Tony Tough and the Night of the Roasted Moths is a traditional point-and-click adventure from Italian developer Prograph Research. In fact, Tony Tough is so traditional that not only does it use a 2D graphics engine, it uses a flat, cartoon-style graphics engine, and so it doesn’t even pretend to be modern. Luckily, adventure games don’t need fancy 3D engines to be successful; they only need interesting stories and solid puzzles. Unfortunately, Tony Tough has some problems in those areas, and so its old-style engine turns out to be the best thing about it.
In Tony Tough you play a pint-sized private detective named -- you guessed it -- Tony Tough. For the past 30 years a “swollen-headed psychopath” has been stealing candy from children on Halloween night, and your job is to find out who and why. Is it a burglar with a sweet tooth? Or somebody who just wants to spoil Halloween for children? No way! Tony decides that it’s really an alien conspiracy -- “candy today, the entire planet tomorrow” -- and so he jumps into the investigation with both feet.
Except things aren’t quite that easy. Tony has a purple pet dog (or maybe it’s a tapir) named Pantagruel, and early in the game Pantagruel is kidnapped and taken to Halloween Park. That sounds like it might be an amusing first act to Tony Tough, but it turns out the entire game revolves around rescuing Pantagruel, and the only reason everybody goes home happy at the end is because the kidnapper also happens to be the candy thief.
And so, right away, Tony Tough has some problems, because what the game is really about isn’t what it sounds like it’s going to be about. The game isn’t any sort of X-Files parody, and you don’t actually investigate anything. Instead, you spend most of your time walking around Halloween Park looking for the ingredients to a special potion that will tell you Pantagruel’s location.
Worse, the writers at Prograph Research don’t have a good ear for dialogue. Conversations in a game like this should involve short and witty banter, but instead the conversations are long, usually have nothing to do with the story, and aren’t funny. Consider a “beast” you meet in the park. It’s civilized, speaks proper English, and likes poetry. That’s potentially funny (if not exactly original), but exhausting the dialogue options with the beast forces you to hear three long poems, discuss the meanings of those poems, and get into a protracted discussion on differences between “sadness” and “melancholy.” Boring conversations like that just kill the momentum of the game, and, all the worse, Tony Tough is front loaded with many such conversations, so starting out the game isn’t any fun at all.
However, once you get past the conversations, the puzzles in Tony Tough work out reasonably well. They are sometimes bizarre and random -- like when you have to stick a stuffed animal into a water fountain to solve a puzzle on the other side of the park -- but this is a game that is supposed to be somewhat goofy, and so I would have been disappointed if the puzzles had made complete sense. Better still, Tony Tough is a friendly adventure. You can’t die or do anything to prevent yourself from finishing the game, and there are lots of things to pick up or look at, and so you can’t just finish the puzzles through simple trial and error.
But the best part of Tony Tough is the engine. Its 2D point-and-click system is very reminiscent of Curse of Money Island (released in 1997) and Gilbert Goodmate (2001), two adventures that worked well and were a lot of fun to play. All actions are handled with the mouse -- left clicking causes you to move and right clicking allows you to perform other commands (like examine and take) -- and so the game is streamlined and easy to use. It’s just too bad that the times dictate games move to clunky 3D engines when simple engines like the one employed by Tony Tough work so well.
Also surprisingly nice about Tony Tough is the translation from Italian to English. The voice acting is about as nice as you’re going to find in a game, and, aside from the occasional glitch, the text doesn’t look translated at all. In fact, the worst piece of translation comes on the game’s box, where Tony Tough is listed as having “61 levels” plus a “bonus level.” I suspect anybody seeing that is going to think Tony Tough is some sort of action adventure, but it’s not. Some marketing person just confused “level” with “location.”
So, overall, I’d call Tony Tough a near miss. Its engine works well and can easily support good adventures, but Tony Tough itself isn’t a good adventure. It’s not nearly funny enough, and its puzzles are perhaps just a bit too bizarre. So if you’re looking for an offbeat adventure to play, then your best (reasonably recent) choices are still the Monkey Island games and Gilbert Goodmate.