Tass Times in Tonetown

aka: Ennio: The Legend Begins, Tass Times in Tonetown: A Bizarre Adventure into an Alternate Reality
Commodore 64 Specs [ all ]
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Description official description

Your grandfather has invented a device which makes real everything he can see in his dream. All the strange places and creatures he can dream about really exist in an alternate reality. One of those creatures, named Franklin Snarl, traveled through the device to our reality and kidnapped Gramps, teleporting him into the crazy world of Tonetown. He hopes that Gramps will always remain asleep, which assures Snarl's own existence!

Now it's up to you, the hero of the game to travel to the alternate dimension of Tonetown and to rescue your grandfather. You interact with the environment by either typing in commands, or choosing one of the action icons available as interface. The game, therefore, combines text-based interaction with the more modern "point and click" approach.

Screenshots

Credits (Commodore 64 version)

13 People (12 developers, 1 thanks)

Produced by
Directed by
Graphics by
Music
Sound Effects
Programming by
Special Thanks To
Tonetown Times by
Tass Times in Tonetown: The Book by

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 77% (based on 8 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 68 ratings with 4 reviews)

A unique concept woven into an interesting world.

The Good
Tass Times in Tonetown has a great premise: Gramps, your grandfather, has invented a device that gives embodiment to your dreams. While dreaming one night, one of the dreamt characters (Franklin Snarl) figured out what was happening, and travelled back through the device to kidnap Gramps so that Gramps would never wake up, ensuring that Snarl would continue to exist! It's a unique concept that I hadn't seen in a game until then. In addition, the world you enter is a mid-1980's 'valley girl', 'punk', and 'new wave' world gone awry, which is fun to explore.

The graphics in TTIT are well drawn, and serve well to illustrate the crazy world you've entered.

The Bad
The text parser isn't that great, and the developers must have known that, since there is an 'icon menu' next to the graphics window that lists common functions you need to perform. In fact, if all you have is a mouse, you can complete the game (although you'll miss some of the more cute stuff, like attempting to eat a globurger).

The Bottom Line
A unique world to visit. The Berlyns have a gift in creating places nobody has been to before.

PC Booter · by Trixter (8947) · 1999

Oh how much I would love to transport myself into a world like this

The Good
Tass Times in Tonetown is a nice little adventure game developed by Interplay and published by Activision. It is in the same league as Shadowgate and Deju Vu when it comes to game mechanics. The game’s plot sounds like it comes straight from a movie. Your beloved Gramps has invented a device which makes everything in his dreams come to life in an alternate reality. The device is eventually used for evil purposes as he ends up being kidnapped by Franklin Snarl and taken back to that alternate reality. Accompanied by his dog Spot, you jump through the device in an effort to save him.

On the other side, you realize that it just isn’t the same anymore. You are transported to Tonetown where words like “tass” and “dyeorama” have entered the dictionary. Spot has been transformed into Ennio, a journalist dog that seems to be able to detect traces of “snarlmeat”; everyone you meet has colored hair; the main currency is in the form of guitar picks; the rage in town is a band known as the Daglets; and the only threat here is Snarl himself and his “jawdawgs”. To reach him, you must scour woods, wetlands, mansions, and mushroom forests.

If you look at the front cover, you would know that Tonetown is a surreal alternate world seemingly based on a distillation of 1980s culture. The game comes on two floppy disks and the usual manual. Also coming in the box is a copy of the ‘Towntown Times’, which makes for interesting reading. It contains articles, ads, and even a classified section.

The interface of Tass Times consists of the illustration window and a series of icons next to it, the inventory icon, and the description/command prompts. What I like is that the user has choice, the choice of playing the game with the mouse or keyboard. You can use the mouse to select various icons on the screen, or as I mentioned, you can enter text-only mode by pressing [Return] so you can pull a Zork and just use your imagination.

I also pretty much enjoyed getting lost in Tonetown, and meeting the strange people there. From my experience, executing illegal commands generates some witty dialogue, so I suppose there is enough humor in the game. There are also plenty of humorous ways you can die in the game, with the most common way being to walk in Snarl’s vicinity or inhaling poison from the mushrooms. Death is why you need to save the game, so that you can restore later when something goes wrong.

The illustrations are good, and there are some brilliant animations in some of the scene. The only sound effects I noticed in the game, other than the clock ticking in the first scene and the hoop charging up. As for the music, the main one is the theme music that is no doubt composed with Activision’s own Music Studio. The same music is heard in the game, in a scene where the band is playing.

Finally, players may argue that Tass Times is quite short, but in my opinion, it depends on how many times you get stuck.



The Bad
There is nothing bad about this game.

The Bottom Line
Tass Times in Tonetown is an adventure game that is in the same league as Shadowgate and Deja Vu. You interact with the game world by either entering commands or selecting icons with the mouse, and you get to meet some interesting characters on your journey. Like many adventure games, death can come at you if you are not careful. Sound effects are good, but music is not much given that there is virtually only one tune in the game. Tass Times is a very good adventure game that Amiga adventure gamers should have in their library.

Amiga · by Katakis | カタキス (43051) · 2019

A Unique Text Adventure Game.

The Good
My first memory of this game was Ennio the dog, news hat on head, jumping through a portal into the "real" world, followed by some funky, but catchy music. It sets the tone for the game in so many ways.

The game starts out normal, until you pass through the portal that Gramps created to get into Tonetown. From there, the game embodies so much of that spacey, retro style that embodied the 1980's so well. It's like entering a new wave video, where hearing Flock of Seagulls on a regular basis would not be out of the question.

It's a weird and quirky game, much like a tricked out version of "Alice in Wonderland". Everything from the cute and cuddly blob pets, to the snake-like Franklin Snarl, or visit Chaz the stylist for the latest hoops and hair colors, make up this surreal little world.

The graphics were great and had some animation in each screen. The music stuck to the funky tune from the game's intro, and the story was compelling enough to keep pushing forward. There game did well in keeping a sense of urgency as Snarl could appear out of anywhere to capture you if you didn't fit in, or were snooping around in places he didn't want you to be. The game even came with some great freebies, such as a copy of Ennio's newspaper, and a Snarl button.

The Bad
There was nothing more annoying in trying to figure out a puzzle, and Snarl would appear out of nowhere, ending the game. Like with most text adventures, not all options are readily apparent, and it took a lot of thinking (or even guesswork) to solve certain puzzles. It takes a lot of patience and deductive skills to play these types of games.

The Bottom Line
The game is one of my favorite text adventures. The overall tone of the game is very unique, and has still stuck with me to this day, unlike most games of this genre. I would like to see this game emulated, or released on an Activision compilation pack, since my Apple IIc has gone the way of the dodo.

As far as "Tass Times in Tonetown" goes, it remains one of my Top 5 Apple IIc games of all time. Well worth a look, if you can ever find it.

Apple II · by Guy Chapman (1746) · 2004

[ View all 4 player reviews ]

Trivia

Copy Protection

The copy protection was especially interesting. In order to talk to most characters in the game, the player had to know their names. These were published in articles in a newspaper that came with the game.

Developer Interview

Michael Berlyn, one of the designers, sets the record straight about Tass Times in Tonetown, in this informal 1999 interview with MobyGames:

On the main supporting character:

"The game's original title (working title) was 'Ennio: The Legend Begins,' which refers to the dog in the game. Ennio, the heroic dog in the game, was based on a dog in our neighborhood, MacGregor. We called the character Ennio after the film composer Ennio Morricone. We liked the name so we used it. Right after the game shipped, we went out and bought a little dog, a Lakeland Terrier, and named him 'Ennio the Legend.' Ennio was a great companion and a great dog with a tremendous sense of humor who passed away last year."

On the meaning of "tass":

"Muffy and I were employed there, teaching creative writing. And the motto of Harvard is 'Veritas,' which means 'truth.' We took to saying 'very tass' to mean, 'very true,' or 'too true.' Our students picked it up and started applying it to something that was cool. So very tass turned into very hip or cool."

eBay Auction

Early 2006, Mike Berlyn - as seller Bendite - offered at eBay "The Original Design Document" of Tass Times in Tonetown in a signed limited edition of 12 production copies and one proof. The document consists of a photocopy (approximately 200 pages) that’s been bound into a book, complete with its own “Tass Times Design Document” colored cover. Included is, besides the complete script, an introductory chapter (dated December 2005), Muffy Berlyn's original sketches for the characters, some unused song lyrics for the Daglets, and some history with a photo of the real Ennio the Legend.

Mouse Support

The game supported a serial mouse back in 1986. Since it was originally a booting game, this means the programmers spent the time to support serial mice natively--a noble effort since mice were not common PC peripherals back in 1986.

References

  • There is a reference to Zork scribbled on the inside of a cave wall in the game. Michael Berlyn wrote several Infocom games.
  • There is a hidden picture known as "Yummy" (on the Apple II ProDOS version, it's stored in a file with that name). It shows Brian Fargo (the boss of Interplay) cutting off the head of an unnamed programmer, according to Rebecca Ann Heineman, who was a programmer there at the time.

Information also contributed by game nostalgia and Peter Ferrie.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Trixter.

Macintosh added by Trypticon. Commodore 64 added by Quapil. Apple II added by Guy Chapman. Amiga added by Terok Nor. Apple IIgs added by Scaryfun. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Sciere, formercontrib, Peter Ferrie, Cantillon.

Game added March 9th, 1999. Last modified August 13th, 2023.