The plot concerns the town of Sapphire Falls, where the historic Sapphire Mines are thought to contain a lost treasure. Recently, a mysterious creature has shown up and started scaring everyone away from the mine. Here to investigate are Sally Chu and T.J. Adams, a pair of School Newspaper News Hounds, plus their Heroic Dog Gizmo. Will they be able to crack the case as well as find the lost treasure? Only if you know your fourth-grade subject matter!
The game's format is actually more reminiscent of The ClueFinders than previous games in the JumpStart series, which includes the older version of JumpStart 4th Grade. Instead of a Wide-Open Sandbox, there are a series of areas that you advance through. The two main areas have a Fetch Quest, the first with gems to open a secret passageway and the second with clues to the identity of the villain. The final section of the game is a Rollercoaster Mine in which you chase the villain to the lost treasure.
This game provides examples of:
- Adventurer Archaeologist: Technically she's a geologist rather than an archaeologist, but nevertheless Gillian Gonzales is portrayed as an adventurer in the Indiana Jones mold, complete with fedora.
- Agent Mulder: T.J. believes that the creature is real.
- Agent Scully: Sally is skeptical about the existence of the creature.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: The mysterious creature follows this model.
- Dialogue Tree: You speak with the three suspects this way. You meet them over the course of the game, but you can always warp back to your conversation with them by clicking on their picture in the photo album.
- Final-Exam Boss: In the climactic mine car chase, you have to answer true or false questions about all the subjects you've been leaning about throughout the game.
- Free-Range Children: Hand Waved. Ranger Addy Wise gives Sally and T.J. permission to step into the mine's entrance "to get a picture or two." Needless to say, they continue on into the mine instead. When she meets up with them again at the end of the game, she doesn't seem to mind that they completely disobeyed her.
- Minecart Madness: The final level is a mine car chase.
- Multiple Endings: The identity of the villain is randomized so that it's different each time you play. Downplayed, since besides the actual reveal of the villain, the rest of the ending is always the same.
- Nearly Normal Animal: Gizmo has this level of anthropomorphism.
- New Old West: Although set in modern times, the game's setting has a definite Western vibe. The mine apparently dates back to the days of The Wild West, all three suspects wear Western garb, and much of the background music is heavy on the banjos.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Like Tintin before them, Sally and T.J. are reporters who don't seem to be doing anything in the way of journalism.
- Prospector: Jed Mason, the retired miner, has the stereotypical appearance of one.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Ranger Addy Wise is friendly and helpful, and is not considered a suspect.
- School Newspaper News Hound: Sally and T.J.'s pretext for getting involved in this adventure is that they're on an assignment for their school newspaper. The tropes Intrepid Reporter and Kid Detective also apply.
- "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: If you didn't figure out from the plot description that the mysterious creature is a costumed thief going after the treasure, you're not very Genre Savvy.
- Spinning Paper: With a newspaper announcing the appearance of the creature.
- Treasure Map: The creature stole the map that leads to the lost treasure.
- Underground Level: Being set in a mine, pretty much the whole game takes place underground. The only real exception is when you travel through a gorge in a hot air balloon.
- Video Game Remake: Actually, this game bears so little resemblance to the original JumpStart 4th Grade that it's more like a replacement than a remake. "Map Madness," "Tablet Turnover," and "Crystal Keys" are essentially reskinned versions of the original's pirate ship, Egyptian tomb, and clock tower activities, but that's about it.
- Windbag Politician: Mayor Samuel Brannon comes off as rather pompous.
- You Meddling Kids: The villain's last words are always something to this effect.