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Video Game / Reader Rabbit

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Reader Rabbit is an Edutainment Game series created by The Learning Company for kids up to second grade. The series consists of several games, each one dedicated either to a specific grade level (apparently "baby" and "toddler" are grades now) or to a specific subject. The games for third grade through sixth grade instead feature The ClueFinders.

It started in 1983 and became very successful in the educational market. In 2001, the series was given a big makeover; Reader Rabbit became more adventurous and was given a drastic redesign. Sam the Lion and the Pi-rats were promoted from supporting characters to major ones and were also redesigned. Two new characters, a floating book named Paige and a treasure chest named Chester, were added. Matilda Mouse, Babs Beaver, Charlie Chipmunk, Pierre Raccoon, Baby Bear, Papa Bear, Spike the Porcupine, Penelope the Parrot and Pop were all removed.

This game series provides examples of:

  • Alliterative Name: Reader Rabbit, Charlie Chipmunk, Babs Beaver, Baby Bear, Matilda Mouse. Basically, a series staple.
  • Artifact Title: The very first Reader Rabbit focused only on reading. The developers tried to avert this by calling other games Math Rabbit and Writer Rabbit, but this caused confusion. Hence, all later games would revert to Reader Rabbit, regardless of what subject was covered. Eventually, the series stopped focusing on one subject and just focused on everything in the later installments.
  • Ascended Extra: In the late 1990s games, Sam the Lion and the Pi-rats were supporting characters. In the 2001 reboot, they became main characters on par with Reader Rabbit.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Reader in the 1989-1991 games (where he wears a red sweater and blue overalls) and the 2001 version (where he wears a red shirt and blue jeans). Some of the other characters are this as well.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In some of the stories for Reading Journey 2, Buster saves Reader, Sam and Mat.
    • Subverted in Second Grade. Having hunted through the entire castle, Sam finally finds Reader Rabbit and announces that he's here to save him from the dragon. Reader quickly tells him the dragon is a friend.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Reading Journey 2 has one. Sam finds his imagination, while Mat and Reader find a home of their own to make. After they all bid farewell, Buster flies Sam to his castle.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Baby Bear and Papa Bear, minor characters from the late 1990s games.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Nearly all of the supporting characters from the late 1990s titles were left out of the 2001 reboot. Apart from Reader Rabbit, only Sam the Lion and the Pi-Rats were retained.
  • Compilation Re Release: Reader Rabbit's Playtime for Baby and Reader Rabbit Toddler was eventually combined into a single disc release called Reader Rabbit's Playtime for Baby and Toddler, with a bonus Fly the Dreamship game thrown in the later versions of the disc (which stands out as a sore thumb because the Dreamship is not part of the pre-2001 canon that the other two games are).
  • Continuity Reboot: The 2001 reboot of preschool through Second Grade pretty much deleted most of the characters created in the previous version of the games.
  • Cool Boat: Reader and Sam's flying Dreamship.
  • A Day in the Limelight:
    • Sam the lion, who is usually a supporting character, became the main character of 2nd Grade.
    • Mat has a minimal (or nonexistent) role in most of the other games, but she is the lead character in Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby, Reader Rabbit Toddler, Reader Rabbit and Friends: Let's Start Learning, Reader Rabbit Preschool and Reader Rabbit Kindergarten.
  • Determinator: In Second Grade, Sam is very determined to find Reader Rabbit and won't give up, no matter how long he has to search or how many times he falls through various towers.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Reader Rabbit and Friends: Let's Start Learning has a few. Mat is drawn differently and Reader still retained his older 92-95 looks. Also, Wonder Pony talks—Wonder Pony doesn't speak in the later titles.
  • Fake Longevity: The games do tend to get very tedious during long sessions.
  • For the Evulz: Spike in Reader Rabbit's 1st Grade steals the theater props for the thrill. He tries to justify it by singing about how no one wants to hug a porcupine but it's clearly not an excuse.
  • Foreshadowing: Second Grade gives multiple early hints that the dragon doesn't have any malicious intentions (and relatedly, Reader Rabbit doesn't need saving from him).
    • In one of the writing sections, one of the verbal "prompts" in the journal has the dragon worrying that Reader is getting too close to the edge of the tower.
    • The dragon's song at the top of the second tower is all about how everyone falsely thinks he's ferocious and hostile because that's what dragons are supposed to be like.
  • A Friend in Need: Sam rushes to the dragon's castle when he gets a note from Reader Rabbit asking him to hurry. He fears the worst. The castle scares Sam on multiple occasions, but he keeps going, thinking his friend is in trouble.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Version 2.0 of some of the titles introduced Speech Recognition. The ADAPT "Personalized" versions of said titles (internally version 3.0) has broken support for speech recognition- the feature rarely worked out of the box and under certain circumstances the user won't even be prompted about it during install. In the latter case, the feature is effectively Dummied Out unless the user takes the initiative to enable the feature manually, which involves installing the support libraries and then editing the configuration file by hand. On the other hand, speech recognition rarely worked as intended and often mishears commands anyway.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal:
    • Reader only wears a red sweater in the 1992-1995 games and a red-and-blue-striped sweater in the 1997-2001 games.
    • Sam in the 2001 version only wears a green shirt, even though he wears no clothes in previous versions.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Reader Rabbit Thinking Adventures and the 2001 reboot games take your name entry and matches it against a database of pre-recorded names available on the CD-ROM.
  • In Name Only: Within the franchise itself to boot. There are effectively two games with the same titles from Reader Rabbit Personalized Preschool through Reader Rabbit Personalized Second Grade- one set from before the 2001 reboot, and another set from after. Seeking Baby Bear, Babs Beaver, Pierre Racoon, Charlie Chipmunk, Mat the Mouse or the other characters you so cherished playing with back in your childhood? The ones that are currently still being sold isn't the title you're looking for.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: In the intro to Reader Rabbit 1st Grade: Capers on Cloud 9!, Sam warns Reader that it's raining rain gear. Reader tells Sam, "Umbrellas don't just fall from the sky!" Immediately, an umbrella, a raincoat, and a cap fall right on top of him.
  • King of Beasts: Conversed at the beginning of Interactive Reading Journey, in which Sam was crying because he has no kingdom (despite being a lion, no less) and he tells Reader (who asks him what it means):
    "Well, I'm a lion, and a lion should be king. King of the forest. That's what a lion is. But I have no kingdom, I have no castle, and I have no crown!"
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The spirit of the trope appears in Sam's mind during Second Grade. Thinking that Reader sent him the letter as an SOS, he believes he'll have to fight the dragon to save him. While he's only wielding a sword and shield rather than wearing full armor, the heroic tone of the fantasy matches the stereotype.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Reader Rabbit is a rabbit who likes reading.
    • Also, Paige is a manual.
    • And Chester is a chest.
  • The Musical Musical: The theme of Reader Rabbit 1st Grade.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: In the 2001 version of 1st Grade, some raingear falls on Sam as he's watering flowers, so he and Reader go on a quest to solve the mystery of the falling raingear. At the end of the game, a newspaper falls on him, leading him to quote this trope title almost verbatim.
  • Panthera Awesome: Sam.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • In one game, Reader leaves Sam a letter saying, "Dear Sam: Meet me at the castle, and hurry!" Since the castle is spooky and owned by a dragon, Sam assumes Reader needs rescuing. Actually, Reader and the dragon are friends. Reader wanted Sam to come so he wouldn't miss the launch of the dragon's rocketship.
    • Also present in the Pi-rats’ first game: they think Reader and Sam want to steal their cheese even though neither of the two parties attempted to talk it over with each other. In their final cutscene before they try to attack them in the ending, Vermina attempts to reason with Ratbeard that they’re about to leave the island and they never took any cheese, but the other Pi-rats shoot down her opinion.
  • Portal Book: Reader Rabbit Toddler begins with Mat jumping inside Reader's favorite book and ending up in a fantasy learning world.
  • The Power of Friendship: While Sam is wandering about the dragon's castle, he wonders if he does actually have what it takes to defeat him. He concludes that if he has to in order to save Reader Rabbit, yes, he does.
  • Pungeon Master: Monstrous Mirror in 2nd Grade. Almost every time he shows up, he utters a pun, such as "Let me spend some time...reflecting on that!"
  • Shout-Out:
    • Pearl the Pi-rat often channels Ethel Merman.
    • Papa Bear makes one to The Lion King (1994) and one to The Wizard of Oz with a Sam the lion puppet in Thinking Adventures.
    • Reader, while dressed as an astronaut in Reader Rabbit Preschool, says he "will bodly go where no rabbit has gone before".
    • In Reader Rabbit: Learn to Read With Phonics, Mat the mouse visits a carnival and, annoyed at not being able to read, wishes upon a wish machine that there were no more words. Sound familiar?
  • Shown Their Work: Riley's song claims that, in his point of view, the pirats at least have some concern for their hygiene, and that they're actually quite friendly once you get to know them personally. In real life, as the page for You Dirty Rat! says, rats are actually a lot friendlier to humans than mice are (and thus make better pets than mice), and do have some decency to groom themselves to stay clean.
  • Species Surname: Every character.
  • Summer Campy: Averted with the theme of the late 1990s Reader Rabbit Kindergarten, in which the summer camp it takes place in, Camp Happy Tales, is intended to be happy.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Pearl and Vermina respectively.
  • Updated Re-release: The personalized versions of the late 1990s games. They adapt to the abilities of the player; if you're doing good, you get the hard stuff, and vice versa, and before this, overlapping with Tech-Demo Game, the inclusion of speech recognition in version 2 of some games.
  • Villain Song: Five of the Pi-rats get this in their debut game. The only one who doesn’t is The Unintelligible Cheesestrings.
  • Wrong Assumption:
    • In the late 1990s Reader Rabbit 2nd Grade, Sam believes he is the brave friend who rescues Reader Rabbit from the evil dragon. He is actually just picking up the widgets the dragon needs to finish a rocket ship.
    • In Math, the Pi-rats think Reader and Sam intend on stealing their cheese and thus try to hurt them, but they have no such intentions and simply want to leave.
  • You Dirty Rat!: The Pi-rats.


Video Example(s):


Reader Rabbit Toddler

In the intro scene, Mat jumps into Reader's favorite book and ends up in a magical world where the game is set.

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