Munchers

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Munchers was a series of educational/edutainment computer games produced by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC) for several operating systems. They were popular among American schoolchildren in the 1980s and 1990s and were the recipients of several awards. The two original games in the series were Number Munchers and Word Munchers.

Number Munchers[edit]

Number Munchers is the first educational game in the Munchers series. Designed to teach basic math skills, it was popular among American school children in the 1980s and 1990s and was the recipient of several awards.[1] An updated 3D version, Math Munchers Deluxe, was released in 1995.

Word Munchers[edit]

Word Munchers is a spin-off of Number Munchers designed to teach basic grammar skills, it was popular among American schoolchildren in the 1980s and 1990s and was used as a teaching aid widely used in schools.

Though the gameplay was the same as in Number Munchers, specific to Word Munchers were the modes of play, which includes parts of speech such as verbs or adjectives. Teachers had the options to select the vowel sounds and how difficult the word sets would be, such as whether or not to include words that break pronunciation rules.

Gameplay[edit]

A screenshot from the Number Munchers game (DOS version) showing the muncher and a troggle monster in the playfield.
Number Munchers gameplay (DOS version)

In all the Munchers games, the player controlled a green "Muncher" character across a grid of squares containing a short numerical or word expression. The objective is to consume all and only the grids containing information satisfying a specific criterion (determined by the mode of play) while also avoiding the deadly "Troggle" monsters which roamed the grid.

Eating a grid containing information that did not match the criterion of the play mode chosen or being caught by a Troggle resulted in the loss of a life.

If all grids containing information matching the criterion were eaten from the screen, the level ended and the player was presented with an amusing short scene, similar to Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner scenes, in which the Muncher foils the Troggles' plans to catch it and often destroys the Troggle in some comical manner. The game gets continually faster and harder each level.

Troggles[edit]

The Troggles are monsters with two legs and a large head, whose goal is to eat Muncher and/or disrupt his progress by rearranging things on the board. Levels 1, 2, and 3, contain only one Troggle on the grid at any given time. A second Troggle appears starting with level 4, and a third appears starting with level 8. After approximately level 18, the game (especially the movement of the Troggles) accelerates to make responsible munching more difficult.

There were several type of "Troggles." Each type of Troggle moved in a specific pattern. There were five species of Troggle, each of which was given an English and a mock-Latin (binomial) name:

  • Reggies (Trogglus normalus) (magenta on Apple II, red in DOS, purple on Macintosh) - simply moves in a line unless redirected by a safety square in its path.
  • Bashfuls (Trogglus timidus) (green on Apple II, blue in DOS, pink on Macintosh) - moves in an arbitrary manner on the gameboard, unless approached by a Muncher, in which case he moves away from the Muncher. Became purple in later releases in the series.
  • Helpers (Trogglus assistus) (green on Apple II and DOS, magenta on Macintosh) - this Troggle eats all answers, leaving nothing behind. Became purple in later releases in the series.
  • Workers (Trogglus laborus) (purple and white on Apple II and DOS, magenta and white on Macintosh) - this Troggle adds new answers and/or changes existing answers as he moves around.
  • Smarties (Trogglus smarticus) (green on Apple II and Macintosh, yellow on DOS) - has large teeth and glasses, and the most difficult enemy to avoid; always follows the Muncher on the board.

Safety squares occasionally appear to help protect Muncher from the Troggles. These are temporary havens identified by four small white rectangles on the corner of the square. No Troggle may enter a safety square; if one appears on a square a Troggle currently occupies, that Troggle dies (but may be replaced afterwards). Safety squares may disappear as quickly and randomly as they appear; hence, one must take caution not to remain in one for long.

In addition, Troggles are quite cannibalistic; if one Troggle enters a square already occupied by another, or if two of them enter one square at the same time (even if they are of the same species), one Troggle will eat the other (however, another Troggle may re-enter the board afterwards).

Levels[edit]

Specific to Number Munchers are the five modes of play: Multiples, Factors, Primes, Equality, and Inequality. Players can also choose from a "challenge" mode, which randomizes these modes. In the Multiples mode, Muncher must munch all numbers which are multiples of the number given; for example, if the designated number is 3 then Muncher must eat all 6's, 9's, and 12's and avoid numbers such as 7. In Factors the muncher seeks to ingest the factors of a given number, in Primes he craves prime numbers, and in the Equality and Inequality modes the muncher devours expressions such as 2+4 which are equivalent or not equivalent (respectively) to the designated number.

Game play begins with four Muncher lives (the one currently in play, plus three others in reserve). After scoring a certain number of points, the player gains an extra life. Players lose a life if they swallow an incorrect answer. Additionally, five different types of enemy (or "Troggle") appear throughout the game. Players lose a life if they make contact with a Troggle.

The highest known level is -127, which is equal to level 129 per wrapping.

Cutscenes[edit]

As in the other games in the series, a player is awarded with a cutscene (reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner escapades) after every third level; in this game, these are dubbed as "Great Moments in Muncher History". While these scenes are numbered (Act 1, Act 2, etc.), the order they appear in varies from game to game. Once all six have been shown, they begin to repeat themselves (starting with the scene after Level 21). The six scenes are as follows:

  • A Muncher is chased by a Reggie across the screen twice, then the Muncher gets in an old-timey automobile, outruns the Troggle, and the Troggle falls down and gives up.
  • Two Munchers reenact the story of William Tell.
  • A Muncher races a Bashful up a mountain, plants his flag, and sings a song (Ding Dong! the Witch is Dead).
  • A Muncher prank-calls a Smartie and sings the universal taunting melody [1] commonly associated in the United States with lyrics including "Nanny nanny boo boo", "pitcher's got a big butt", etc.
  • A Muncher beats two Troggles in a beauty contest. Later releases of the game replaced this cut scene with one in which a Muncher stumbles through his house in the dark and then turns on the light, only to discover that he has broken all of his furniture.
  • A Muncher carves his own image into Mount Rushmore.

Easter egg[edit]

As an Easter egg, between December 1st and 25th, the Muncher would wear a Santa Claus hat. This only worked on a computer that had a built-in clock or that was never turned off, as the built-in clock was not common at the time the games were popular.

Versions[edit]

The Munchers series included:

  • Number Munchers
  • Fraction Munchers
  • Word Munchers
  • Super Munchers
  • Math Munchers Deluxe (a remake of Number Munchers)
  • Word Munchers Deluxe (also a remake of Word Munchers)
  • Knowledge Munchers Deluxe
  • Troggle Trouble Math (a spin-off)

The original version only allowed navigation through the keyboard arrow keys. Later versions featured better graphics and added mouse support.

References[edit]

External links[edit]