See, there’s this home-video game featuring a little, round-faced thing. This guy runs around a maze eating dots while being chased by a group of brightly colored pursuers. Pac-Man, right?
Wrong, it’s K.C. Munchkin. If you thought it sounded like Pac-Man, you’re not alone — so did Atari, Inc., who holds the exclusive home-video rights to the original yellow chomper. To make a long legal battle short, Atari successfully sued K.C.’s creators, North American Philips Corporation (N.A.P. Co.), claiming that the looks and game play of Pac-Man and K.C. Munchkin were a little too close for comfort. As of this writing, the case is on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court, and N.A.P. Co. has stopped production on the game.
So why are we including a game in this book that is no longer being made? Two reasons: 1) You can still find it in most stores; and, 2) it’s the most popular cartridge Odyssey ever developed.
In many ways it’s a better game than Atari’s VCS version of Pac-Man. K.C. Munchkin offers cleaner graphics, more challenging game play, many different games, and includes one outstanding feature — a unique programmable mode that allows a player to design his or her own custom mazes.
Game Play: 7
To stay alive for as long as possible and accumulate as many points as possible in a given maze by eating Munchies and Munchers.
K.C. Munchkin uses the Odyssey² joystick controller (left controller only). To move K.C. through a maze, push the joystick in the direction you want him to go-up, down, left, or right. Make your joystick movements quick and precise. If you accidentally push the joystick in a diagonal direction, you never know which way he’ll head. The action button is not used in K.C. Munchkin.
K.C. Munchkin: This is you, and boy, are you hungry! You’ve got a mad craving for Munchies. For a few seconds after you’ve eaten a flashing Munchie, you can eat the Munchers as well. You can move anywhere throughout a maze. If you exit through the escape tunnel at one end of a maze, you will automatically reenter the maze at the opposite side (this also holds true for Munchies and Munchers).
Unlike most video games, K.C. Munchkin gives you only one do-or-die chance at the Munchers and Munchies. Once you are eaten, a new game begins. You have no extra lives in reserve, nor can you earn bonus lives.
Munchies: These 12 dots — eight white dots and four flashing dots — move throughout the maze. As K.C. eats the Munchies, the speed of the remaining dots increases. The last remaining Munchie moves at the speed of K.C. Munchkin. You will not be able to run it down, but you can trap it in a corner.
Eating a white dot earns you one point; eating a flashing colored dot earns you three points and a chance to eat the Munchers. When K.C. eats all 12 Munchies, the maze resets, with all elements moving at a faster speed.
Note: If you save a blinking Munchie for last, the Munchers will be vulnerable to K.C. when the next screen begins. Thus, you can quickly nab all three Munchers when the screen resets if you lie in wait for them to exit from their lair. This is a tricky maneuver, but if you master it, you can increase your point totals significantly.
Munchers: The Munchers are after you, so you ’d better run fast! The chase begins as they exit, one at a time, from the rotating box in the center of the maze.
The only way you can beat these three attackers is to eat a flashing Munchie. This turns the Munchers purple for a few random seconds and you can eat them for points. Watch out — when they begin to flash, they’re getting ready to turn back to their original colors and pursue you again. They will flash three times before doing so. You can eat them on the first and second flashes but not after the third.
When eaten, the ghost of a munched-out Muncher automatically races back to the center of the screen. There it will recharge after a few seconds and return to the chase. Eating the first Muncher earns you five points; the second Muncher, 10 points; the third Muncher 20 points.
K.C. Munchkin features 10 maze variations. Pressing keyboard numbers “0,” “1,” “2,” or “3” accesses one of four different mazes with varied difficulty (“0” being easiest and “3” being hardest). Pressing “4” accesses a different maze each time. Pressing “5,” “6,” “7,” or “8” accesses invisible mazes — you can see the maze walls only when K.C. Munchkin touches them. Pressing “9” accesses a different invisible maze each time. Pressing “P” allows the player to design his or her own maze.
Although K.C. Munchkin is essentially a one-player game, the cartridge allows the most recent high-scoring player (in a given game) to enter his or her name at the bottom of the screen using the Odyssey² keyboard. Other players can then try to beat this person’s high score.
Okay, after this is said and played, how much is K.C. Munchkin really like Pac-Man? Take a good, close look at both — you’ll see they’re totally different. After all, K.C. Munchkin has horns on the top of his head; Pac-Man does not.
Following are some basic patterns and strategies for Games 0-4 — the preset, visible mazes in K.C. Munchkin. When playing the game, the most important overall aspect to learn — through practice — is how to clear the screen of Munchies without hesitation and without letting the Munchers draw you off your path.
Game 0: This is a relatively easy, open maze. There is only one place where you can get trapped — at the bottom center.
To clear all the dots, follow the counterclockwise pattern as illustrated in Figure 1. Start with the upper left-hand corner. Hold off on eating your first flashing Munchie until you have lured at least one or two of the Munchers into the corner. When they’re near, hit the flashing Munchie and gobble up as many Munchers as possible.
Proceed to the lower left-hand corner and clear it of Munchies. Be prepared to quickly eat any Munchers that may be close to your path. Don’t go too far out of your way or they might turn color and zap you first.
After moving to and clearing out the lower right-hand corner, advance to the upper right-hand corner. Depending on the position of the dots, you may have to make a slight loop into the right escape tunnel to catch a wayward Munchie.
Leaving just one white dot, eat the final flashing Munchie at the top right-hand corner and chase the Munchers until they begin to flash. Then go for the last dot. Since you won’t be able to outrun it, you must outwit it by using tunnels, going around barriers, and so on.
This pattern can be used for succeeding screens, but not without some improvisation on your part (due to the elements’ increased speed). Always move in a circular direction around the screen, and do not try to cross the board diagonally.
Game 1: This game is a bit tougher, due to its four built-in traps. These traps, located in each of three corners and at the top center of the screen, can help you to trap straying Munchies. They are also occasionally effective for capturing vulnerable Munchers.
Our Game 1 pattern goes, roughly, clockwise around the screen, as illustrated in Figure 2. First head for the upper right-hand corner. Pause before eating a flashing Munchie to lure one or more Munchers in your direction. Gobble up both the flashing dot and the Munchers, then head for the lower right-hand corner of the board. The loop shown in the illustration may or may not be necessary, depending on the position of the Munchies.
Travel across the screen to the left and clear out the Munchies in the lower left-hand corner. Again, head upward and eat one white dot — save the other two, this helps set up a strategy for trapping the last dot on the screen. The remaining white Munchie will be headed toward the trap in the upper center portion of the screen. Hesitate to give it a chance to work its way up to this point, then eat the other two Munchies and head for the trapped dot. Don’t let it get away from you.
Again, you can use this pattern in succeeding screens, but not without some improvisation and quick thinking on your part.
Game 2: Here’s where the action really begins to pick up. As illustrated in Figure 3, start the game by heading for the upper left-hand corner. Hesitate and one or more Munchers will follow you into the trap. Eat the flashing Munchie and as many Munchers as you can.
Quickly head to the bottom left-hand corner of the screen and go for the Munchies. If a Muncher is chasing you there, you’ll be in a good position to gobble him up.
Now head out of the escape tunnel on the left side of the screen. You will enter at the right side of the board. Immediately move up to the right-hand corner and clear the section of Munchies. One white Munchie will probably have strayed from this area — pick it up later. Quickly move down to the bottom right-hand corner and clear that area. This will leave you one white Munchie that should be traveling toward the left side of the maze. Trap it from behind a wall or in a corner.
Game 2 requires split-second timing to make this pattern work successfully for you. If you hesitate too much, you may have to alter it since the Munchies will probably have strayed from their original paths. The same holds true for successive screens in this game.
Game 3: Game 3 almost defies pattern play. As illustrated in Figure 4 the only way you can enter the lower left and upper right-hand corners is by entering the rotating box at the center of the screen. Unfortunately, this is also where the Munchers reenter the maze after they’ve been eaten. This means you must play the game with more improvised strategy than in previous games.
First, take care of the upper left-hand corner. Do not head for the Munchie located in the trap until you have eaten both a flashing Munchie and your pursuers — otherwise they will get to you first. Exit via the escape tunnel at the left of the screen. Enter the lower right-hand corner and clear that area of Munchies and Munchers.
You must now wait for the Munchers to return to and then leave the rotating box before you can safely use it to enter another section of the screen. If they exit to the lower right-hand section, use the escape tunnel to move to the upper left-hand section, and approach the rotating box from there.
Enter the box and wait for it to rotate to the direction you want to go. Enter the section of the maze and clear it of all Munchies and any Munchers that occupy it. Repeat the above process for the remaining section of the maze.
There is only one feature of Game 3 that can, in any way, be considered easy. When there is only one Munchie left on the screen in a confined area, it is a snap to capture it because it has only a limited area in which to travel.