You like math?
– Not particularly.
– [VO] You like arcade games?
– [VO] Like, math arcade games?
– I don’t know!
– [VO] Sure you do! Number Munchers, fool!
Yeah, dude man bro, munch on math.
Well, seeing as it’s called Number Munchers,
that makes complete sense!
I mean, what else would I munch on?
[chuckles] I’m not making that joke. That’s too easy.
The game was developed and
released by MECC in 1990.
And inside the box, you got the game
on a floppy disk,
either 5¼-inch or 3½-inch, like this one here.
You also get none other than
the Number Munchers manual,
which is packed to the brim
with all sorts of useless information.
Want a quick startup procedure for
people who hate to read manuals?
Just read this manual. There you go.
It also lets you know about the extra material
that could be purchased for classroom usage,
as well as the fact that the game isn’t copy protected.
So, please, don’t copy that Word Munchers floppy.
Yeah, no worries.
I wouldn’t dream of copying Word Munchers
when I own Number Munchers!
The game beings with a title screen,
letting you know that the game…
begins with a title screen. Hmm.
You’re then dropped into the
main menu, which is pretty bland,
in this MS-DOS version at least.
I am much more fond of the Apple II version,
since it has things for eyes to look at.
And since that’s what eyes are for,
I find it to be shockingly appropriate.
But for all intents and purposes,
the games are the same beyond the menu aesthetics.
Before you start, you’ll definitely
want to hop on over to the options,
so you can optimize the optional
optionality contained within.
Not only can you choose the difficulty
level by grade and skill within said grade,
but the individual game content that you’ll come across
while nomming the numerous numbers.
Start a game, and you’re greeted
with a short introduction of our hero,
the Number Muncher, or Munchicus digitus,
a cutesy little monster thing with a big mouth
that you’ll take control of momentarily.
You’re also introduced to the Troggles,
five not-so-cute monsters that are
hellbent on screwing up your munching session
in any way they can.
Finally, you have the choice of
five types of math games to play,
Multiples, Factors, Primes, Equality and Inequality,
followed by a challenge mode
that mixes these up at random.
Once you’re in the grid,
you take the reigns of the Muncher,
who is controlled either by the arrow keys or the mouse,
though I personally prefer the former.
At the top of the screen, you’re given a
specific rule to follow for the current grid.
In this case, things that equal 38.
All you have to do is move the Muncher around to
the tiles that match the top of the screen’s wishes,
press Space and gobble it up.
Once you’ve eaten every appropriate
tile, you’ll move onto the next,
and that’s honestly about it for Number Munchers.
It’s really that simple.
Troggles will soon make their
way onto the screen, though,
and if they touch you, they will take one life.
Not only that, but tiles they walk over will often
change to something else after they’ve passed,
either providing another answer for you to eat
or a garbage answer that just distracts you.
Lose all your lives, either by receiving
too many bad Troggle touches
or eating enough wrong answers, and it’s game over.
And you do get the occasional
reprieve from these grid spots
with white highlighted corners.
They randomly change as time goes on,
but if you enter one, you’re invulnerable
to any Troggle attacks while it lasts,
so that’s decidedly not mean.
And every three levels, you get
a fun little cartoon animation,
which, like the faux-Latin monster names,
is very Looney Tunes-esque,
especially bringing to mind the
Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons.
But really, that’s it for Number
Munchers, and you know what?
I am not entirely enthused with this game.
Sure, it works just fine. It’s got some
entertaining bits that I enjoyed as a kid,
and it’s better than just solving
math problems on their own,
but there really just isn’t much to it.
In fact, the follow up game,
Word Munchers, is just more of the same.
Instead of math problems,
you have word problems,
which are just as problematic,
where you’ll have to choose the words
that match the indicated vowel sounds.
It’s exactly the same gameplay
with nothing new on offer.
Except for the new things,
like animated cut-scenes,
which, frankly, I find far less endearing
than those in Number Munchers
and even downright confusing.
[exasperated sigh] W-w-what was that?
He caught a Troggle with a shark fin?
Well, good for you. I don’t understand the humor.
However, then you’ve got
Super Munchers: The Challenge Continues,
released in 1991.
And this… THIS is what I’m talking about.
You’ve got six categories of trivia
to choose from in three difficulties,
and of course, good old Challenge Mode.
The gameplay is mostly the same,
but this time you’re really getting
challenged from all sides,
seeing as it’s not just restricted to
vowel sounds or fractions or whatever.
Not that those don’t have their place, of course,
but with this monster-dodging arcade game,
I just find more enjoyment in trivia
than I do in solving logic problems.
Not only that, but you have a
new game mechanic, the Munchmeter,
along the bottom of the screen.
Fill it up by eating enough stuff
and a little blue transmogrification thing will appear.
And once you enter it,
you become the Super Muncher!
Little green guy dons a little white cape
and can fly around, giving the
Troggles a taste of their own medicine.
At least until the Munchmeter runs out.
It’s just fun on the earlier levels,
but before long, it becomes an absolute lifesaver
when you’re being violated by
Troggles from every which way.
And this time, instead of a
non-interactive cartoon every few levels,
you get sent on a mission,
with the goal of getting closer and
closer to some mad scientist’s castle.
I don’t know why. You just do it.
Like one mission, you have to
pick which Troggle is disguised.
Another, you have to watch where a key is placed.
Then one where you have to memorize
where certain words are hidden on a screen.
And the last one, where you must scale
a cliff by flying upward, collecting numbers
and avoiding falling rocks and anvils,
which is kinda clunky, and I kinda don’t like it.
Once you complete all these,
you’ll reach the mad scientist’s lab,
and for some reason, he turns his
Frankenstein monster into a chicken.
And that’s it.
Start over from the beginning of the game
and continue playing for a high score.
And that’s the original Number Munchers series.
I’ve liked all of these since I was a kid,
even though it’s Super Munchers
that really keeps me coming back.
Number and Word Munchers just
get a bit monotonous before long.
And even though they were fun back in the day,
they don’t hold my attention past
that initial “ooh, nostalgia” feeling.
But I’d actually still recommend Super Munchers,
not only because it’s got more varied gameplay,
but the various trivia is just
more interesting, if you ask me.
Although some of it is a little outdated,
but that’s just the nature of trivia.
So if you can put yourself in a 1991
mental state, you’ll do just fine.
Just be sure to come out of it
when you’re done with the game
because flannel is not the easiest to find anymore.
So if you’re in the mood for some arcade action,
but for some reason feel a bit guilty about it
and desire a thin coat of
educational paint on your game,
you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more
fitting for this desire than the Munchers games.