Video Game: Super Solvers
series released by The Learning Company, mostly during the early 1990s. The games star a nameless, gender-not-given individual
in a heavy coat and Nice Hat
who, time and time again, is called to thwart the schemes of Morty Maxwell, a.k.a., the Master of Mischief, a villainous magician/mad scientist. The games featured math, science, logic, and reading exercises. Many of the games take place in the town of Shady Glen, Wisconsin.
The games consist of two related series:
- The Treasureland Series, aimed at a younger audience.
- Treasure Mountain! - The Super Solver travels to the titular mountain in hopes of recovering the treasures of the elves there.
- Treasure Cove! - The Master of Mischief has broken the rainbow bridge by Treasure Mountain and is polluting the ocean. The Super Solver must collect gems from the bottom of the ocean and rebuild the bridge.
- Treasure MathStorm! - The Master of Mischief uses a machine to cover Treasure Mountain in snow. The Super Solver must once again recover the treasure of the elves and restore the mountain.
- Treasure Galaxy! - The Master of Mischief invades the outer-space utopia of Crystal City.
- The Shady Glen series, targeted at older children.
- Midnight Rescue! - The Super Solver must find out which robot Morty is hiding in, by reading short stories peppered with clues, to stop him from painting the Shady Glen school invisible.
- OutNumbered! - The Super Solver must find out which room in the Shady Glen TV station is Morty's hideout to stop him from taking it over.
- Spellbound! - Morty enters his robots in the national spelling bee, in hopes of winning its big cash prize. The Super Solver must compete against them.
- Gizmos & Gadgets! - The Super Solver must solve science puzzles to build different vehicles and beat Morty in races.
- Mission: T.H.I.N.K. - The Super Solver must collect puzzle pieces to stop Morty from taking over the Shady Glen game factory.
- Challenge of the Ancient Empires! - The Super Solver travels to ruins in different countries to find artifacts. Originally released as a separate product, just called Ancient Empires, before being incorporated into the Super Solvers line.
- Operation Neptune - The Super Solver pilots a submarine to the bottom of the ocean to recover data and samples of a powerful chemical mined from an asteroid. Originally released as a separate product, before being incorporated into the Super Solvers line.
This series provides examples of:
- Alphabet Soup Cans: Occasionally the puzzles have some relevance to the games' settings, but usually played straight.
- Animal Jingoism: In Mission: T.H.I.N.K., the chimps have all been replaced the Metal Minions, humanoid cat-like robots that serve under Morty. There is one Metal Minion, a dog-bot named Rusty, who objects to Morty and helps the player.
- Applied Phlebotinum: The games involve such things as invisible paint, weather control machines, high-jumping shoes and advanced robots. Morty's magic tricks are out of this world.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: The Super Seeker in Treasure Galaxy! wears a space suit with a helmet, but played straight with the Master of Mischief. He's depicted sitting in a space pod that has a domed window over the cockpit, but the window is open. In space.
- Cardcarrying Villain / For the Evulz: Morty Maxwell, known as the Master of Mischief. His schemes seem to have no real purpose besides disrupting everyone's lives. As he says in the intro to Treasure Galaxy, "How I'm enjoying being annoying!"
- Collision Damage: You'd think that the deep sea submersible you pilot in Operation Neptune would be able to handle coming into contact with the myriad creatures of the ocean just fine, what with its metal skin and pressurized hull. But no, touching even the most benign of sea creatures like angel fish and barnacles causes you to take damage and depletes your oxygen supply (your oxygen meter being your health bar).
- Continuity: Both series have this with other Learning Company series. At least one early Reader Rabbit game featured the characters climbing Treasure Mountain.
- Continuity Nod: The painting robots of Midnight Rescue! and Telly from OutNumbered! reappear as the spelling bee contestants in Spellbound!, and your Spellbinder device is given to you by one of the elves from Treasure Mountain!.
- Cosmetic Award: The paint and decals in Gizmos & Gadgets!, and the treasures you get to keep in the Treasureland tetralogy.
- Dark Reprise/Triumphant Reprise: While racing Morty in Gizmos & Gadgets!, the background music will change depending on who's in front; a darker-sounding one for Morty or a triumphant-sounding one for the player.
- The victory/defeat music are also remixes of each other.
- Deflector Shields: Force fields in Ancient Empires protect you from harm for five seconds at a time, but only have four charges.
- Dismantled MacGuffin: The player will have to collect multiple clues to solve a case, multiple parts to build vehicles, or multiple artifact pieces.
- Durable Deathtrap: Ancient Empires, of course. Conveyor belts, sliding walls, eternally rotating prisms, floor switches, ceiling buttons, and light sensors. Of course, when you see the gong-controlled teleporting bricks in action, you have no choice but to conclude that magic must be involved somehow. Although the way some levels wrap vertically may clue you in before then. (And this was meant to be an educational game??)
- Elite Mook: Once you get to the fourth race in a category in Gizmos & Gadgets!, the slow, fat, not very bright chimps are replaced with smarter, faster wheeled ones that sleep for a much shorter time.
- Endless Winter: Used in Treasure MathStorm! when the Master of Mischief uses a weather control machine to cover Treasure Mountain in a blizzard to make the elves' lives difficult or something.
- Excited Show Title!: Every single one of them.
- Featureless Protagonist: Besides the game letting you name yourself, the Super Solver's gender is never given. And thanks to the large hat and turtleneck shirt, it's impossible to tell.
- Fun with Acronyms: Mission: T.H.I.N.K. (Thinking Hard Inspires New Knowledge).
- Jump Scare: In Midnight Rescue, Morty's robots have a tendency to suddenly appear in rooms or from off the side of the screen in halls without warning.
- Large Ham: Morty Maxwell. Big surprise there.
- Laser-Guided Karma: The Master of Mischief in Treasure MathStorm!, doubling with Humiliation Conga. After failing to conquer Treasure Mountain, he returns and uses a Weather Control Machine to coat the mountain in eternal winter. Unfortunately for him, he freezes the castle solid, so upon sitting down on the throne, he becomes rooted to the spot, stuck helplessly as the Seeker wanders cheerily through the room, collects a share of the treasure that the Master can't enjoy, and then rappels down to the mountain base. Again. And again. And again. The man's stuck waiting for the Seeker to achieve the highest rank so he can just get out.
- MacGuffin: Treasures, Artifacts, Machine Parts, Game Pieces. Treasure Cove! and Treasure Galaxy! uses the Mineral MacGuffin; Cove needs gems to restore the rainbow bridge linking Treasure Mountain and Invention Island. Galaxy requires that the crystals be returned to their chest or the friendly sundrops will lose their power.
- Mad Scientist: Guess who? note
- Maniac Monkeys: The Cyberchimps in Gizmos & Gadgets!, who steal your parts if they bump into you, and can also pick up parts on the ground. Thankfully, a banana puts them to sleep while making them drop a part they hold.
- Mission Pack Sequel: Mission: T.H.I.N.K. is actually a clone of Gizmos & Gadgets; most of the gameplay is actually quite similar (traveling through a warehouse and solving puzzles), but instead of collecting vehicle parts for races, you collect game pieces to challenge Morty at a checkers-like board game.
- Mooks: Robots in Midnight Rescue! and OutNumbered!, Cyberchimps in Gizmos & Gadgets!, Goobies in Treasure Cove!, Disasteroids in Treasure Galaxy!.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The Cyberchimps in Gizmos & Gadgets! are cyborg monkeys. The stronger versions are cyborg monkey unicycles.
- Nintendo Hard: Operation Neptune. Having the math skills to solve the problems is one thing; having the gaming skills to actually beat the game is another.
- Mainly the last level of that game, which features large, mutated, invincible fish which kill you in one hit.
- Or, on the Expert level, an unmercifully long level infested with vicious, super-fast sharks that enjoy ambushing you and can kill you with one hit. At least they can be stunned for about half a second, rather than no seconds at all.
- And speaking of Super Solvers games with two levels of difficulty, how about that Ancient Empires? Especially the Expert difficulty, which rehashes the first 16 levels by sprinkling in some extra monsters, changing some puzzles slightly, and removing some of the health power-ups. And then, for the Ancient World, you're treated to 4 brand new levels, containing some of the hardest, longest puzzles in the game, and monsters that just don't play fair at all.
- Since neither Operation Neptune or Ancient Empires were actually created as Super Solvers games, the drastic difference in difficulty between them and the others makes sense.
- Nostalgia Level: Stage 1 of Mission: T.H.I.N.K is pretty much the first sector of Alternative Energy from Gizmos and Gadgets.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Morty is 39 when Midnight Rescue! takes place. He doesn't seem to have a real job, and acts selfishly and immaturely. A diary entry from when he was a kid can be read in the game where he states he longs to be a kid forever, which explains a lot about his behavior now.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: Many of the songs are classical pieces.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: The paint-bots from Midnight Rescue! are Buffo, Lectro, Pogo, Rollo, and Turbo. You will never relish encountering them in the dark hallways of the night.
- Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Ancient Empires has ruins filled with obstacles and monsters.
- Science Fantasy: The two major series of games divide fairly evenly between the two. The Treasureland series features fantastic locations with magic and elves (the player character is known as the Super Seeker, while the villain is referred to only as The Master of Mischief). The Shady Glen series features urban locations and robots (here the player character is known as the Super Solver and the villain's name is Morty Maxwell).
- Shout-Out: On the Wordville map in the front of the Reader Rabbit 3 User's Guide, Treasure Mountain can be seen. This seems to suggest that the two worlds are located relatively close to one another. Another location is Shady Glen, where all the Super Solver series take place in.
- In one of the data logs found in Operation Neptune, one of the scientists references Ancient Empires as one of the ways the scientists on the space exploration journey like to pass the time.
- Stock Animal Diet: The Cyberchimps in Gizmos & Gadgets! eat bananas. One banana is enough to fill them so much that they snooze off after that!
- Updated Re-release: Midnight Rescue!, OutNumbered!, Spellbound!, Gizmos & Gadgets!, Treasure Mountain!, Treasure Cove!, and Treasure MathStorm! received heavy upgrades from their MS-DOS versions in the mid-90s CD versions (Treasure Galaxy! and Mission: T.H.I.N.K did not get updated rereleases as they started as CD games.)