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Video Game / Spelling Jungle

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Spelling Jungle, originally released as Yobi's Basic Spelling Tricks, is an educational adventure game created by Bright Star Technology, Inc. and released by Sierra as part of its Sierra Discovery Series in 1993 for both Windows and Macintosh PCs. The name was changed to Spelling Jungle in 1994, and a sequel, Spelling Blizzard (or Yobi's Advanced Spelling Tricks), was released the same year. Both games are Puzzle Platformers designed to help with spelling and logic skills in children ages 7–10.

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The story of both games is essentially the same: the Mighty Spelling River is flooding, endangering the local people and wildlife. The sage Yobi is asked to travel one hundred and one miles upriver via raft to find the cause and stop it, but his old age forces him to send his apprentice Wali instead. At every mile marker, Wali must stop and complete a puzzle in which he spells out a word by walking over letter tiles in the proper order, circumventing various obstacles along the way before making his way back to the raft (which can be its own challenge, as most of the obstacles vanish — some of which can leave Wali stranded far from the raft's landing place). After completing a level, Wali then takes part in the Spelldown, spelling out a list of whatever words Yobi asks him for in order to make it to the next level. At the end of the game, Wali finds the source of the river and deals with the cause of the flooding.

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Both games provide examples of:

  • Automatic Level: The 101st level of each game. Just step off the raft and the Wind Tricksters will blow Wali around into the letters in the proper order.
  • Autosave: The player's progress is automatically saved once they've beaten a level, including the Spelldown challenge afterward.
  • Bag of Spilling: Wali doesn't get to keep any extra items between levels.
  • Blow Gun: The Dart Trickster is essentially a living one, blowing darts at Wali when he's passing by it.
  • Blow You Away: The Wind Trickster does this, blocking Wali's progress and blowing him off course or into obstacles. It can't kill him directly on its own though.
  • Bottomless Pits: Dark Pits in Spelling Jungle, Glacial Crevasses in Spelling Blizzard. Animals will not enter them under any circumstance.
  • Collection Sidequest: Every tenth level has an extra Trinket in it, which Wali can collect as a bonus, and which are shown on the map afterward. They don't grant anything besides bragging rights though.
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  • Evil Living Flames: The Fire Tricksters, living balls of flame with angry looks.
  • Food as Bribe: Some of the animals in both games can be bribed by Wali, using an apple (in Spelling Jungle) or mackerel (in Spelling Blizzard), which turns them pink for ten seconds until it wears off and either holds them in one place so Wali can pass safely or put them under his control.
  • Frictionless Ice: Mud and ice function as this in Jungle and Blizzard, respectively. Boulders (in Jungle) and giant snowballs or ice blocks (in Blizzard) can be pushed onto them and move the same way; in addition, Blizzard's ice blocks (which the player can ride on if they're in the water) function like this, making getting onto one and staying there a challenge at times.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The river is flooding, but it doesn't have any affect on the areas Wali stops at on his journey. Also, Yobi's supposedly too old and frail to make the journey upriver (which is why Wali does the actual traveling), but he's always there for the Spelldown challenge that follows each level.
  • Horn Attack: Contact with the horn end of a rhinoceros, or the antler end of a moose, is lethal.
  • Horse of a Different Color:
    • In Spelling Jungle, Wali can ride a hippopotamus around the river after feeding it. This can cause complications if it wears off while he's in the middle of the water.
    • In Spelling Blizzard, Wali can ride an orca whale around the rider after feeding it. Unlike the hippos, they're constantly moving around and will swim out from under Wali, causing him to drown in the river, if he's on them when the bribe wears off.
  • Human Shield: Bribing an animal (or in some cases, just walking beside them) and putting them between Wali and another animal or a Trickster protects Wali from harm, as the Tricksters will not fire on them.
  • Improvised Platform: Wali can drop boulders (in Spelling Jungle) or giant snowballs (in Spelling Blizzard) into the river for a temporary bridge. Spelling Blizzard also has Ice blocks, which can also be used for this or further moved around the river.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Played with. Both games feature a waterfall, but it's at the head of the river, and Wali is starting from downriver. Once he reaches the base of the waterfall, he then has to climb up the mountain that it's on to find the cause of the Mighty Spelling River's flooding.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Fire Trickster (or Fire Demon) tries to do this to Wali in both games.
  • Man-Made House Flood: An outside version of this is the cause of the flooding in both games.
    • In Spelling Jungle, there's a giant faucet at the top of the mountain that someone left on, so Wali has to turn it off.
    • In Spelling Blizzard, there's a giant heater melting the ice at the top of the mountain, and unplugging it allows the water to refreeze.
  • No-Sell:
    • Three of the five potion varieties grant temporary immunity to the fireballs, darts or wind of the Fire, Dart and Wind Tricksters.
    • Animals can't come onto the grass or snow unless bribed and pushed, and if far enough in, they're stuck. Gazelles and penguins, however, can no-sell this last effect.
    • While some animals can be bribed (rhinos, hippos, gazelles, elephants and zebras in Spelling Jungle and whales, penguins, polar bears, and walruses in Spelling Blizzard), the other animals are completely unaffected if hit with an apple or fish.
  • Our Demons Are Different: They're called "Tricksters" in the manual, but Demons in the game, and two of them are effectively Elemental spirits (the Fire Trickster, which shoots fireballs, and Wind Trickster, which blows Wali around). The third is the Dart Trickster, which shoots arrows at Wali.
  • Proverbial Wisdom: Yobi speaks almost entirely in these when he isn't telling the player what word to spell, or complimenting them on doing so correctly. Examples include:
    "To spell a single word correctly is to avoid many mistakes."
    "A correctly spoken word is heard at an instant. A correctly spelled word is permanent."
  • Red Herring: Some levels include extra letters or other items to try and throw the player off track.
  • Sequel Hook: Both games ending with Yobi telling the player that "Perhaps, we shall meet again" (in Jungle) or "Perhaps, we shall meet yet again" (in Blizzard). The latter turned out to be a red herring, as no third game was made.
  • Super Drowning Skills: If a boulder/snowball sinks under Wali, or a Killer Whale swims out from under him, he drowns automatically. The All-Terrain Vehicle in Spelling Jungle also sinks as soon as it hits the water.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Tigers (in Spelling Jungle) and wolves (in Spelling Blizzard) will chase after Wali, and won't stop unless he crosses a type of terrain that they can't. The Abominable Snowman is the same way in the second game, with the added feature of not being halted by snow like the wolves.
  • Super Speed: The gazelles of Spelling Jungle constantly run around the level at high speed, easily out-pacing Wali, until bribed.
  • Three Quarters View: In an unusual case, it's only some things in each level — Wali, the animals and Tricksters, the Abominable Snowman, the All-Terrain Vehicle and some of the collectible items — that are seen this way. Everything else, such as trees, stone walls and movable items like the boulders/giant snowballs and ice blocks, are viewed strictly from above.
  • Time Stands Still: One of the five varieties of potions allows the player to stop time for ten seconds when activated, allowing Wali to pass through hazardous areas without being hurt.
  • Walk on Water: One of the five varieties of potions allows the player to do this.

Spelling Jungle provides examples of:

  • Barefoot Sage: Yobi in Spelling Jungle. Wali, his apprentice, also goes barefoot.
  • Jungle Japes: Naturally, though it actually averts most of the usual stereotypes. The trees are just there to get in Wali's way, and there's no snakes, vines or monkeys.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Spelling Jungle plays with this — a volcano can be seen in the background, but players never run into one on the actual levels. They do have to deal with the hot coals, burning-hot ground that incinerates Wali or All-Terrain Vehicles if they stop moving on it.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: One of the four deadly animals in Spelling Jungle, alligators swim up and down the river, hugging the wall and emerging from the water when Wali is close to try and off him. They also block his path if they can't outright attack him.
  • NPC Roadblock: Elephants and Zebras. Both stand in the way until they're bribed; Elephants have to be pushed out of the way and will return to their original location when it wears off, while Zebras have to be led away and stay where they are when the bribe wears off.
  • Panthera Awesome:
    • One of the four deadly animals in Spelling Jungle, lions guard their den fiercely and charge Wali if he gets too close, but retreat when he gets far enough away.
    • One of the four deadly animals in Spelling Jungle, tigers follow Wali's movements after they see him and mimic them if he's close enough.
  • Rhino Rampage: One of the four deadly animals in Spelling Jungle, rhinos pace back and forth unless bribed or blocked by another obstacle. Contact with their horn end is lethal.

Spelling Blizzard provides examples of:

  • An Ice Person: The Abominable Snowman can throw snowballs that daze Wali if he's hit by one.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Polar Bears, expys of the lions of Spelling Jungle, who guard their den fiercely and charge Wali if he gets too close, but retreat when he gets far enough away. Unlike the lions, they can be bribed.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: The Abominable Snowman. Like tigers and wolves, it tracks the player, and like the Tricksters, it has a projectile attack, throwing snowballs that daze and disorient Wali, possibly into other dangers.
  • Call-Back: During the final scene of the game, as Wali is climbing up the mountain, Yobi says that "You look like you've done this before."
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Zig-zagged. They run and swim around at high speed, and can be useful, but other times they're a problem.
    • Positively, they can be used to stop Wali in his tracks when ice-blocking around a level or to block a Trickster's attack from getting to him.
    • Negatively, they can steal fish on land before Wali can pick them up or intercept other animals that Wali needs to be in a certain position.
  • Expy: All six animal types (excluding the Abominable Snowman, which is functionally a hybrid of an animal and a Trickster) serve the same functions as six of the animals from Spelling Jungle (the polar bears fill the role of the lions; the wolves fill the role of the tigers; the penguins fill the role of the gazelles; the moose fill the role of the rhinos; the walruses fill the role of the alligators; and the whales fill the role of the hippos).
  • Penguins Are Ducks: The penguins in Spelling Blizzard make a quacking sound instead of regular penguin noises.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: The "glacial river" features both polar bears and penguins among their obstacles. Justified in that it's a fictional setting and not a real one.
  • Savage Wolves: Expys of the tigers of Spelling Jungle, they're vicious predators that follow Wali's movements after they see him and mimic them if he's close enough.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: Spelling Blizzard is naturally this due to taking place in the arctic.
  • Wily Walrus: Expys of the alligators of Spelling Jungle, the walruses swim up and down the river, hugging the wall and emerging from the water when Wali is close. Unlike the alligators, they can be bribed; unfortunately, this doesn't help if they've got Wali backed into a corner, because he can't push them even when they're frozen.
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