Video Game / Jump Start

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JumpStart is an Edutainment Game series created by Knowledge Adventure for kids up to sixth grade. It made its debut in 1994 with the original JumpStart Kindergarten. Originally, it consisted of PC CD-ROM games based on grade (or age level, since "baby" and "toddlers" aren't exactly grades), with some spin-off games based on subject.

At first, each grade level had entirely different characters and settings from other grade levels. The subject-based games, however, each reused a cast of characters (i.e. JumpStart Typing used the JumpStart 3rd Grade cast, JumpStart Reading for Second Graders used the JumpStart 2nd Grade cast, etc). Circa 2000, a Continuity Reboot fused the Preschool - 2nd Grade continuities into one new universe in which the various characters interacted together and had (sometimes vastly) different designs. A continuity featuring these characters is still in use today, but around 2005, it got a big reboot that changed the characters considerably, to the point that some became unrecognizable. (There have been changes in character design other than these major reboots, also.)

A canon featuring characters from the 3rd - 6th Grade games has been used occasionally; for example, in the JumpStart Spy Masters games (Unmask the Prankster and Max Strikes Back) and the rather lame bonus disc JumpStart Adventure Challenge. Unfortunately, the JumpStart Spy Masters games were re-packaged along with Teen Digital Diva and Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover as a 4-CD girls only compilation in which those are marketed towards teenage girls (despite having a ESRB rating of "T" for "Teen" as a official teenage girls' edutainment title, JumpStart Advanced Adventure & Makeover Center, whose characters include Jo Hammet, Jess, Sally, the princess (from JumpStart 2nd Grade Math) and other girls who form a secret Victorian alliance known as "The Modifyers" (not to be confused with the failed pilot episode of the same title) depending on which JumpStart PC game is played, such as Unmask the Prankster and Max Strikes Back as much as JumpStart Magazine Editor (originally released as "Teen Digital Diva") and JumpStart Makeover Studio (originally released as "Cosmopolitan Virtual Makeover").

JumpStart has branched out considerably over the years, spinning off into a series of workbooks, a couple of "Readers" kiddie books, a handful of games for other consoles, a handful of VHS tapes and DVDs, and apps for mobile devices such as the iPad. Ever since 2009, they have focused almost solely on a massively multiplayer online game located at JumpStart.com that was released in that year. (Sometimes, ads for it appear on this very page!) They bought Neopets from Viacom in 2014 (although the PS2 and PSP versions of Neopets are still available online on the official PlayStation webpage through Sony Computer Entertainment, the publishers of Rain, Lair, Warhawk and their PSP adaption of Cars 2).

Even though the series is still going strong, this article will probably focus more on the JumpStart games released in The '90s since that's when we played them.

Games with their own pages:

Not to be confused with the newspaper comic strip of the same title.

This game series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Jess has red hair in JumpStart 6th Grade, but it's more brown in subsequent products. This may be because her later appearances are often alongside Jo of JumpStart 5th Grade and Knowledge Adventure probably thought one redheaded girl was enough. Strangely, though, in JumpStart Spy Masters, Jess' hair is black - which is a bit odd, seeing as another character featured in that game (Sally from the 2000 version of JumpStart 4th Grade) also has black hair.
  • Alliterative Name: The characters from JumpStart Preschool (and JumpStart Pre-K) were Casey Cat, Eleanor Elephant, Kisha Koala, and Pierre Polar Bear. Too bad Kisha was retconned into a tiger in 2005, ruining the Added Alliterative Appeal!
  • Alphabet Soup Cans: Like most Edutainment Game series, it would hardly be able to exist without it. One particularly egregious example is in JumpStart Spy Masters: Unmask the Prankster, where you shoot blobs of mustard into blenders from a distance (you don't actually make anything - you just put mustard into blenders) to solve math problems so that you can get...an ice weapon for your blaster. Ooooookay.
  • Anthropomorphic Shift:
    • Frankie the dog was always anthropomorphic, but he originally had many doglike traits, such as passions for digging holes and playing with chew toys. In fact, some games (i.e. JumpStart Numbers, JumpStart Math for First Graders/JumpStart 1st Grade Math) depicted him living in a doghouse in an unknown person's backyard. He gradually became more humanlike in behavior and circumstances, and in the JumpStart MMOG there is barely anything doggish about him. To accompany those changes, Frankie gradually wore more and more clothes. In the 1995 version of JumpStart 1st Grade, his debut, all he wore was a collar. In later games of the "classic era", he wore a vest without a shirt. Then, he started wearing a shirt without a vest. Now, he wears a shirt and pants. Casey, Eleanor, Kisha, Pierre, and C.J. have also gone through the same kind of character evolution.
    • In a few earlier games (most prominently in JumpStart 2nd Grade Math/JumpStart Math for Second Graders), C.J. Frog was depicted as eating insects. This seems to have been abandoned. The trait's most recent appearance was in JumpStart Artist, when C.J. displays pleasure at the thought of eating a spider, and in JumpStart Animal Adventures, where he was shown in the opening cutscene to be "flying" (as opposed to fishing).
    • In the 1994 version of JumpStart Kindergarten, Bebop is a Talking Animal who wears no clothes; in the 1998 version, he wears clothes, becoming more of a Funny Animal, though he's still hamster-sized while Mr. Hopsalot the Funny Animal rabbit is human-sized. Roquefort and Jack are mice in that game who are also animal-sized Funny Animals. In the JumpStart Kindergarten Direct-to-Video cartoon, Bebop, Jack and Roquefort all become human-sized when scaled against Hopsalot.
  • Anti-Grinding: Players are unable to play the same minigame constantly for the various collectibles (like tickets in JumpStart 1st Grade Reading or bones in JumpStart 1st Grade Math), as eventually, the character running that minigame will say that they don't have any more of that collectible.
  • Artistic License Biology: In JumpStart Spelling, some cavemen mistaken Edison Firefly for fire. And yes, his abdomen gives off heat.
  • Artistic License Geography: The Earthquest map in JumpStart 6th Grade is wildly inaccurate. Most egregiously, it places Ukraine in western Kazakhstan and Egypt on about the Sudanese-Libyan border. California and the Appalachian Mountains are shown in the correct places on the map, but the longitude and latitude coordinates given are both hundreds of miles off the coastline.
  • Artistic License Linguistics: One song in JumpStart Artist is about Kisha trying to find her gatito (which, as the song eventually explains, is Spanish for "kitten") during a fiesta. However, she consistently refers to the kitten as female. The word "gatito" is used specifically for male kittens; since the kitten is female, it should have been "gatita" instead.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Botley originally played this role for Polly Sparks. This aspect of his character seems to have been abandoned in the franchise's current incarnation.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The designs of JumpStart's cartoon animals have fluctuated wildly. Pretty much every anthro animal that's appeared in JumpStart has fit this trope at some point in time. In the current incarnation of the characters (2005 - present), it applies to all of them except Pierre, who wears nothing but a belt.
  • Black Best Friend: In the 1998 version of JumpStart Kindergarten, the song "So Many Colors" contains the line, "Brown is the color of my best friend's skin."
  • Breakout Character: Frankie the dog was always a relatively important character, but in the 2001-2004 games, he became the series' central character as well as its mascot. Even worse, it seems like Frankie is much more important than any of his friends in the MMOG. This is a rare instant in which the "breakout" was not caused by the fandom.
  • Broken Aesop: JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade has a very slight anti-cheating Aesop (i.e. when Frankie says "We'll show Jimmy we don't need to cheat to win"). However, the game centers around using gadgets to improve the characters' scooters, and one reviewer interpreted this as cheating...which would break the Aesop pretty badly, to say the least (especially since the villain Jimmy apparently doesn't add gadgets to his scooter).
  • CamelCase: The title, obviously. Also used heavily in the MMOG - FunZones, DownTown, MarineLand, and many more.
  • Captain Obvious: In JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade, the first reading comprehension question in the optional assessment test is something along the lines of "Casey likes to bounce his red ball. What color is Casey's ball?"
    • In the original JumpStart 2nd Grade, completing the ice cave game will reward you with an old pirate world map. You're instructed to click on the seven continents to find out about them. What sort of facts does the game give you? "Europe, that's the continent that's connected to Asia." YOU DON'T SAY!
  • Child Prodigy: In the inventions department, Hopsalot from about 2001 onward (or maybe Teen Genius, (thanks to Vague Age) or Weekend Inventor).
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: JumpStart's lack of canon renders this inevitable. A couple of examples stand out:
    • Ever since they appeared together in 1996's JumpStart 2nd Grade, C.J. Frog and Edison Firefly have been best friends and constant companions. In the 2005 reboot, Edison simply vanished.
    • The characters of Casey Cat, Pierre Polar Bear, Kisha Koala, and Eleanor Elephant all made their debut in JumpStart Preschool. All of them were also major characters in the early-to-mid 2000s canon, but in 2005, Casey vanished, while Kisha, Pierre and Eleanor remained.
  • Complexity Addiction: A.R.T., the villain of 6th Grade, has this problem. A.R.T.'s goal is to destroy the environment for insane supercomputer reasons, but he comes up with ridiculously high-tech ways of doing it when low-tech ways would be (and, unfortunately, are) much quicker and more efficient. For example, there's a Fantastic Voyage level where you have to save endangered species from robotic viruses which cause them to get sick. If you wanted to wipe out as much of an endangered species as possible (you know, if that was your thing), shooting them would obviously be more efficient than using Nanomachines. A.R.T. also invents some kind of high-tech belt to stop trees from growing when an axe could not only stop the growth, but eliminate the tree entirely.
  • Continuity Reboot: JumpStart has at least 2 major continuity reboots: one circa 2000 and another in 2005. Even outside of these major reboots, there have been notable changes in character design over the years, and little effort is spent trying to keep things such as character personality and setting consistent. Frankly, the games don't seem to care about canon at all - the major concern seems to just be that the games are educational and fun.
    • Also, the original grade-based games each had their own canon completely separate from other JumpStart games; one of the features of the first reboot was fusing several of these continuities together to make the new continuity.
    • To see how much JumpStart's characters have changed over the years, see first reboot Kisha Koala and second reboot Kisha the Tiger side by side. Yes, she changed species.
  • Covers Always Lie: The original cover for JumpStart Spanish showed Mr. Hopsalot, who was indeed the game's main character, on the cover. However, somewhere around 2001 or 2002, JumpStart arbitrarily decided that Frankie the dog should be the main character and mascot of the entire JumpStart series. As a result, in 2003, the JumpStart Spanish cover was changed to one that prominently featured Frankie and didn't feature Hopsalot at all...even though Frankie didn't appear in JumpStart Spanish.
    • Another example (again involving Frankie) can be found in the case of JumpStart Advanced 2nd Grade. All the covers of the game prominently feature Frankie in a cool spy outfit. Aforementioned cool spy outfit appears nowhere in the game, and while Frankie does appear, C.J. Frog and Edison Firefly are the true main characters. Frankie just hangs around headquarters while C.J. and Edison go on the adventures.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Kisha never starred in her own game (the closest she got was being one of four stars in JumpStart Preschool and JumpStart Pre-K), until she got her own game in late 2000: JumpStart Artist.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Edison Firefly in the original JumpStart 2nd Grade served to be quite the foil to C.J. Frog.
  • Demoted to Extra: Pretty much all the characters (that weren't eliminated entirely earlier, that is) had this happen to them in the massively multiplayer online game that's now the series' main product; only Frankie remains prominent.
  • Dialogue Tree: Especially prominent in 5th Grade and the 2000 version of 4th Grade.
  • Difficulty Levels: In most games, there are three of them. A few games cleverly segregate gameplay level and academic level.
  • Discontinuity Nod: In the 1994 version of JumpStart Kindergarten, there's a video game within a computer game called "Pattern Blaster" which stars a mouse named Roquefort. In the 1998 version, however, Roquefort exists in the "real world" and there's a different mouse in Pattern Blaster named Brie. Sometimes, as Brie is eating a hunk of cheese, Roquefort comments, "Boy, I wish I was Brie right now."
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Most of the games have a toolbar constantly at the bottom of the screen with options such as Go Back/Exit, Help, Progress Report, and Difficulty Levels, but the earliest installments (the original versions of JumpStart Preschool, JumpStart Kindergarten, JumpStart 1st Grade, and JumpStart 2nd Grade) don't (though most of the options can be accessed other ways). Also, it's the norm for JumpStart games to have some sort of goals, progression, and/or prizes, but the original JumpStart Preschool and Kindergarten lack any such thing. Perhaps most importantly, all the characters' (except Edison's) designs in all of those games were different than their designs in all later games except JumpStart Pre-K (i.e. Frankie and CJ had no clothes other than their collar and hat, respectively).
  • The End of the World as We Know It: You have to prevent this in JumpStart 3rd Grade and JumpStart 6th Grade.
  • Expy: Both JumpStart and Leap Frog feature (or, in JumpStart's case, featured) similar-looking firefliesnote  named Edison who are best friends with frogs, and a cat named Casey. The question is, who's Expy-ing off whom?
  • Fetch Quest: Most games in the series, especially those for third grade and over, are basically a series of these.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Jo Hammet and all the other characters in JumpStart 5th Grade. Also seems to be the case in JumpStart 3rd Grade. And is also true of all the animal characters to appear in JumpStart games. Come to think of it, correct hands are rather rare in JumpStart games.
  • Fully Dressed Cartoon Animal: Eleanor Elephant and Pierre Polar Bear from about 2001-2004 and the fully-grown version of C.J. Frog from JumpStart World 2nd Grade and the MMO.
  • Funny Animal: Oh so many.
  • Furry Confusion: Several examples:
    • In both versions of JumpStart Kindergarten (1994 and 1998), the main character is an antropomorphic rabbit named Mr. Hopsalot, and non-anthro rabbits ALSO appear in the very same game.
    • JumpStart Around the World, a game which used to be included as a bonus disc with the Preschool - 2nd Grade titles (with a slightly different version for each grade) included at least two examples. In the 2nd Grade version, when you go to Brazil, there's a "photo" of your travels that depicts the anthropomorphic C.J. Frog and a lot of non-anthro tropical frogs clustered around his feet and even sitting on his head. In the Preschool version, taking a trip to Australia will yield a short video that includes Kisha Koala holding a non-anthro koala in her arms.
    • In JumpStart Animal Adventures (aka JumpStart Animal Field Trip), the main character is C.J. Frog, but the game also features a non-anthro (but talking) frog in the Rainforest section.
    • JumpStart Advanced Preschool featured the JumpStart anthro animals...taking care of pets. That were sometimes the same species as themselves. Just look at the cover - Frankie the dog is holding a non-anthro dog in his hands! Or are they paws? Hmmm...
    • Pretty much any time when a JumpStart game featuring animal characters also teaches zoology, this is bound to happen. For example, JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade taught just a little zoology, featuring a game in which you sometimes had to guide blimps labeled with pictures of animals to the classes to which they belong. Again, just like in JumpStart Kindergarten, the game is hosted by Hopsalot, but sometimes the blimps depict non-anthro rabbits - and other creatures that also appear as anthros in the game.
    • The trend continues. In the JumpStart.com MMOG, the user can adopt pets (styled as "petz") of all sorts of species, such as dogs, rabbits, and elephants...despite the presence of such characters as Frankie, Hopsalot (aka Hops), and Eleanor.
    • The 2009 Wii game JumpStart Pet Rescue is another example.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: The workbook JumpStart 2nd Grade Math Workshop (which was a loose adaption of the JumpStart 2nd Grade Math/JumpStart Math for Second Graders game). One second, C.J. is saving the princess from the villain Ratso. The next minute, they're...peacefully slicing up cakes (to teach fractions) together?
  • Green Aesop: 6th Grade takes this in a very Captain Planet direction, although the villain at least has the excuse of being a computer who went insane. There are six Mini Games in which you have to correct the damage being done to the Earth and five of them involve fixing environmental damage. The other one is about restoring ancient monuments. Oddly enough, the sixth grade game in The ClueFinders series was also rather heavy on this trope. Were Knowledge Adventures and the Learning Company comparing notes or something?
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Again, most of the animal characters at some point. Especially prominent in the 2000-2004 era.
  • He Knows About Timed Hits: In most games, the characters will frequently tell you to "use the arrow keys to do such-and-such" or will explain to you such things as the toolbar at the bottom of the screen (though in JumpStart 3rd Grade the toolbar is actually a physical object...which doesn't really explain why it allows you to change the difficulty of the games or look at a progress report telling you how well you did at math and such)...
  • Idle Animation
  • Incredible Shrinking Dog: The main plot for JumpStart 1st Grade Math involves Frankie being shrunk by the Queen Bee as punishment for tearing apart his backyard (which coincidentally is the insects' kingdom). He can only return to normal if he collects all six magic dog tags.
  • Insistent Terminology: The JumpStart World (aka JumpStart 3D Virtual World or JumpStart World of Learning) games, first released in 2007 (and basically the precursors of the MMOG), each came with only two "Learning Adventures" (units/levels); playing more would require an $8/month subscription. Whenever they talked about it, Knowledge Adventure was very careful in their terminology - it's not that you need a subscription to continuing playing, you can choose to get a subscription for some additional content. See the talk page for Knowledge Adventure on The Other Wiki for an example.
  • In-Name-Only: The gaming genre (edutainment) is pretty much the only thing shared between the original and current incarnations of this franchise. Most of the key Jump Start characters have been kept for nearly two decades, but some have been modified beyond recognition, and Frankie is the only one who is still really prominent. Also, only the "kiddish" Preschool-2nd Grade games are given any attention these days, in the sense that Botley is the only character from the more mature Adventures games who actually appears in the current MMOG.
  • Karma Houdini: In the JumpStart 2nd Grade Math Workshop workbook, C.J. and Ratso are competing in a tournament, but they sorta break off in the middle so Ratso can kidnap the princess, whom C.J. rescues. Ratso gets absolutely no consequences for his actions and no one seems to mind. They just resume the tournament and act as nothing ever happened.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle
  • Lost in Translation: In the United Kingdom version of JumpStart 2nd Grade, which was entitled Jump Ahead Year 2, Edison Firefly's name is changed to Newton, apparently because Edison was an American inventor and the British kids wouldn't know who he was, so they changed his name to that of a more recognizable scientist. The problem is, Edison wasn't just named after any scientist, he was named after the scientist who invented the light bulb, because he's a firefly...and unfortunately, Newton didn't invent the light bulb.
  • Mad Libs Dialogue (used very jarringly in the earliest games: "The ball is on the... forty-nine... yard line.")
    • Justified in the 4th Grade Adventure games where you are playing Mad Libs.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted in JumpStart Animal Adventures (aka Animal Field Trip); they don't say "die" per se, but they rather frequently talk about animals eating other animals.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: In JumpStart Explorers, when C.J. and Edison want to wear the Chinese dragon costume, it's explained that whoever wears it must be an expert in martial arts. C.J. declares that he and his buddy have been studying it for years and proceed to give a demonstration which looks very lame to the user, but apparently qualifies as good enough. This ability has never appeared before nor since.
  • No Fourth Wall: Well, almost. In most JumpStart games, the characters talk directly to the user quite frequently, and they never shy away from telling you to use the arrow keys to do such-and-such. However, it isn't clear that the characters actually know they're in a computer game. Uniquely, JumpStart 5th Grade isn't quite this way most of the time, but they do break the fourth wall not infrequently (and these are CLEAR breaks).
  • Plot Coupon
  • Pop Up Video Games
  • Race Lift: An animal race example - Kisha Koala and Pierre Polar Bear were retconned into being a tiger and a panda in 2005, respectively. Why? Who knows! JumpStart cares less about consistent canon than you can imagine, so maybe the real question is "Why not?"
  • Retro Universe: Despite apparently taking place in The Present Day, many of the early JumpStart games feature a one-room schoolhouse of the sort that existed in the rural United States during the 19th century. Generally, the schoolhouse will look rustic and old-fashioned on the outside, but like a modern classroom on the inside. In 3rd Grade, Polly's school is a Raygun Gothic version of a one-room schoolhouse because why not.
  • Science Fantasy: The MMOG contains both fantasy elements (raising dragons and pegasi, mixing up potions in Windy Valley, etc.) and sci-fi elements (Botley, high-tech stuff in FutureLand, jetpacks, etc.)
  • Sir Verba Lot: Mr. Hopsalot (changed to just "Hopsalot" in later games) is an example that doesn't include the "Sir".
  • Spinning Newspaper: Appears at the end of JumpStart Numbers, when the user is rewarded with a printable newspaper announcing their achievements...because apparently, helping a random dog get some dog biscuits is newsworthy.
  • Stock Animal Diet:
    • Frankie the dog has often been depicted as loving bones and dog biscuits, such as in JumpStart Numbers, in which the entire point of the game is getting Frankie a lot of (300, to be exact) dog biscuits, or JumpStart Advanced 1st Grade, in which Frankie gives out the "Smoky Bone" power-up.
    • Hopsalot (in earlier games, Mr. Hopsalot) loves carrots. His powerup in Advanced 1st Grade being "Hyper Carrot Fuel" and the fact that in Advanced Kindergarten, (in which he's one of the most important characters) you earn carrots to exchange for powerups, are just two examples. However, if his growing a variety of vegetables (and even, quite unorthodox for a rabbit, flowers!) in his garden in JumpStart Kindergarten 1998 is any indication, he doesn't like them exclusively.
    • Eleanor Elephant is a fan of peanuts, at least in Advanced 1st Grade.
    • Oddly enough, this trope has never, it seems, been applied to Casey Cat; he's never shown any special interest in eating mice, fish, or birds.
    • Roquefort from JumpStart Kindergarten is obsessed with cheese. However, his fellow mouse friend, Jack, doesn't share his obsession, and when he rebukingly asks Roquefort if that's all he thinks about, he notes he also likes cookies.
  • To the Tune of: Some of the jukebox songs in JumpStart 2nd Grade, including "The Cave" ("Oh, Susanna!"), "The Race" ("I've Been Working on the Railroad"), and "Melody & Harmony" ("Frère Jacques").
  • Tomboy: Jo Hammet, the protagonist on the fifth grade game. In some subsequent products, she is given a Girliness Upgrade and drawn in a much less stylized art style, becoming completely unrecognizable. (She still acts tomboyish, though.)
  • Totally Radical: Jo Hammet talks this way constantly (in fact, it's pretty much her only defining trait, since her snarkiness seems to have vanished) in the JumpStart Spy Masters games. Somewhat ironic, since she never spoke in such a way in her debut game. Apparently, this trait was given to her because she likes riding a skateboard, and, like, skateboarders totally talk in an awesomely radical way, dude.
  • Tricked-Out Gloves: Provide the game menu in 6th Grade. Don't seem to have any kind of useful function in-universe.
  • Vague Age: Zig-Zagged. Token humans Polly Sparks and Jo Hammet are clearly a third grader and a fifth grader respectively. Similarly, the original incarnations of Mr. Hopsalot and Frankie were obviously an adult rabbit and an adult dog. On the flip side, however, the Funny Animals in the 2001-2004 games play this trope straight. They all appear childlike, and this incarnation of Hopsalot mentions in Advanced 2nd Grade that finding clues "gives [him] an excuse to stay up past [his] bedtime". However, none of them give any signs of being enrolled in school or college, no parents are seen or even mentioned and they all seem really self-sufficient. C.J. Frog is the worst case in any continuity. The current continuity is pretty confusing too. That being said, the original version of this franchise actually has a straight case of vague age in Jump Start Preschool. In this title, the featured Funny Animals speak in childlike voices, but Casey Cat wears a necktie, so it is difficult to tell whether they are supposed to be the students or the teachers.
  • Warp Whistle: In many games, while in the report card's screen, clicking on any of the subject names will bring the user to the game designed to build that skill.
  • Weekend Inventor / Homemade Inventions: Hopsalot was mentioned earlier, but perhaps a more weekendy example can be found in C.J. Frog and Edison Firefly in the JumpStart 2nd Grade Spelling Challenge workbook. C.J. and Edison are usually not depicted with any inventing talent, but in that workbook and that workbook alone, they apparently create pretty advanced (though impractical) gadgets mostly just for fun.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: In the MMO, there are lots of gratuitous Z's - petz, ridez, etc.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VideoGame/JumpStart