Release Date: TBA
A prequel to 2002's Tony Tough and the Night of Roasted Moths, Tony Tough 2: A Rake's Progress takes place in a small town in New Mexico, where we'll learn about Tony's humble sleuthing beginnings. It is on that fateful day in 1953 that 13-year-old Tony stumbles upon his first case as a detective, when a neighbor's daughter goes missing and alien abduction is suspected. Mind you, that's only the bigger picture, for our young protagonist has a busy day discovering ancient Indian secrets, uncovering mysteries about a thief, and causing mischief and mayhem as most boys his age did in the '50s. Night of Roasted Moths was quite successful overseas, but dtp is trying to expand into the worldwide market, with TT2 as its flagship title.
Throughout the course of the game, you will meet and interact with 20 NPCs who will undoubtedly rival Tony's quirkiness. The conversations are sure to be interesting and may possibly raise a few eyebrows. Don't let the conservative clothing and eyeglasses fool you – Tony may appear innocent, but his mouth emits a constant stream of smart-alecky harsh comments. This is certainly not a children's game, and any parents who purchase this for young children will be in for the surprise of their lives.
All of the mouse-driven adventure basics are present and accounted for. You mouse around the environments looking for hotspots, which are signaled by the change in the cursor. Once a hotspot has been located, you can rotate through available options with the right mouse button (take, use, etc.). If you're in a hurry, you can double-click to have Tony run to the specified location.
When you encounter a conversation, you will see small icons across the top of the screen, each depicting a potential question or answer. In a somewhat cliché example, the teacher asks Tony for his homework, and lo and behold, one of the available images along the top is of a dog. While this interface is blissfully simple, it didn't sit well with me, only because you don't have prior knowledge about what Tony will say – you know the answer will involve a dog (hopefully not of the female variety). Based on this observation, players will not encounter NPCs who are sensitive or partial to a particular type of response, and they also won't be able to talk themselves into a dead-end. When not engaged in a conversation, mousing over the top of the screen will display the contents of Tony's messenger bag.
Players will encounter various puzzles with multiple potential solutions (there is only one correct answer), and although they will require some creative thinking, the puzzles will not follow in the footsteps of Myst's notoriously difficult brainteasers.
During dtp's demo, we found Tony Tough in quite the dilemma; he's stuck in detention and desperately wants to get out. Although there is only one good solution to this particular quandary, trying out the different approaches is half of the fun. As soon as the teacher steps out into the hallway, Tony starts gathering up items that could help him to escape. He picks up a container of glue and positions it above the slightly ajar door, but unfortunately, the door moves a little bit, and the jar falls inside the classroom, instead of on the teacher's head, as had been planned. Tony proceeds to place tacks on the teacher's chair, but the instructor is prepared for such an eventuality and happens to be wearing, of all things, a plastic butt (I couldn't make this up if I tried). Ultimately, Tony is left with only one choice: eating a frog, which will land him in the hospital, where similar puzzles – and hilarity – will ensue. Medical equipment and soap are involved.
TT2 is a combination of 2D and 3D graphical styles, and it will support a resolution of 1024 x 768 and feature real-time weather changes. The title will have 30 locations and hundreds of pre-rendered screens, and while cut scenes are planned, none had been incorporated in our early build. As it is, the classroom environment looks a little worn, but this helps lend a bit of character to the location.
For me, the most impressive part of the demo was Tony's "gathering" animation. Adventure gamers have long grown accustomed to inventory items automatically jumping into the protagonist's hands before magically disappearing into what must be the biggest jacket pocket known to mankind. Not so in TT2, where a smooth animation is played each time Tony stows a new inventory item, showing him opening the bag, putting the item(s) inside, and closing it again. The pre-rendered screens show off the locations from different vantage points, so while we might be watching the same animation sequence, it gets replayed at various angles and zoom magnifications. In the version we saw, the outside environments had been rendered but hadn't been populated with NPCs, so the town appeared completely deserted.
The audio portion is also incomplete, and speech has yet to be incorporated, but the final product promises dynamic sound effects and an epic soundtrack. Luckily, the subtitles were implemented, which allowed us to follow along with the demo … sort of. Keep in mind that this game hails from Italian developers and a German publisher, so translations have not been optimized. The subtitles and voice acting will need to undergo heavy localization before the title can be ready for worldwide release.
(As an aside, I have only known the term "rake" to be used to refer to a person who is a sexual miscreant, which hardly seems like an accurate description for a 13-year-old boy, especially in that day and age. Was something clever intended, but it got lost in the translation? Is it a sly reference to William Hogarth's engravings of the same name, but we gauche Americans simply cannot make the connection? Inquiring minds want to know!)
TT2 will be released in Germany later this summer, and while dtp hopes for a winter release for North America, that all depends on the distributor, which they are still in the process of locating.
For people who played the first Tony Tough title, it is easy to notice that the prequel has come a long way, but some of the finishing touches still need to be applied. Hopefully, dtp will find a U.S. publisher soon, so that the subtitle issues can get ironed out and adventure gamers can finally experience Tony Tough 2: A Rake's Progress in its full glory.