Tass Times in Tonetown…

TRON: Legacy needs to start cutting some royalty checks… After the Break…

Tass Times in Tonetown…

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Did you really enjoy the “unintended” emergent gameplay of the old text/graphical adventure games where you had to figure out what the correct command was in order to achieve a certain goal?

PICK UP LAMP? No.

GRAB LAMP? No.

GET LAMP? No.

ACQUIRE LAMP? No.

RETRIEVE LAMP? No.

STRANGLE THE LIVING S**T OUT OF THE DEVELOPERS OF THIS GAME BECAUSE I CAN’T FIGURE OUT THE CORRECT TEXT COMMAND IN ORDER TO GRAB THE F**KING LAMP? No.

BASH KEYBOARD RANDOMLY FOR 30 MINUTES STRAIGHT WITH MY FOREHEAD TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IT WILL TAKE FOR THE GAME TO RECOGNIZE THAT I WANT TO GRAB THE LAMP? No.

FOUR NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS, A BRAIN ANEURYSM & A WEEK OF SOUL SEARCHING LATER, REALIZING THAT “PICK UP LANTERN” WORKS? Yes.

I don’t miss the text parser in adventure games one tiny bit. Not even a smidgeon. Truth be told, classic adventure games always had a bit too much of the “Throw the beer can at the monkey so that the monkey can drop the wrench that you need to loosen the bolts in the chain-link fence so that the robotic tiger is let loose which causes the police officers to drive off so that you can walk into the alleyway that the police officers were parked in so that you can climb onto the garbage can and leap up to grab the flower pot so that you can…” for me. However, there wasn’t much else available at the time.

“Tass Times in Tonetown” (no doubt partially named out of parody of the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” which was a hit a few years prior) was one such old time adventure game. Despite all of the adventure game cliches that the game utilized (such as picking up seemingly random objects and using those objects in seemingly illogical ways), the game exhibited a certain weirdness that has aged surprisingly well. At the time, the game’s setting was only slightly extreme: What the 1980’s electro-punk rock society thought that the 2040’s might resemble. However, changing times has made what was once a slightly amusing setting turn into a somewhat bizarro universe with a significant retro bend to it.

I can’t remember if I ever completed the game or not. Watching a playthrough of the game, though, I was amazed at how many of the screens from that game that I remembered, especially in the later stages of that game.

Something that always strikes me as oddly amusing is how fundamentally short these old-time adventure games were when you stripped away the “GRAB BAG OF POTATO CHIPS? PICK UP BAG? BUY BAG? STEAL BAG?” garbage with the text parser. Yes, games are are always shorter and easier when you know what to do but a lot of these games relied upon some lousy gameplay mechanics to elongate some fairly short gameplay times. I remember watching a video of someone complete “Space Quest I” inside of fifteen minutes. I watched a video of someone completing “Tass Times” in under 20 minutes. And, remember, these were games that were often selling for the time-tested price point of $49.95. Say what you will of dumbed-down modern games of the console kiddies but are any of them easily solved after 15 to 20 minutes? Probably not.

One aspect about “Tass Times” that I found especially amusing and had forgotten about is that the movie “TRON: Legacy” owes quite a bit to the plot of Tass Times, for instance:

Both creations features a younger relative needing to enter a world made by an older relative (an initially “idyllic” world, mind you) so that the younger relative can rescue the older relative from a corruption that has spread in the idyllic world and is now holding that older relative prisoner. Both creations resolve themselves with the younger relative escaping back into the modern world, the older relative’s fate unresolved and the enemy defeated.

If memory serves me correctly, Harlan Ellison sued James Cameron for far less and “won” (technically, he didn’t “win” but it was ‘settled out of court’ which, in modern-day Hollywood, is as close to a victory as you can diplomatically achieve). It makes me wonder if The Mouse needs to start handing out royalty checks.

The quirky setting of “Tass Times in Tonetown” is fondly remembered; The lousy text parser and game logic is not. I know that we’ll never see a modern re-creation of the game but imagine the possibilities if that ever happened. I better start scrounging around for some guitar picks just in case…

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