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The games are aimed at kids aged 8 to 12, with specific games for third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders (having been a follow-up to Reader Rabbit, another Learning Company series, which is aimed at kids aged up to 7). In addition, there are four other games devoted to mathematics, language arts, logic and miscellaneous subjects.
Aliens Speaking English: Several times over, both with aliens proper and with other things. Partially averted in 5th Grade—the aliens use Black Speech, the written form of which is a Cipher Language, but their computer speaks and understands English perfectly well.
Closed Circle: 5th Grade, 6th Grade, The Incredible Toy Store Adventure and Reading have game-wide examples. 5th Grade deserves special notice in that everyone on the island is trapped, having tried and failed to get off for generations—they say it doesn't want them to leave.
Designated Victim: Leslie or Santiago at first and then both of them in the later games, culminating with them ending up in trouble after showing up to save Owen and Joni in "The Amazing Toy Store Adventure".
Establishing Character Moment: Leslie and Owen both get these at the beginning of ''3rd Grade Adventures". Owen is distracted from the group's mission by food, setting up his Big Eater tendencies and Leslie remarks that she remembers reading about the lost city their pilot mentioned, setting up her position as The Smart Guy.
Face Palm: Santiago gets one at the end of 5th Grade Adventures.
Fate Worse Than Death: Near the end of the 4th Grade Game, Loveless is turned into a mummy by Set. And he's still alive afterward. Seriously think about the implications of that when you feel like having some nightmares.
Five-Token Band: Joni is white, Santiago is Hispanic, Leslie is black and Owen is... some variety of Asian. Possibly of Chinese extraction, judging by his last name, but this was never really confirmed in-game.
Gaia's Vengeance: 6th Grade's plot comes about because of waste dumped in the water supply.
Generation Xerox: The apparent reason why the human residents of the island in Grade 5 still act and dress like they're from the time periods when their ancestors wound up there.
Gentleman Thief: Crime has caught up with the one in Grade 5's game; he's in a stockade. He buried a lot of cryptiles in a patch of Man Eating Plants, and given your need is willing to loan you the maps.
God's Hands Are Tied: Of all the series to parody this...Grade 4 introduces Egyptian gods towards the end, who provide the main characters with magical boons to help them defeat Set. Said gods would fight him themselves, but the passage leading to him is marked with a sign: "You must be under this height to defeat the forces of Chaos." (And the height is forty feet, no less!)
Heroic Sacrifice: Joni pulls a non-lethal one off in "6th Grade Adventures" when the leader of the plant people Miss Rose demands a hostage to stay behind to ensure that the humans' mission to clean up the plants' water supply goes off without a hitch; she immediately volunteers, citing that Santiago's the best choice to investigate pollution sites and that Owen and Leslie knows their way around the underground. She remains calm and trusting in her friends even as she turns into a plant person.
Hijacked by Jesus: The 4th grade setting, though not as badly as in some other series. It helps that Set was fairly evil even in the old myths.
Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry anything in "the backpack" — including bridge planks in the 6th grade game.
Innocent Cohabitation: Though not mentioned in the games for several reasons, the Wiki tells us that Santiago stays at the Savage residence whenever his parents are out of town. This is compounded by the fact that Joni's college professor parents are frequently out of town...leaving the 2 12-year-olds alone in the house together.
Mythology Gag: Upon meeting the sarcastic sphinx, Leslie says, "It seems somewhat odd that we would encounter a character like this in an Ancient Egyptian pyramid." He then replies, "Who were you expecting? Reader Rabbit?"
Not So Above It All: Leslie and Santiago are usually incredibly mature for their ages, the better to play the Foil to Owen and Joni respectively. But they do have a handful of moments where they act their age; the major ones are Santiago telling Joni, quote, "I guess this (taking a ring from the Egyptian tomb they visited) makes you an international jewel thief" in "4th Grade Adventures" and both he and Leslie participate in the pizza topping argument at the beginning of "The Mystery of Microsneezia".
Obviously Evil: Even without the name, the above-mentioned Alistair Loveless might just as well be walking around under a neon sign reading "BAD GUY". Humorously enough, even That Other Wiki observes in its article on the game that there's something off about him. "In one scene, he cackled manically for a long time in the typical villain fashion, before coughing and explaining that he swallowed his mint."
Omnicidal Maniac: Malicia in Reading. As you might expect, she's completely bonkers.
Only Sane Man: Generally switches between Leslie and Santiago but in the book "The Mystery of Microsneezia", Joni plays this role. After getting her friends to stop bickering about which kind of pizza to order and pay attention to her, she declares her plan: order a different pizza for each of them since none of them like the same toppings.
Sacrificial Planet: In Mystery of the Missing Amulet, the game's eponymous MacGuffin, the Amulet of Life, was responsible for completely reducing the planet Millenia into a dying wasteland. At the end of the game, the evil sorceress Malicia says that once she finishes off Millenia with the Amulet, she's going to drain life from the Cluefinders' home planet, Earth, next.
Schizo Tech: One can't help but wonder how Grade 3' s "Numerians" built a computer a thousand years ago.
Series Continuity Error: In Mystery Mansion Arcade, when Miss Rose is revealed to be one of the villains that have captured the team, Joni makes a comment about how "the pollution must have made you evil again". All well and good and a perfectly reasonable explanation. Problem? Joni is the only ClueFinder who doesn't remember the events of 6th Grade Adventures where the character was introduced along with the pollution issues. Though this could be justified by Joni being the only person the other three told.
Also in "3rd Grade", the guardian of the Chamber of Illusions speaks almost exactly like Rod Serling of The Twilight Zone. It even uses the phrases "picture if you will..." And quotes the show's opening.
Tomboy and Girly Girl: Joni and Leslie respectively. Highlighted by their outfits since Joni's never seen in a skirt and Leslie's only seen in pants during "Math Adventures" due to a skirt being impractical in the cold weather.
The vending machine in Search and Solve and the Gates in Reading. This is actually the entire point; it's to test out your hypothesis. This doesn't stop it from being frustrating for people of any age.
Those who had played games like Mastermind or Lingo would be will familiar with the gates challenge in reading...however, you have to GUESS what letters are in the correct or incorrect places, since like Mastermind, you're told how many letters are correct and are in the right/wrong spaces, but you aren't told which ones.
The gate challenges in 3rd Grade's Monkey Kingdom are very much like this especially on CHALLENGE difficulty. Oftentimes the appropriate addition, subtraction, multiplication AND division tiles will all be visible and you just stand there throwing sneezeberries at them hoping that they're correct. But once you know where the letters are, you can just hit them, even if the numbers don't match up.
Unwinnable by Design: The mentioned Trial-and-Error Gameplay mini-games can be made unwinnable. If the jams in the vending machine puzzle are clustered to one area and your guesses are all on the other side...you run out of guesses and can't win that game. In the gates challenge, you can easily run out of guesses considering you know how many letters are in the right or wrong places...but you don't know which ones they are.
Weirdness Magnet: These kids can't even go out into their backyards without finding trouble.
Malicia in Reading tricked Joni and Owen into assembling the Amulet of Life for her, then when she tried to grab the completed amulet from them, got the wrong one, but she fortunately already had Leslie and Santiago imprisoned in her mountain so naturally, Joni and Owen would walk right on up and bring the amulet to her anyways to rescue their friends.
The Big Bad of Mystery Mansion Arcade also has this, where the mysterious villain, none other than Carmen Sandiego who has organized it all traps the villains after they fail, and the kids even ask, "Wait, did she want to catch us, or them?