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About the Story
Tonetown! It's a totally radical dimension where the top tune is Tass by the Daglets, the top Gear is Troppo-Wear, and the UltraTouch haircut is a DieCut by Chaz.
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1986 is an awkward year in commercial adventures. Infocom and a few later entrants are still trying to stick with text-only. Sierra has made the leap from text/graphics to graphics-and-a-bit-of-parsing. And Interplay is leading the charge of developers who decide that what text/graphic adventures most need isn't better story or better graphics, but clunky GUIs that eat up more than one-third of the available pixels on already-limited displays.
No, no... and, again, no.
The wrongheaded interface choices aren't the only thing that keep Tass Times from a five-star rating. After a truly fantastic beginning (the worldbuilding and feelies are among the best from non-Infocom games of the period) the game falls into the trap a lot of straightforward adventures do. It doesn't take long to realize what the endgame is going to consist of and the rough framework of what you'll need to do. What remains is the rote frustration of navigating the precise (and occasionally padded) hurdles that are keeping you away from that climax.
But... yeah, that interface. The actual what-the-character-sees graphics only occupy about 40% of the playfield. That's a terrible compromise, because the worldbuilding is so rich and even with the restrictions some of the art and animations are quite clever! Meanwhile, the clunky clickable interface adds little to the game except for providing a handy way to identify interact-able items.
Had this game been done in the original split-screen ADVENT, or even with a hybrid system that wasn't so wasteful, it would have left an even deeper mark. The faux-hip world of Tonetown was never really an accurate picture of the 80s, but it was put on with enough of a smirk that I think it played well and ages just fine. But the documentation is absolutely essential to jumping in and enjoying it.
One of the more interesting pieces of '80s IF, September 17, 2015
This is a game which I got as part of the Interplay's 10th Anniversary Anthology. I found it strange in that I liked the two oldest games the most, this being one of them. This game included a fictitious newspaper, which is something I admired even more. The early commercial releases of Infocom games included printed material (which you often had to refer to throughout the game, as a means of copy protection) and odd trinkets, which added to the delight of the gameplay experience. That is something lacking in newer games these days.
Tass Times In Tonetown is set in what the '80s MTV generation thought the future would be like. One thing you discover pretty quickly is that Tonetown citizens do not take kindly to strangers. You'll probably die several times without knowing why, until you read the newspaper articles a couple of times over.
Some of the puzzles were strange, and there was a fair amount of inventory management that you had to do. It had icons for common commands and your inventory slots, but I don't think I ever got the mouse to work with this game. It obviously relied on some kind of proprietary early mouse driver.
The strange people and locations kept the game interesting, and I enjoyed playing it through multiple times. It's worth a try.
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