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Munchman (TI-99) artwork

Munchman (TI-99) review


"Many home maze-chomp games in the eighties tried to emulate Pac-Man, maybe adding something, with weird mazes, one-way doors, turning walls, keys and so forth. In theory, at least. Some pretended like giving more frequent extra lives was a big bonus over the arcade, when really they'd just gotten your money anyway. Most barely went beyond adding graphic detail, shifting point values, or changing sounds or the reward in the center. Some subtracted it, like the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man. Munch..."



Many home maze-chomp games in the eighties tried to emulate Pac-Man, maybe adding something, with weird mazes, one-way doors, turning walls, keys and so forth. In theory, at least. Some pretended like giving more frequent extra lives was a big bonus over the arcade, when really they'd just gotten your money anyway. Most barely went beyond adding graphic detail, shifting point values, or changing sounds or the reward in the center. Some subtracted it, like the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man. Munch Man for the ill-fated TI-99 was fortunate enough to find a simple, memorable twist that still works for a quick run-through.

While the catchy title's a misnomer, Munch Man is more than just another Pac-Man clone. Your c-shaped muncher makes links instead of eating dots. The enemy pictures change every level, and power pills alternate between "TI" and the state of Texas. Enemies slowly get a bit faster than you, and though they move randomly to start, you need to loop in a rough pattern where you wring the most from your power pills in the corners, especially as they double as speed-ups. Chasing a monster for only 100 points is wasteful. Each level lasts about a minute, and if you are almost done and can't see the last missing link, you may lose several lives trying to find it. The last level in the loop of twenty has invisible walls, and you gobble Texas-shaped dots. It's a clever surprise, but it's only one level, and it leaves you feeling they could've done more.

Though it's challenging enough when monsters chase you less randomly as levels accumulate. They don't just change among twirling storm clouds, jack-o-lanterns, and coils. They become five percent faster than you by level twenty, which is enough to catch someone who hasn't covered the board efficiently. If you missed just one link, the level gives no clues, instead starting you in your own center box before releasing your enemies a few seconds later.

This seems unfair, but once you learn where the narrow hard-to-see stretches are, or how best to coat an area, you can work that in with the usual maze-chomp challenges: how to cover the long stretches without intersections and not walking too much over what's already done. By the end, levels can be completed by nearly chaining the power pills, with the final run leaving chasing monsters a few links behind. An extra muncher every ten thousand points, or roughly two to three levels, lets you goof occasionally.

This all makes Munch Man more original and spontaneous than ordinary maze-chompers like its sequel, where each level was two Ms. Pac-Man levels glued together, with roving teleports. Munch Man's only disappointment is the loop of twenty enemies instead of the fifty I'd envisioned as a kid, when I wasn't much good at it. The strategy and pace make up for it, and since it's free with the Classic99 emulator, it's worth a shot for old-school maze-chomp fans.

Rating: 7/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (July 17, 2009)

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