with a somewhat esoteric, initially peculiar, interface that, eventually, becomes comfortable. There are some occasional delays accessing voices, but moving between scenes is very quick and smooth. The positioning of your mouse may reveal a person or object with which interaction can occur. A right click brings up the options of examine, use, take, or talk. Your readily accessible inventory pops up from bottom of the screen when called upon and holds sufficient slots for your problem-solving. There are a total of 95 available save slots; as well, an automatic save game kicks in each time a scene is changed. Onscreen text can be displayed, or not, and some traditional adjustments can be made to graphics, sound, voices and music.
Our adventure primarily is about solving puzzles. Ranging from the obvious to mind-boggling, Tony gathers clues from conversations and recoverable items that lead him further into the machinations of the evil Swollen-Headed Psychopath.
At first glance, the graphics and character movements appear dated, although certainly vivid and colorful. However, as with all great games, the lack of 3D and a resolution beyond 640x480 become secondary to the play, scripting and acting. Clearly, this creation of a small Italian developer, Prograph Research, placed its emphasis on content. Rather than make or lease a 3D engine, Prograph realized that adventurers were more interested in substance than style. They put their energy, time and money into play that pleases the mind. Of course, our hats need to be raised to Got Game Entertainment, as well, for the wonderful "Englishification" of Tony Tough.
Without giving too much away, let's just say that the entire game takes place in the huge, weird and colorful amusement park, generally trying to solve problems for the fortune teller to help resolve your overall situation. There are some hints, such as the obvious one above, but one of the critical options, and one that actually modified my rating for the game, is the choice of "Baby" or "Adult" Tony (beginner or advanced). Unless you're a MENSA member or masochistic, choose "Baby" level! The difference between the two is like a contrast between high school and a graduate program. The puzzles at the "Adult" level can become so absurd and illogical, especially well into the game, that a walkthrough virtually is required. Whereas, at the "Baby" level, you can have the fun of character interaction, colorful settings and reasonable puzzles, without pulling out your remaining hairs in frustration. I've played the game both ways, and I strongly recommend at least playing the first time through with the easier setting.
Finally, Tony, thank goodness, has a map ("notebook") that evolves as he visits various places, which allows for rapid movement between locations. Given the large number of carnival attractions and the nonlinearity of the game, this is a critical addition, although it would have been more useful if it had been complete at the beginning instead of evolving along the path of the adventure.
Spitting, drooling, and various other avenues of expectoration seem common to the carnival characters. Perhaps it's an Italian thing. A green blob expands in and out of the nose of a sleeping boy. A parrot and other characters spit when they talk (it was kind of like being at one of my senior citizen lunches!). Indeed, even a sea captain on a stationary ship spends most of his time vomiting over the side! Visual humor abounds, sometimes in a fashion to make you groan, but often in a way that makes you laugh out loud.
The script and related fine acting also will bring frequent amusement. Examples abound, but one that springs to mind is when a bearded lady tells Tony: "They all said I had my mother's smile." Tony's voice can be a bit grating, but his character, along with the others, is obviously professionally acted.
This is a game for lovers of Stupid Invaders, Toonstruck, Discworld 2 and, obviously, Sam and Max. It has neither the seriously grim logic of The Watchmaker nor the procedural detecting of Law & Order. What it does have is a fantastic blend of earthy humor, bizarre settings, rich graphics and ingenious puzzles. It may be a game for fans of the genre, or even subgenre, but it's almost unique in today's market and certainly one of the best ever of its type.
Can you cast aside your stuffiness for a little while? Are you able to let yourself go gameplaywise? Does verbal and visual slapstick European humor make you feel silly all over? Do you worry about the dire implications of a psychopath stealing candy? If your answer to any or all of the above is "yes," than I highly recommend Night of Roasted Moths as a wonderful way to spend 30+ hours in one of the most strange, inventive, comical and memorable settings I've ever experienced. Let's hope Tony Tough, having been so successful saving the world, gets another case!
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