Video Game: The ClueFinders

L-R: Leslie, Santiago, Owen, LapTrap, and Joni
The ClueFinders is a series of Edutainment Games from The Learning Company in which the eponymous Kid Heroes have exploits which more-or-less fit into the adventure show genre of The '90s, collecting Alphabet Soup Cans on Fetch Quests since Only Smart People May Pass. The main characters are:

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.

Call the TropeFinders!

  • Accidental Misnaming: This conversation in 3rd Grade.
    Joni: (in regards to collecting sneeze berries) Listen Bingo.
    Bongo: Bongo!
    Santiago: Bongo?
    Bongo: Bingo!
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • Nobody can solve the mysteries except for a gang of children.
    • In 4th Grade Adventures, adults were befuddled by problems that the ClueFinders solve easily.
    • However, Fletcher Limburger seemed to be able to reach the Lost City long before the ClueFinders did, just not the way the Numerian people intended, as he likely flew over the walls.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Mild example but in The Mystery of Microsneezia, Joni discovers her uncle has disappeared. This message is received in the middle of her birthday party.
  • Ageless Birthday Episode: The book The Mystery of Microsneezia opens on Joni's birthday. No, we aren't told how old she's turning.
  • All Myths Are True: Subverted twice, applied once, and double subverted in the same two games.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Several times over, both with aliens proper and with other things. Partially averted in 5th Gradethe aliens use Black Speech, the written form of which is a Cipher Language, but their computer speaks and understands English perfectly well.
  • Alphabet Soup Cans
  • And I Must Scream: Malicia's fate is to be trapped inside the amulet, which the kids then bury.
  • Attack Reflector: It's a good thing the group keeps LapTrap polished; in Reading, his reflective underside is as good as a mirror at blocking magic.
  • Beneath the Earth: 6th Grade's setting, occupied by what amount to non-alien Plant Aliens. Visitors beware—it's also a Fisher Kingdom of the "physical modification" type, slow-acting but thought to be permanent.
  • Big Eater: Owen.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Thought to be the villain who stole The Shangri-La's treasures in Math. Turns out it was actually the village elder's apprentice in disguise, who after surviving an avalanche gets subdued by a real yeti.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: In the book The Mystery of Microsneezia, Leslie expresses a desire for bubblegum-topped pizza, much to the disgust of Santiago and Owen.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Joni is revealed to be this trope in The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, due to having had her glasses off while swimming. Interestingly the scene isn't a "My glasses! I can't see without my glasses!" moment; rather it's more along the lines of "I couldn't see what happened. Anyone hurt?"
  • Bluff the Impostor: In The Mystery of Microsneezia, LapTrap gains an Evil Twin in the form of S.N.A.I.L.L. Late in the story, the ClueFinders find themselves having to figure out which "LapTrap" is the real one. Joni and Leslie do this by deliberately getting the location of a Mongolian restaurant the team frequents wrong and giving the wrong kind of beast of burden as their transport to the titular island.
  • Body Horror: The Transflormations from human to plant person in 6th Grade Adventures. When it happens to Joni, Leslie actually truly falters in her resolve to complete her mission.
  • Broken Bridge: All the time on a small scale. See also Closed Circle.
    • Lampshaded in 5th Grade:
      Owen: "Why is it that wherever we go, we always find large pits to cross?"
  • Busman's Holiday: Whether they're going into a vacation or already on one, the ClueFinders will eventually find a mystery.
  • Catch Phrase: Joni has a couple: "I dunno, but we're gonna find out!" and "Let's go, Santiago."
  • Chickification: Joni, though admittedly this mostly involved her abandoning her Fearless Fool tendencies.
  • Chekhov's Gun: It's a good thing that LapTrap yells at Owen for using him as a mirror in Reading!
    • Also don't forget the whole ring in 4th Grade.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: The ClueFinders. Case in point, in The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, after the titular banshee shows up, the studio's equipment malfunctions, causing a fire. Joni leads Santiago and Leslie (Owen was otherwise occupied) towards the fire and the three of them work to put out all the fires.
  • Clingy Macguffin: The ring in 4th Grade. Until Loveless steals it.
  • 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.
  • Say My Name: In the opening of 3rd Grade:
    Fletcher Limburger: Well... peanuts, anyone?... that's what folks are saying, and there's an old superstition about a monster and a lost city.
    Santiago: Superstition?!
    Leslie: Lost city?
    Joni: Monster?!
    Owen: ...peanuts?
    All: OWEN!
  • Convection Schmonvection: When she kidnaps them, Malicia keeps Leslie and Santiago imprisoned in a cage over a lava pit. They're just fine afterwards.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: In 6th Grade, Owen and Leslie will talk about how you are taking awhile during one challenge. But it's a reading comprehension challenge... come on guys, really?
  • Crossover: In Mystery Mansion Arcade, the mysterious villain who gathered the previous bad guys is revealed at the end of the game to be none other than Carmen Sandiego.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Check the map at the end of 5th Grade Adventures. "Sorry! But we are now, trapped, inside!"
    • In 3rd Grade, going back to the room which houses the key half after you've obtained it will have a golden trinket resting in its place. Joni even has new dialogue if you put it in her backpack.
  • 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".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • The Drag-Along: LapTrap.
  • Enemy Mine: In 5th Grade, the CrypTile stories you have to unscramble often have this theme. They describe how the castaways have come from all over the world and how they must overcome their difference and work together in order to escape.
  • 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.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: In 4th Grade, Socrates is growling at Loveless right in the opening cutscene.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Loveless thought he could make Set his slave. The reverse happens.
  • Evil Laugh: Parodied/subverted:
    "I swallowed my mint."
  • Evil Twin: S.N.A.I.L.L. is one for LapTrap in The Mystery of Microsneezia. He's cured by the end of the story though.
  • Face Palm: Santiago gets one at the end of 5th Grade Adventures.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Near the end of 4th Grade Adventures, Loveless is turned into a mummy by Set. And he's still alive afterward..
  • Fearless Fool: Joni in the earlier games, played as a Running Gag.
  • Fetch Quest
  • 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.
  • Foreshadowing: In 6th Grade, before you "officially" get the clue about the plant kingdom being polluted, the "Recipe for Disaster" activity has you feeding toxic chemicals to a plant guard. If you click on Leslie during this activity, she'll comment on how strange it is that these chemicals are down here.
  • Fun with Acronyms: LapTrap's model designation of T.U.R.T.L.E. (Turbo-charged Ultra Rugged Terrain Laptop Equipment) and his Evil Twin S.N.A.I.L.L. (Superior Numerical Artificial Intelligence Logic Laptop).
  • 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 5th Grade 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 5th Grade'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.
  • Genre Savvy: Joni gets this in The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee when she refuses to automatically believe the story that Perry Boston, one of her mystery-solving idols, tells the kids about a local director sabotaging his own film and insists that they investigate further because they need evidence.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item
  • God's Hands Are Tied: Of all the series to parody this, 4th Grade 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!)
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Inverted, sort of. Math Adventures is obviously set in Tibet, but the game insists on describing the setting as "high in the Himalayas".
  • 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.
  • Herr Doktor: Dr. Fern in 6th Grade.
  • 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.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: That amulet Malicia really wanted? Now she's stuck with it—or rather, inside it. Forever.
  • Honest John's Dealership: "Have I got a deal for you! You can pick any one of my beautiful jeeps, but only one can make it Cairo!" Of course, he tells you in the next breath how to work it out by multiplying the number of gallons by the miles-per-gallon, so maybe it's a Subverted Trope.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry anything in "the backpack" — including bridge planks in 6th Grade Adventures.
  • 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 two 12-year-olds alone in the house together.
  • Interface Spoiler: Owen's Continue Your Mission, Dammit! will come off as this, unless you saw a scene that could be missed by using the Warp Whistle earlier.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • During the spelling catwalks challenge:
      Owen: Why is it that wherever we go, we always find large pits to cross?
    • They also Lampshaded the use of Fetch Quests in Search and Solve Adventures.
    • In The Mystery of Microsneezia, lampshades are hung on the fact that Leslie brought bubble gum to the jungle and how weird it is that the ClueFinders and LapTrap really his Evil Twin S.N.A.I.L.L. have switched personalities.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Every main game except 4th Grade.
  • Least Common Pizza Topping: Santiago and Owen treat Leslie's choice of broccoli pizza this way in The Mystery of Microsneezia, which is odd since they live in or near San Francisco.
  • Lighter and Softer: Interestingly, 4th Grade Adventures is this even compared to 3rd Grade Adventures, and has much more of a sense of humor.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Characters dress the same in every main game except 4th Grade and Math.
  • Lost World: In 3rd Grade Adventures.
  • Mayincatec: The Numerians in 3rd Grade. Justified, since they're fictional.
  • Meaningful Name: Joni's last name, befitting her wild personality.
  • Mr. Fixit: Santiago.
  • 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?"
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sir Alistair Loveless III in 4th Grade. Also a Preppy Name.
  • Nice Kids: The ClueFinders are this trope. In The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, Owen performs a diving save to catch a stuntman thrown off by the appearance of the titular banshee and his three friends all rush to help put out the fires caused by the fallout, saving innumerable papers and pieces of equipment.
  • Noodle Incident: Shortly before the events of The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, the ClueFinders had solved a mystery involving the keys to the locks on the Panama Canal going missing.
  • Not So Above It All: Leslie and Santiago are usually incredibly mature for their ages. 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 participating 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 The 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."
  • Oddball in the Series: 4th Grade. It's the only game in the main series where the Cluefinders never split up resulting in their Team Pet Socrates taking the place of Santiago's videophone whenever the player needs a hint during one of the puzzles.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, Leslie sits up abruptly in her chair, sending the books and newspapers in her lap tumbling to the ground. The dedicated bibliophile doesn't even notice because she's so excited about the article she's found.
  • 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 large pizza with four different toppings since none of them like the same thing.
  • Parrot Exposition: Once in a while.
  • People Jars: In 5th Grade, the aliens keep humans and animals in a type of these before they eat their brains.
  • Princess Classic: In Reading, the alien princess is both this and The Aloner, though she's holding up comparatively well. For a reason: she's the villain in disguise, trying to take advantage of the Macguffin Delivery Service.
  • Real After All: Mathra in the first game.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Joni.
  • The Reveal: Every main game except 4th Grade. Noticing a trend?
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: 4th Grade; can't have an Egyptian setting without one of these! Somewhat subverted in that the Sphinx talks like Groucho Marx, and knows you'll outwit him because he's read the game script.
  • Robot Buddy: LapTrap.
  • 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 3rd Grade' s "Numerians" built a computer a thousand years ago.
  • Science Fantasy: It's never entirely certain what the series is, though it generally leans more towards Science Fiction (with 4th Grade as a noticeable exception). Interestingly, all the games with proven Speculative Fiction elements also use Plausible Deniability.
  • 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.
    • In The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, during the climax, the Clue Finders must chase the villain up a pyramid set piece which is very large. After Santiago is given his directions, he complains that he "hates heights". This is never a problem in any of the games, most of which involve at least one climbing stunt and in 5th Grade Adventures, he and Joni scale a cliff face with no assistance whatsoever.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Nearly all of Leslie's dialogue.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smart Ball: Owen gets it in "The Amazing Toy Store Adventure" where he's inspired to use the shrunken Unshrinker device on the shrink ray the villain is using to make it too big to hold.
  • Spot the Imposter: In "The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee", Joni becomes suspicious of detective Perry Boston when she realizes that he's left-handed but claimed that he couldn't sign autographs with a broken right arm.
  • Take Your Time: A form of Gameplay and Story Segregation here; obviously you wouldn't want to get put under a time limit when you're trying to do long division!
  • Talking Animal: Several.
  • That's No Moon!: 5th Grade's island is a bit unusual, to say the least. It's a spaceship, and the aliens have been harvesting human brains.
  • Team Mom: Mild case with Joni. She tends to make sure her friends are okay (which includes such things as making back up food supplies for picnics and knocking sense into Owen) and really doesn't like it when they're put in danger.
  • Techno Babble: In The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, Santiago and Joni both engage in this though Joni's is utter nonsense with no actual scientific terms at all. She's doing it on purpose to get Santiago to explain his new gadget in terms she can understand. Santiago isn't offended by this; in fact, he finds it hilarious.
  • Totally Radical: Nearly all of Owen's dialogue.
  • 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. This is actually reversed with their superpowered forms in 4th Grade Adventures, with Joni in a skirt and Leslie in pants.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: Joni's quite enamored with the Egyptian jewelry in the tomb they visit in 4th Grade Adventures... at least until the ring won't come off.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Leslie is given one in The Mystery of Microsneezia: bubble gum. It's even a plot point later. Owen's is pizza.
  • Transflormation: What happens to Joni while held captive in the "The Empire of the Plant People."
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay:
    • 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.
  • Unobtainium: Cryptiles in 5th Grade.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The majority of the villains.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess:
    • 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?"

Alternative Title(s):

Clue Finders, Clue Finder, The Clue Finders