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. An updated 3D version, Math Munchers Deluxe, was released in 1995.
There are 5 different modes of play in Number Munchers to advance your mathematical skills. These modes include Multiples, Factors, Primes, Equalities, and Inequalities.
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.
- Multiples - The objective is to find multiples of the number given. If presented a 3, you would select numbers like 3, 6, 9, 12, etc.
- Factors - In this mode you find factors divisible by the number given. If the number is 12, you would choose to eat 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12.
- Primes - This mode helps you find prime numbers that are only divisible by 1 and themselves. e.g., 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13.
- Equality - This mode gives you the chance to find equations equaling the current number. If given the number 6, you would 'munch' 3 x 2, 3 + 3, 12 / 2, and so on.
- Inequality - This mode gives you the number and you must select the equations that DO NOT equal the current number. If given 6, you would eat equations such as 4 X 2, 18 / 9, and 3 + 5.
There are several type of 'Troggles.' Each type of Troggle moves in a specific pattern. There are five species of Troggle, each of which has an English and a mock-Latin (binomial) name:
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.
- 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 ant-like 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.
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).
Players can choose from the 5 modes of play, or choose 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 munch 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.
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:
As an Easter egg, between December 1 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.
- 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 nyah-nyah taunting melody.
- 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.
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