Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / Super Solvers

Go To
Edutainment Game 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 red 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.

The franchise is split into two related series:

  • The main Super Solvers series, targeted at an older audience and set in Shady Glen, Wisconsin:
    • 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.

  • The spin-off Super Seekers series, targeted at a younger audience and set in Treasureland:
    • Treasure Mountain! - The Super Solver travels to the titular mountain in hopes of recovering the treasures of the elves there. Originally released under the Super Solvers line, but was removed in later revisions.
    • 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.

This series provides examples of:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: One of Morty's entries in Midnight Rescue! states that he owns 13 cats.
  • Alliterative Title
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: Challenge of the Ancient Empires! features the Ancient World, a set of challenges each comprised of traps and challenges from all four main caverns. The gongs from Greece & Rome show up in an Egypt-themed level, for example.
  • 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., Morty has Metal Minions. Nearly all of the Metal Minions are catlike, but one of them, Rusty, is doglike. Rusty objects to Morty's plans and decides to assist the Super Solver, while the other robots follow the scientist's orders.
  • Animals Not to Scale: Most of the creatures in Ancient Empires and Operation Neptune are way larger than they realisticly should be. Bear in mind that things like ants, ladybugs and angelfish wouldn't pose much of a threat if they were all normal-sized.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License Law: Morty's schemes in Shady Glen, which at least seems like a normal town, would probably get him arrested in real life. He repeatedly "takes over" various buildings, such as TV stations and science centers, is clearly disrupting normal activities there, and refuses to leave unless the Super Solver can outwit him. He also breaks into an elementary school at night with the intent of making the entire school disappear, which would likely be considered an extreme form of vandalism. There's never any sign of any authorities making a move to arrest him for any of this, and the Super Solver is the only one who ever shows up to stop him.
  • Bandit Mook: As your rank increases in Treasure Mountain!, you'll eventually encounter elves that can steal your coins with magical dust. These elves look the same as the friendly elves, but can be be identified by their different movement pattern.
  • 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.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Zoom the dolphin in Operation Neptune, if he arrives when you're low on fuel.
  • Bland-Name Product: A few times in Gizmos & Gadgets!. For instance, in Level 4 of the Aircraft Building, the helicopter, as depicted in its blueprint, appears to be a Bell UH-1 Iroquois ("Huey").
  • Blown Upward by a Blowhole: In Treasure Cove!, completing the second stage results in a cutscene where the Super Solver swims into the mouth of a whale sleeping on the seafloor and gets shot out of its blowhole to the third stage.
  • The Chew Toy: Morty Maxwell suffers Amusing Injuries frequently. Some of his robots, such as the Cyberchimps, are not very intelligent and hence ignore his warnings about the Super Solver. Whenever the Super Solver succeeds in stopping Morty Maxwell, he gets humiliated in a comedic fashion.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: 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!"
  • Cassandra Truth: In the CD-ROM version of Gizmos and Gadgets!, Morty cautions the Cyberchimps to stay away from the Super Solver's bananas. They pay no attention to this.
  • 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).
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • In Midnight Rescue, one of the passages you might end up reading is an essay written by Morty, presumably back when he was a student at the school. The essay is about how Morty wants a pet kangaroo. His only worry is that kangaroos can jump very high, and he wouldn't be able to build a fence tall enough to keep one in... which would be one of your least concerns if you tried to get a wild animal as a pet. Justified since Morty was almost certainly a kid when he wrote that, and he isn't exactly shown to be the most sane person.
    • One of Morty's classmates doesn't seem to understand Halloween. She wrote a letter to her friend about how Morty is "confused about reality" because she saw him go trick-or-treating as an octopus.
  • Canon Identifier: The PC is, of course, the Super-Solver. Super Seeker, is a spinoff game for younger children which changes the player's title accordingly.
  • 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!.
    • In Treasure Cove, one of the treasures you can obtain is a recolored, miniature version of the submarine from Operation Neptune.
  • Cosmetic Award: The paint and decals in Gizmos & Gadgets!, and the treasures you get to keep in the Treasureland tetralogy.
  • Dark 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.
  • Defector from Decadence: Rusty in Mission T.H.I.N.K.
  • 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??)
  • Easter Egg:
    • It takes 300 treasures to fill the treasure chest in Treasure Mountain!. If you get 400 treasures, the lid of the chest also fills up.
    • In Treasure Mountain!, there is a hidden room in the cave on the first level, which can be entered by pressing up while standing in front of the right-hand "rock". In this hidden room are four coins, which can be collected once every round. There is nothing to suggest that this room even exists, so most players have likely never seen it.
  • 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. They also start stealing parts that are already lying around, before you can even pick them up!
  • 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.
  • Fair-Play Whodunnit: Midnight Rescue is a slightly odd version of this. The goal is to deduce which of Morty's robots Morty is hiding in, so you can catch him. You do so by finding a robot that matches all four clues- an object in its left hand; an object in its right hand; something on the robot's head, face or neck; and a highlighted word in its speech bubble- with one clue about a robot being revealed each time you take its picture and one correct clue being revealed for each question you answer. Technically, all the robots are committing the same crime (painting a school with disappearing paint), but you can only stop them all by figuring out which robot is housing Morty on the first try. Guess the wrong robot, and it's game over. Otherwise, the game plays this trope straight, as the player finds clues and makes deductions at the same time as the Super Solver.
  • Featureless Protagonist: All of the games let you input your own name, plus the hero wears a unisex outfit and their gender is never disclosed. In Mission: T.H.I.N.K, Treasure Galaxy and the Windows updates of the preceding games, Morty avoids using pronouns when referring to the Super Solver.
  • Friendly Enemy: Telly in Outnumbered! congratulates you whenever you get one of his math questions right. The game also has a "Drill for Skill" setting, where he's apparently agreed to quiz you without having to catch him first.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Mission: T.H.I.N.K. (Thinking Hard Inspires New Knowledge).
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In later levels of Gizmos & Gadgets! (at least, the original DOS release). In the "place the magnets" puzzle type, magnets exert attraction and repulsion on each other; if you place two magnets close enough, one or both will move in accordance with the effect exerted on it by the other. While any magnets are moving, the whole interface is locked out, including the magnets themselves (placed, moving, and unused), the "Go Back" button, and the system menus (File, Options, Help). If you accidentally place a magnet directly between two other magnets that are exerting opposing forces (which is easier than it sounds!), it judders back and forth a bit. The game logic for magnets contains a break statement which will usually stop the affected magnet juddering after a couple of seconds, allowing you to pick it up and fix your mistake. However, under some conditions seemingly if the magnet isn't juddering fast enough the break won't trigger, so the magnet just keeps juddering, forcing you to hard quit the game without saving.
  • Genre Shift: The Super Solver's games are all urban Science Fiction, while the Super Seeker's games are all Fantasy.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Morty and his robots aren't really doing anything wrong in Spellbound. They're just competing in spelling bees, and they don't cheat.
  • Jump Scare: In Midnight Rescue and Outnumbered, Morty's robots have a tendency to suddenly appear in rooms or from off the side of the screen in halls without warning.
  • Karmic Butt-Monkey: Morty Maxwell is the main antagonist of the series. A common Running Gag throughout the series is him telling the robots about how they can attack the Super Solver, only for the robots to use said attack on him. He also usually gets defeated in very comical ways. And because of all the trouble he causes, it's pretty funny to watch.
  • 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, and then when he does? The freeze machine goes off and freezes him in a block of ice! This is lessened in the remade version, where Morty is outside of Treasure Mountain the whole game and only gets frozen at the very end.
  • Laughably Evil: Morty Maxwell goes through Amusing Injuries in nearly all of the games, and his scolding of the robots during the opening sequences are also quite comedic.
  • Light and Mirrors Puzzle: In Challenge of the Ancient Empires!, the Super Solver must fire carefully timed light blasts from his hat onto rotating prisms to direct light at the correct angle to intercept a series of light activated targets.
  • Literal-Minded:
    • In the Windows update of Outnumbered!, Morty tells Telly to stop the Super Solver "by launching your CDs." Telly immediately ejects a CD right into Morty's face!
    • In the Windows update of Midnight Rescue!, Morty tells the robots that they can stop the Super Solver by throwing their tricks. One of them then tosses an apple at his face, prompting him to say "Hey! Who did that?"
  • 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!.
  • Mr. Exposition: Mission: T.H.I.N.K., Treasure Galaxy and the Windows updates of the preceding games open with Morty explaining his plans to his mooks, including what the Super Solver has to do to stop him.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Rusty, a Metal Minion, objects to Morty's plan and helps you throughout the game.
  • New Game Plus: In Treasure Mountain!, the Super Seeker can explore the mountain repeatedly to fill the Trophy Room with duplicate trophies. The coins get even sneakier.
  • 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.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The animal guides in the Treasure tetrology, Zoom the dolphin in Operation Neptune, and Rusty in Mission: T.H.I.N.K..
  • Non-Malicious Monster: The undersea creatures in Operation Neptune are likely attacking the sub only because it's unfamiliar to them. Notably, they never make a move to harm Zoom when he shows up.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The Shady Glen Technology Center in Gizmos and Gadgets. There are six floors in the warehouses, and no stairs or elevators to be found anywhere. Want to go upstairs? You'll need to use a springboard, trampoline, or a powerful vent to fly through the holes in the ceilings. Want to go down? Just fall through any of these aforementioned holes.
  • Nostalgia Level: Stage 1 of Mission: T.H.I.N.K is pretty much the first sector of Alternative Energy from Gizmos and Gadgets.
  • Oddball in the Series: Treasure Mountain held this position at first when it was a Super Solvers title, being an overt Genre Shift into Fantasy (while Midnight Rescue and Outnumbered! were urban Science Fiction). But since that became part of a Super Seeker-based tetrology, the biggest Oddballs In The Series would be:
    • Spellbound, which has no counterpart game in the same style as it (ie: Midnight Rescue and Outnumbered, Treasure Mountain and Treasure Cove, Treasure Mathstorm and Treasure Galaxy, Gizmos and Gadgets and Mission T.H.I.N.K).
    • Challenge of the Ancient Empires which plays like a SNES game rather than a traditional educational computer game.
    • Operation Neptune, which is very blatantly not a Super Solvers game by design, complete with not showing the Super Solver at all and not featuring Morty or any villain whatsoever.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In Mission: T.H.I.N.K, a short but dramatic pipe organ sting plays when Morty wins the board game.
  • One-Wheeled Wonder: Lectro and Rollo are able to move around on a single wheel. Similarly, Pogo's body is balanced upon a paint brush, while Turbo can bounce around on an aerosol valve. The wheeled Cyberchimps from Gizmos and Gadgets! also qualify.
  • Parental Obliviousness: One of the readings in Midnight Rescue states that Morty regularly "borrows" his father's tools to pull pranks on people. His father's only concern about this is that it's annoying when he can't find something. Morty also writes letters to his mother about some of his antics at school, and given how open he is about it, she apparently doesn't care.
  • Pet the Dog: Occasionally, some of the documents you examine in Midnight Rescue tell about Morty doing something nice without an obvious selfish ulterior motive.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Morty Maxwell comes across as the third variant of this character type. Morty, who is obviously an adult, is characterized as selfish and immature and, on top of that, does not seem to have a job. One good example of his childishness is that he sometimes dubs himself the "Master of Mischief", and lives up to that nickname by taking pleasure in his own misdeeds. Many diary entries from Morty´s childhood can be read throughout Midnight Rescue!. In one of them, he states that he wishes to be a kid forever, which explains his personality.
  • 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.
  • Recycled In Space: The Treasure tetralogy does this with both pairs of games. Treasure Mountain and Treasure Cove are focused more on reading comprehension, and in each level of the game, the Super Seeker tries to capture creatures who will give them clues in order to find treasure. Treasure Mathstorm and Treasure Galaxy (which literally is in space) are more focused on math, and in each level, the Super Seeker has to complete challenges to earn tools they need to proceed to the next area. Also, in both games the Super Seeker has to earn money to buy equipment from a store when they run out.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake: Ancient Empires has ruins filled with obstacles and monsters.
  • Science Fantasy: The two major series 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, and the villain is referred to as just 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 is referred to by his name, 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.
    • The currency in Treasure Galaxy is... Star Bucks.
    • Shady Glen's television station is SGTV.
    • In Midnight Rescue, one of Morty's classmates is a fan of Lassie.
  • Shown Their Work: At one point in Operation Neptune, you're sent to a sector very deep underwater where Zoom can't reach you. In real life, dolphins are only comfortable at certain depths.
  • Sinister Surveillance: In both Midnight Rescue! and Gizmos and Gadgets!, Morty claims to have "spies" who have given him information on the Super Solver.
  • Slasher Smile: The robots in Midnight Rescue! have this as their default expression.
  • Small Reference Pools: Downplayed in Gizmos & Gadgets!. The Learning Company was based in California. In the "name the form of energy" challenge type, the answer image representing "hydroelectric dam" is obviously a depiction ofthe Hoover Dam (viewed from above and due south). Arch-gravity dams, the class the Hoover Dam falls into, aren't the world's most common type (i.e., most people who've seen a hydroelectric dam up close probably haven't seen one that looked like that). However, the Hoover Dam itself is sufficiently well-known in pop culture that expecting people to recognise it was probably fair enough.
  • 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!
  • Surveillance Station Slacker: In Outnumbered!, the security guard at the front desk of the TV station seems to be perpetually asleep.
  • Trophy Room: In Treasure Mountain! the trophy room can be filled with multiple sets of trophies by completing multiple playthroughs.
  • Unique Enemy:
    • There are precisely two squids that appear throughout the entirety of Operation Neptune. Both of them appear in the Hammerhead zone on Voyageur difficulty.
    • The final sectors of the Voyageur and Expert difficulties each contain a species of deadly enemies not found elsewhere. Voyageur has mutated fish, which are actually pufferfish that have been transformed by Substance X. Expert has reef sharks.
  • Units Not to Scale: The aircraft in Gizmos and Gadgets are large vehicles. However, in order to fit in line with the smaller racecars, the aircraft appear to be much smaller than they should be in both the workshop and when parked in front of the Technology Center. They are scaled more correctly during the races, though.
  • Unnaturally Looping Location: In Ancient Empires, some of the ruins are made up of a series of rooms that impossibly loop around with each other.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The security guard at the TV station in Outnumbered! does not seem to have noticed that Morty has taken control of the television station, or that robots are zooming around the place.
  • 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.)
  • Variable Mix: In at least ''Gizmos & Gadgets!!'. Each of the three buildings has different basic BGM. It changes slightly depending on whether you're in the large main rooms or the smaller backrooms; the BGM in the backrooms is less complex. It also changes slightly as you move between rooms. With each new level of a building, new harmonies and countermelodies are unlocked, increasing the maximum amount of complexity a specific building's BGM can have.
  • Villain Opening Scene: Most games open with a cutscene of Morty explaining his latest Evil Plan to his minions, but in such a way that the player gets the exposition they need too.
  • Villain Respect: In Midnight Rescue, the Master of Mischief expresses admiration for your abilities as you reach the higher ranks.
  • Wrap Around: Some of the ruins in Ancient Empires contain rooms wherein you can fall through a hole in the floor, only to emerge from a hole in the ceiling.
  • X-Ray Sparks: What happens to you if Live Wire catches you in Outnumbered!
  • Younger Than They Look: Morty Maxwell looks middle-aged, but Midnight Rescue!, which appears to be set in 1989 (the year it was first released), suggests that he was born in 1950. This would put Morty somewhere in his late thirties.
  • You Owe Me: In Mission T.H.I.N.K., Morty tells the Metal Minions that they should help him out of gratitude for saving them from the recycling center. This works on most of them, but not Rusty.


Video Example(s):


"Operation Neptune" Intro

The Galaxy space capsule malfunctions and crashes into the sea, releasing toxic chemicals that threaten the world's marine life.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / ColonyDrop

Media sources: