The Main Game: Muncher
Muncher (also sometimes called Munchie) is the main game for round 3 of the second season of the Astrocade High Score Club. Muncher is an excellent Pac-Man clone, as the following screenshot makes quite clear:
This game is one of my favorite games for the Astrocade, and it's a shame that it wasn't released (probably) due to Atari's legal department making threats to sue companies that made copy-cat games. I suppose there is no defense for Muncher-- you can't look at it an not see Pac-Man. K.C. Munchkin for the Odyssey 2, which has only a passing resemblance to Pac-Man, was driven off the market by Atari's lawsuit, therefore Astrocade, Inc. made the right decision, as they couldn't have released this game without a major overhaul. Unlike prototype games for many other systems, like the Atari 2600 or Intellivision, owners of the Astrocade didn't have to wait until the late-1990s or 2000s to get to play rare and unusual games: Muncher got limited distribution in the early 1980s through the Arcadian and at least two other sources.
Bonus Game: Nam-Cap
The BASIC bonus game is New Image's game Nam-Cap, which was released on tape for $10.95 in December of 1982. "Nam-Cap" is the name "Pac-Man" spelled backwards. That's pretty-much how this game plays too: instead of eating dots, you "up-chuck" them onto the screen. Yeah, kind of gross, but pretty amusing. Here's a screenshot of the game with the maze mostly filled in already:
To be sure, Nam-Cap is similar to Pac-Man (the game wouldn't exist without the original), but it's not a clone. It's a neat distraction and has quite a few variants that gave players a good deal for their money.
Season 2, Round 3: End of Round Time and Date
Season 2, Round 3 will last about three weeks. This round ends on Sunday, April 9'th at 8pm MST.
Here is a preview of the supposedly soon to be upcoming (at the time) Munchie cartridge from the 1981 Astrovision, Inc. catalog called More Games More Fun:
Muncher may be the most common third-party game for the Astrocade... but that doesn't make it common. Unless you own an Astrocade multicart, I expect that you'll have to play this game using the Astrocade emulator included with MAME.
The Muncher cartridge ROM image (called "muncher.bin") is part of this archive:
Muncher was never actually officially released by Astrovision or Astrocade, Inc. Therefore, there is no manual for this game-- but there is nothing complicated about playing it. If you've ever played Pac-Man (or any other dot-eating maze game in the last thirty-five years!), then you'll take to Muncher quite easily. The only big difference between Pac-Man and Muncher is that in Muncher, you must always press your controller in the direction that you want to move. You'll get used to this quickly.
Muncher is probably found most commonly labeled as Test Programme, which is the cartridge that the Arcadian newsletter released. It looks like this:
Esoterica is probably the company that released the cartridges with the red "Muncher" label. This version of the cartridge looks like this:
Here is a video review of Muncher created by "Nice and Games" and released to YouTube on May 15, 2010:
I do not know who programmed Muncher. If you have any idea, then please let me know.
For those who are interested in tinkering with programming, a disassembly of the Z80 code for Muncher is available here:
Other than the number of players, Muncher has no options to enter. There are no skill levels to select. The game does start a little too slowly for my taste, but before long everything starts moving really quickly. In fact, it probably won't be long before you wish that everything would slow down just a little bit.
Up to ten points are awarded for playing Muncher.
Muncher Bonus Points
- If you play a two-player game of Muncher, then you'll get a bonus point.
- If you beat Sharon Adams score of 76,310 that was published in the Scoreboard in the June 30, 1984 issue of Arcadian, then you'll get a bonus point.
You can download the "AstroBASIC" version of Nam-Cap here:
Be sure to play the version in the zip file called "nam-cap_1_[new_image].wav.
We're playing version 1 of Nam-Cap, which is called Nam-Cap: Up-Chuck. Each variant of the game has a different title screen, so please make sure that the title screen you see matches with the one I've posted here.
Lives in Nam-Cap are called "turns." When you begin your game choose 3 turns.
Nam-Cap (Playing Notes)
There probably were instructions for Nam-Cap, but they have not been archived. Here are a few things I noticed while playing the game:
- The Deadly Square - You are chased around the screen by one square. If it touches you, then you lose a turn.
- Those Pesky "Monsters" - Ghosts, which do not look like a squares (they look like ghosts, of course!), do not move around the maze; they are stationary. You don't see them until you encounter them as you move around the maze, and then they become visible. If you run into a visible ghost, then you lose a turn. I think the lack of ghost movement was done to help speed-up the game, and it actually works better than you might expect.
- Death on Startup - In one of the variant versions of Nam-Cap, I noticed that a ghost (which appear randomly) can appear on the first space that you occupy. If this happens, then you lose a turn before you even move, which is an extremely cheap death-- and is obviously unfair. I've not seen this happen in the Up-Chuck version of the game (that we're playing), but if you see it, then be aware it seems to just be the way that the game plays.
Here is a picture of the tape on which Nam-Cap was distributed:
Here are some screenshots of Nam-Cap:
This is Nam-Cap's title screen (if you don't see this exact title screen, then you're playing the wrong version of the game):
The maze at the start of a game-- before you "up chuck" any dots at all!
Here is the maze after you've done a little bit of barfing:
When you lose your last "turn," the screen colors flicker though many different colors, I happened to catch the game at a moment that surely does make me want to "up chuck!"
Here is a full-page ad for Nam-Cap from the March 14, 1983 issue of the Arcadian:
The ad makes a few comments:
New Image Proudly Presents Tape #1500, Nam-Cap:
Six versions of this crazy game on one tape!
Different mazes on each screen.
1-4 players. Saves Hi-Score of the Day.
Tired of eating dots and ghosts? Now you can spit them back out!
You'll love it!!
Nam-Cap was reviewed by Michael Prosise in The Game Player column in Arcadian 5, no. 4 (Feb. 18, 1983): 62. Here is the full review of the game:
Whacka-whacka-whacka??? Yes! Has the little yellow gobbler finally made it to the Bally Astrocade? Well-l-l-l, a hint is in this game's title, which might be spelled backwards.
Don Gladden of New Image has come up with quite an entertaining version (in reverse) of the popular Midway coin-op Pac-Man. In fact, there are six variations of Nam-Cap on the cassette, each unique in its own way.
So what is a Nam-Cap, you might be wondering. To use Don's words, the little guy finally ate too many dots and ghosts. Now he's spitting them out! The object of this game is to fill the maze with dots.
What New Image has done is to take the Pac-Man game concept and reverse it. You have a maze, with tunnels on each side, that is devoid of dots. You steer the Nam-Cap guy through the maze, trying to fill it with dots, while simultaneously avoiding the pursuing block-shaped object. During the chase, your guy will, on his own, deposit stationary ghosts in three different places that neither he nor his pursuer may pass through. To attempt this will mean his destruction.
Nam-Cap is for one to four players, is in color, and offers the choice of one to ten turns. The graphics are good; in fact, the ghosts are just like the ones in Pac-Man. There are several different mazes. A new one will appear each time you complete one. In the six versions, the speed of movement is faster than some of the others. In version four, you disappear after 500 points, the maze disappears at 1,000 points, and after 1,500 points, both disappear! It's fun.
Of the Pac-Man-type games that have appeared so far for the Bally Astrocade, Nam-Cap is probably the closest to the coin-op, as far as feel of play and visual aspects are concerned. Although the maze layout is different, it functions just as well. Those who've played it have liked it quite a bit. They've even found it superior to Wavemakers' Pack-Rat. The sound effects are nice also, and another good feature is that the high score of the day, along with the final scores for all players, is displayed at the end of each game.
Nam-Cap is fun to play, much like Pac-Man, and should be available by the time you read this.
Have fun playing Muncher this round; it's a very impressive and fun game on the Astrocade. Nam-Cap, while not nearly as fast-paced as Muncher, isn't a bad facsimile of the game given the limitations of "AstroBASIC." It is certainly much better than MicroPac (released in 1982) by H.A.R.D., which is excruciatingly slow. Now, go insert the cartridge (or load up the ROM) and have some traveling through a classic maze game. If you're not careful, then you might get "Muncher-Man Fever!"
Edited by ballyalley, Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:40 PM.