Tony Tough and the Night of Roasted Moths Review

Tony Tough and the Night of Roasted Moths is a return* to the golden days of adventure games, when authors were more important than artists, artists more important than programmers, and programmers more important than publicists. You won't find the gratuitous 3D effects, inept or careless writing, amateur acting, stale flat concepts, or pointless memory-greedy special effects gimmicks that mark recent adventure games. Instead, the publishers have relied on invention, wit, intelligence, and originality to make their game reminiscent of some of the classics of the genre: Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max, Freddy Pharkas, Leisure Suit Larry, Space Quest, Monkey Island. If only we could convince the rest of the industry to try the same formula.

(*And when I say "return," technically that's exactly what it is. Tony Tough was originally released in Europe in 1997, when it was state of the art, and it's only recently been translated, re-recorded, and released in the U.S. What a shame! I was excited to think there might be someone out there who had the foresight to realize that 3D doesn't make up for bad writing. Apparently not.)

Gameplay follows the adventures of Tony Tough, a diminutive would-be hardboiled detective, as he tracks down the kidnapers of Pantagruel, his "dog" (actually a purple bipedal tapir). Along the way his path is crossed by theoretical aliens, sneering coworkers, depressed pirates, sheep phlegm, frozen worms, and wigs. (Especially wigs.)

The game uses a 2D point-and-click interface -- it's essentially an interactive cartoon, and if you ever spent Saturday mornings glued to the television set, you know just how little that restricts Tony's universe. The graphics are clever, nutty, and sly, occasionally showing evidence of the sort of inspired silliness of the sort that Tex Avery would have delighted in.

The interface is easy to use and trouble-free even on older, slower systems (check out the system requirements), and there are no bugs (and thus no patches required) that I could discover. Interaction with people and things is via the mouse, with a right-click on one of the unmistakably labeled hotspots bringing up a choice of actions to take. Inventory and saves are both unlimited, which doesn't sound like much until you've played a game where you have to budget either. The writing is marvelous, even translated from the original Italian, and the acting is professionally loose-limbed. The puzzles all fit perfectly into the story and tend to the sort of non sequitur, lateral-thinking exercises that show a team of first-rate lunatics hard at work. You'll find no chess puzzles here.

The game is rated Teen and there's a reference on the box to "salty humor," but presumably that was intended to avoid being stuck in the children's section next to Barney Learns To Count. There's no cursing, no violence (not even cartoon-type violence), nothing remotely sexual, and very little that anyone could find offensive. The exceptions are fleeting: a passing reference to raw sewage, the fleeting appearance of a stereotypical ethnic character, a pretty girl who makes Tony blush and stammer, and the above-mentioned sheep phlegm. Other than that, I would have no reservations about giving it to children as young as 7 or 8, provided an adult was nearby to help them with the harder puzzles and appreciate the jokes.

Tony Tough is wild and delightful return to the world of 2D graphics and brilliant writing rather than special effects and wholesale slaughter. Buy it while you wait for the new Sam & Max to come out.

-- Lynn Hendricks