Magazine article Technology & Learning

Mutanoid Math Challenge

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Mutanoid Math Challenge

Article excerpt

Adding arcade action and cute graphics to math skills practice is not a new phenomenon, but Mutanoid Math Challenge takes the genre to new heights of fun and silliness.

It seems that the Mutanoids, a group of aliens composed mostly of our cast-off junk, are determined to cover the earth with green glop. Fortunately, Prime, smartest life-form in the universe, has convinced them to participate in a math contest first. If the Mutanoids win, they get to "slime" us. If the earth wins, the Mutanoids get slimed.

The alien competitors have names like Little John (he's mostly toilet bowl) and Perky (she's part coffee pot), and they're a pretty nasty bunch. They sneer and whine constantly, making silly excuses if they perform poorly. The frequent interchanges are amusing and the puns are often exaggerated but always right on target.

The contest takes place in Cubix Cantina, and you, the player, represent earth. The game board resembles a partially played Scrabble game, covered in tiles bearing numbers, arithmetic operands, blank spaces (which must be filled in with numbers), or diamond symbols (which must be replaced by operands). You might see 5 + - = 10, for instance, or 2 [unkeyable] 4 = -. Often, you'll find equations for which there is more than one correct answer. You alternate turns with the alien challengers, gaining points by correctly completing the equations.

Before each player's turn in a game, Green Gelatoids fly around the screen, eventually "splatting" a tile and giving it bonus-point value (as in Scrabble's double-letter value). By directing the Gelatoids to certain tiles--in particular, those that take operands--you can greatly improve your scores.

Strategy counts in this game, as does accuracy. Use more difficult operands and you gain more points. Make a math mistake and the aliens get to solve the problem and steal your points. As the game level changes, tightly linked equations of greater length offer increased opportunities for high scoring, and more chances for failure as well. Getting one of these right within the 20-second time limit at the highest level is tough, but a few losses to those wise-cracking aliens are likely to encourage you to pay more attention to your work, and to plan more carefully.

Strengths

* Three different levels of difficulty based on type of operation, plus customizing options that include the ability to turn off the timer, make it possible to fine-tune the math skills aspect of the game. …

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