Saturday, April 26, 2008

Xbox Live Arcade Desires: Munchers Live!

The Xbox Live Arcade service has proven to be a great platform for revitalizing older PC and console titles and delivering them to a newer audience - however there are some games missing that may prove to be excellent additions to the service. Consider this....

Munchers Live!
Coming from the same vein of thought as my previous post on Oregon Trail Live!, Muchers Live! is a revival of two games, Word Munchers and Number Muchers, both of which common among the twentysomethings of the US from their school days. The sister titles revolved around the same general premise - eat the appropriate vowel or number as dictated by the information at the top of each screen. Starting slow, the pace and answer criteria would pick up in difficulty, becoming outright frantic as players struggled to much the correct answer before it was changed by the bad guys. Eat an incorrect answer or become a Troggle's dinner and lose a life. (Troggles are the bad guys, by the way.) Do well and get rewarded with a great moment in muncher history - a small silly clip showing the good guy (Muncher) trouncing the Troggles in/at a historic place/time. Between all of this, players learn their vowels, consonsants, prime factors, multiples, and so forth.

Just as with Oregon Trail Live!, a similar case can be made for re-relasing this title. Muchers suits the family demographic Microsoft is desparate to steal from Nintendo, by cleverly educating players while injecting a good dose of fun to cover up the "not-so-awesome" parts. Again, the title is flexible in the sense mom and dad can take part in the fun while the child can still be the star. And hey, whose mom and dad couldn't use a brushing up on their math and English?

Similar to Oregon Trail Live, the development and porting cycle for the nature of this title would be relatively short when compared to other games. Such a relatively smaller cost screams for a publisher to re-release and go through the process associated with it. Heck, a neat Live! enabled multiplayer mode could be thrown into the game where one set of players play as the Troggles and the others as Munchers. Imagine a four on four match inside an expanded grid with four Munchers moving frantically to eat numbers, while the speedy-yet-speed-controlled Troggles eat good answers and leave behind incorrect ones. The screams echo in my head already..."You ate my two! YOU ATE MY TWO!" The fun begs to be had.

So where is it?
Unfortunately Muchers Live! faces the same issues as Oregon Trail Live. Both original games were developed by MECC in the late 1980s/early 1990s and rights have since been acquired by The Learning Company, who has reluctant to license their properties to consoles. Speculation frequently concludes this could be because folk familiar with the game would not expect a console version to perform as well as the PC versions they are familiar with.

As with all titles that wind up in the Xbox Live Arcade Desires series, nearly the biggest hurdle is convincing the powers necessary a market exists for this title. Microsoft is tightening the requirements for the XNA platform, so its likely the capital to license and port the game will need to be fronted by a larger publisher, and even then the person spearheading the project needs to have some pull in the industry. It is not impossible, it's just very unlikely.

If someone is out there and reading with power, hear my plea and make this happen. It's an absurdly simple, yet low cost game that could draw some pretty cash into your coffers. And if, for some reason, it doesn't - hey, you didn't make Superman 64.

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