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Video Game / The ClueFinders

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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. The entries in the series are as follows:


  • The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra (1998) - Deep in a South American rainforest, animals have been disappearing, allegedly due to the return of a mythical flying beast called Mathra. When Joni's uncle, the famous naturalist Dr. Horace Pythagoras, disappears as well, the ClueFinders are on the case.
  • The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures: Puzzle of the Pyramid (1998) - Spending their summer vacation in Egypt with an exctiable professor named Botch and his colleague, Sir Alistair Loveless, a ring attatches to Joni's finger during an excavation of the tomb of Peribsen. Unbeknownst to her, the ring was owned by the Egyptian god of Chaos, Set. Loveless, who has seeking the power of Set, kidnaps Professor Botch, leaving it up to the ClueFinders to rescue their professor and thwart Loveless' Evil Plan from unleashing Set and his power of chaos.
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  • The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures: The Secret of the Living Volcano (1999) - Investigating a Brand X version of The Bermuda Triangle in the South Pacific, the ClueFinders find themselves shipwrecked on a tiny volcanic island. This mysterious isle is inhabited by centuries of trapped castaways, who claim that they have been unable to escape because the island itself is alive.
  • The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures: The Empire of the Plant People (1999) - While playing around in their own hometown, Joni and Santiago are suddenly swallowed up by the earth. Leslie and Owen journey underground to find a whole civilization of sentient plants... and they're preparing to go to war with the surface!
  • The ClueFinders Math Adventures Ages 9–12: Mystery in the Himalayas (1998) - When priceless treasures are stolen from a small Himalayan village, the ClueFinders come to investigate. Could the mysterious yeti be behind the thefts? In 1999, this game received an Updated Re-release with improved graphics and the storyline reworked. Most notably, the newer version cut a subplot in which LapTrap was zapped with the wisdom of the ancients.
  • The ClueFinders Reading Adventures Ages 9–12: Mystery of the Missing Amulet (1999) - It's another normal day for the ClueFinders when they're zapped to an alien planet. There, a young princess enlists their help to find the Amulet of Life and save her planet from an evil sorceress. (Later removed from the series proper, and released as a bonus disc under the title The ClueFinders: Mystery Of The Missing Amulet.)
  • The ClueFinders Search and Solve Adventures: The Phantom Amusement Park (2000) - The ClueFinders have spotted an S.O.S. signal coming from the local Amusement Park of Doom. It turns out that Jacques Ramone, the curator of the art museum, is trapped on a ride, and that's not the only weird thing going on inside this supposedly abandoned park.
  • The ClueFinders Real World Adventure Kit (2000) - A bonus disc, replacing Mystery of the Missing Amulet, that features various applications and printouts for your own adventures in Real Life. If you ever wanted a diary or money tracker with a ClueFinders theme, this is the title for you.
  • The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure! (2001) - While checking out an amazing new toy store in San Francisco, Joni and Owen are hit by a Shrink Ray. This is the last entry in the series proper, and the only one not to feature the original voice actors.
  • The ClueFinders: Mystery Mansion Arcade (2002) - A non-educational bonus disc, replacing Real World Adventure Kit, in which the ClueFinders must deal with a Villain Team-Up. This game uses the same voice actors as Incredible Toy Store Adventure.

In addition to the computer games, the ClueFinders also appeared in two print books, The Mystery of Microsneezia and The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, both written by Ellen Weiss and published in 2004.

Call the TropeFinders!

  • Accidental Misnaming: This conversation in 3rd Grade, with Who's on First? in the mix.
    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.
    • In 5th Grade, centuries of castaways were apparently unable to get past the Faces within the Face or the Fish within the Fish, but then the ClueFinders came along. You could argue that it's because the ClueFinders were the first castaways to have modern diving equipment, giving them access to both, but that still doesn't explain why no one on the surface cracked the Faces within the Face or none of the intelligent worms cracked the Fish within the Fish.
  • 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.
  • Alien Sky: In Reading, the first clue that the ClueFinders are on another planet is that there are three suns in the sky.
  • 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.
  • All Myths Are True: Subverted twice, applied once, and double subverted in the same two games.
  • Alphabet Soup Cans: A vast majority of the activities, if not all of them, come off as this trope.
  • And I Must Scream: Malicia's fate is to be trapped inside the amulet, which the kids then bury.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Despite that you are intended to solve the problems one by one to figure out which tiles equal which letter in one activity of Third Grade Adventures, if you can deduce which tiles will equal a letter based upon another previously correct answer or existing letters (on earlier stages), the game will still allow you to uncover those despite that the given problem does not equal that. In fact, the in-game instruction will mention it's still correct.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Great CrypTile Thief: I'm the Great CrypTile Thief! I stole everybody's CrypTiles and buried them in my patch of dangerous trees.
    Santiago: Why are you locked in the pillory?
    Great CrypTile Thief: [very dryly] I got caught.
  • 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.
  • Brain Food: The aliens in 5th Grade are trying to collect specimens from Earth that they can cultivate and harvest them for their brains back on their homeworld because they're apparently an alien delicacy.
  • Breaking Out: Math and Reading feature similar versions of this. When the bricks are hit, they spawn potential answers to a problem at the top of the screen, and you have to zap the correct one. The problem is an equation in Math and a sentence with a missing word in Reading.
  • 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.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Alistair Loveless boasts, "Soon, I will be the most powerful villain on Earth!"
  • Catchphrase: Joni has a couple: "I dunno, but we're gonna find out!" and "Let's go, Santiago."
  • Chickification: Subverted with Joni, who merely stops propelling herself carelessly into dangerous situations and she identifies things as "Cute".
  • 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.
  • Cliffhanger: A few of the games end on a suspenseful note.
    • As the Cluefinders are rowing away in 3rd Grade Adventures, Limburger crawls out of the bottomless pit and vows revenge against the Cluefinders. As he’s walking away, the real Mathra emerges and stares ominously at something offscreen.
    • When the Cluefinders and the professor are leaving Egypt in 4th Grade, they talk about hopefully never seeing Alistair ever again. Cut to one of the back rows where Alistair (still transformed as a mummy) is sitting while wearing a disguise.
  • Clingy Macguffin: The ring in 4th Grade refuses to come off Joni’s finger when she first puts it on. 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.
  • Collective Groan: 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!
  • Conspicuous Trenchcoat: At the end of 4th Grade, Socrates dresses this way on the flight home in order to disguise the fact that he's a dog and thereby avoid riding in the cargo hold. It works, so far as we can tell.
  • 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.
  • Darker and Edgier: Around 5th grade, the games got darker. While there is always a happy ending (with the exception of 5th grade's aliens getting away), 5th, 6th, and Reading are easily the darkest Edutainment games ever this side of JumpStart 4th Grade.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • 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.
    • Also in 3rd Grade, the Rings of Fire challenge has dialogue for you loophole-abusing. The game intends you to uncover tiles in a Battleship like way, but it will expect you to do it in a certain order (Based upon the math problems given to you). If you just play it like Battleship and fire at tiles that are "hits" based upon the ones you got correct before, the game will have dialogue for this.
  • 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".
  • Divine Assistance: The Cluefinders receive a temporary power boost in 4th Grade Adventures by four of the Egyptian gods: Horus grants Owen flight, Bastet grants Leslie intelligence, Sobek grants Santiago strength, and Isis grants Joni bravery.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
  • Double Take: About the LittleTraps in Reading:
    Owen: They're like miniature versions of you, LapTrap, only without the attitude.
    LapTrap: Yes, they're just like — without the what?!
  • The Drag-Along: LapTrap. He initially joins the Cluefinders in 3rd Grade Adventures to help them find Joni’s uncle. However, Horace decides to give LapTrap to the kids much to his dismay over the possible dangers he will encounter with them.
  • Dub Name Change: In the U.K. versions, Joni becomes Josie, Santiago becomes Sebastian, and Leslie becomes Lucy. Owen, however, retains his American name.
  • Dull Surprise: Leslie. She gets better, especially in 6th grade.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • 3rd Grade features more minimalistic animation, bizarro episodes, three full-sized "Worlds" (as opposed to the third act being a rush where you do not have to gather any kind of resource.), and different theme music.
    • 3rd and 4th grade also feature multiple "One-time" challenges, even though 3rd grade allowed you to backtrack and repeat them. The "one-time" challenges returned in Toy St Latore Adventure.
    • Math 9-12 prior to its Updated Re-release. It was much much more supernatural in nature.
    • The Running Gag of Leslie talking in Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness basically started in 5th Grade. It's not really present in any games earlier than that. Also, her age was originally given as eleven, but later Retconned to ten (possibly to account for her having skipped a grade).
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: The Sorrens and Doldreks, respectively, in Reading
  • 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.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: A whole kingdom of them in 3rd Grade.
  • 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 control chaos and make Set his slave. Instead, Set transports Loveless into a mummy for his foolishness. Worse, Professor Botch had previously warned Loveless about the possibility that he might not be able to "control Chaos."
  • 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. Typically, this involved her rushing headlong into potentially lethal situations, often with Santiago having to intervene before she kills herself. Also, whenever you complete a bridge in 3rd Grade, Santiago walks across it very carefully, which is then followed by Joni running across it as though it were nothing. In later games, the gag seems to have been dropped.
  • Fetch Quest: Most of the games feature the characters having to gather some sort of item to proceed; they obtain said item by doing various tasks for the locals.
  • Five-Token Band: Joni is white, Santiago is Hispanic, Leslie is black and Owen is East Asian.
  • 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.
  • Give Me Your Inventory Item: Frequently, collected items must be turned over to a gateway guard and/or used in some sort of activity that serves as a puzzle lock.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: In Reading, Malicia is never explicitly identified as a queen, but several of the sentences that describe life on Millennia mention "the Queen" and characterize her in fairly villainous terms, so they're probably talking about Malicia there.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: Of all the series to parody this no less... During the final act of 4th Grade, the Cluefinders encounter the Egyptian gods, Horus, Sobek, Isis, and Bastet, who provide the main characters with magical boons to help them defeat Set. According to Horus, 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".
  • Heel–Face Turn: S.N.A.I.L.L. in The Mystery of Microsneezia.
  • 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.
  • Hero's Muse: A Deconstructed Trope in Reading. Owen is Wrong Genre Savvy and looks to Princess Malveera this way for most of the game. Over the course of the game, Joni gradually realizes that there is something up with the Princess, but Owen refuses to see it until it's revealed that she was the Big Bad all along.
  • 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 to 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.
  • I Am Not Weasel: The monkeys in 3rd Grade refer to the Cluefinders as hairless chimpanzees. Don't ask how a bunch of New World monkeys were able to acknowledge the existence of chimpanzees.
  • Idle Animation: In a number of games, Joni's is playing with one of her hair braids. In 4th Grade, Owen's involves pulling a hoagie out of Hammerspace and taking several bites from it.
  • Immortality Seeker: In Reading, Malicia wants the Amulet of Life in order to achieve immortality.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: 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! in 6th Grade will come off as this, unless you saw a scene that could be missed by using the Warp Whistle earlier.
    • In 3rd Grade, you can open up the map as soon as you start the game up and can see all three "worlds" in the game.
    • The Mastermind's true identity in Mystery Mansion Arcade is spoiled by having Carmen listed in the game's credits, something you could see before even completing the game.
  • 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.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: This applies to three out of four of the returning villains in Mystery Mansion Arcade, the exception being Loveless. The other three were, in their original game, only exposed as the villain as part of The Reveal. It's especially egregious when you consider that this game was included as a bonus disc with all the ClueFinders products, and it's absurd to expect that a third-grader who got it with 3rd Grade Adventures would have already completed 6th Grade Adventures.
  • Later Installment Weirdness:
    • 6th grade features a lot of CG, only two "worlds", you control Leslie and Owen the entire game (instead of just at the end), the second world has only Santiago giving hints, and the backpack makes a completely different noise.
    • Search and Solve also only features two "worlds".
    • Incredible Toy Store Adventure also features a much different voice cast. Additionally, both teams gathered resources, and a "One time" challenge (That could be repeated, in the case of the decoding alligators) appeared.
    • In the grade-based titles and Math Adventures, the sign-in screen is presented as a kind of contract in which you are putting your name down to help the ClueFinders on their adventure despite all the danger it will undoubtedly entail. This concept is dropped from Reading Adventures onwards, and Incredible Toy Store Adventure redesigns the sign-in screen entirely.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Every main game except 4th Grade. Granted, depending on the game, this may or may not be an active choice; cases in point: in 3rd Grade, Owen and Leslie volunteer to stay behind while Joni and Santiago complete the mission but in 6th Grade, Leslie and Owen end up having to rescue Joni and Santiago when the older pair end up captured by the plant people.
  • 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, where broccoli pizza is a regional favorite.
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • Interestingly, 4th Grade Adventures is this even compared to 3rd Grade Adventures, and has much more of a sense of humor.
    • Search and Solve compared to 5th, 6th, and Reading.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Characters dress the same in every main game except 4th Grade and Math.
  • Living Statue: The Cluefinders encounter the Sphinx and the statue of Thoth in 4th Grade Adventures, both who move around and talk to the Cluefinders.
  • Loophole Abuse: Gameplay example, in 3rd grade adventures, you had to solve the problems to figure out which tiles you had to hit in a Battleship style game. However, if you have a previously-existing right answer, you can simply hit adjacent tiles (Even if they are not the "correct" answer), and the game will accept this.
  • 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.
  • Mouse World: In 4th Grade Adventures, the Nile kingdom is inhabited by mice who are "convinced that they are Ancient Egyptians." Thus, they're constructing a mouse-sized version of Ancient Egypt.
  • 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?"
  • Nameless Narrative: Aside from the ClueFinders themselves, no one in Math Adventures has a name. Instead, the village residents are identified as "the guide," "the photographer," "the tailor," etc.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sir Alistair Loveless III in 4th Grade. Also a Preppy Name.
  • Nice Guy: 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.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In 5th Grade, open the map during the third act. It becomes much much scarier as you see nothing, and all you get is Laptrap panicking that they are trapped inside.
  • 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.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: Mathra is, for all intents and purposes, a dragon. While he has only four limbs, making him resemble a wyvern, he also exhibits all the major features of a Western dragon, right down to breathing fire. But in the game, he's only ever identified as a "monster" or, occasionally, a "beast".
  • 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. Not to mention, the game has a different art style than the rest of the games, the characters have different outfits, as well as its story revolving around mythology rather than sci-fi.
    • Math, for the fact that the entire game takes place in only one zone and the fact that the Cluefinders actually are collecting clues to find mysteries.
  • 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.
    • The Mystery of Microsneezia features Laptrap forgetting various details of the crew's adventures, not caring about the kids' safety and acting brave and enthusiastic about the current mission. It's his Evil Twin.
  • Off-Model: A noticeable problem in some of the later games. Reading is pretty bad about it.
  • 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.
  • Planetary Romance: Reading Adventures takes place in this genre, with the setting being an alien planet oriented much more towards fantasy than sci-fi.
  • Planetville: In Reading, the planet of Millennia seems to consist of Malveera's castle, the Crystal Caverns, the Mystic Mountains, and Mount Valdrok. At least, those are the only places the ClueFinders ever visit, and it seems to be enough to free the entire planet from Malicia. And Malveera says Mount Valdrok is "at the other side of my kingdom" while otherwise talking about the planet as though she rules the whole thing.
  • Point of No Return: Once you've cleared an area and moved on to the next one, you'll be unable to return to previous areas. However, there's still a Practice Mode where you can play all the games.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Same Language Dub: The U.K. release of the series redubs the characters with British voices, as well as changing some of their names. Oddly, characters who had British accents in the original American release, such as the quartet of talking flowers parodying The Beatles, were also redubbed. Perhaps their accents were judged to not be very good?
  • 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.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: In 3rd Grade, a tapir appears as one of the animals fleeing from Mathra in the "Do You Believe in Monsters?" song sequence.
  • 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. Though this could be an example of Santiago revealing his fear to the continuity. Also, he could have swallowed his fear all times except them.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Nearly all of Leslie's dialogue. Owen often translates her lines into Layman's Terms:
    Leslie: From all appearances, Owen and I are sequestered in some sort of subterranean chamber with no apparent means of egress.
    LapTrap: [eye roll]
    Owen: She means we're stuck underground somewhere.
    Leslie: That's what I said!
  • 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.
    • The Mystery of Microsneezia features this scenario with 2 LapTraps; Joni and Leslie end up pulling a Bluff the Impostor.
  • Strong Girl, Smart Guy: Whenever they're teamed up, Joni and Santiago fall into this dynamic.
    Joni: I'm not afraid of monsters!
    Santiago: I don't believe in monsters!
  • 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.
  • Toothy Bird: Horus in 4th Grade
  • 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.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for the games reveals some twists in the game for new players.
    • One of the scenes for 5th Grade Adventures shows the aliens.
    • A segment for 6th Grade Adventures shows Miss Rose transforming into her plant form.
  • 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. Fortunately, however, if you get a correct letter, you can often figure out where the rest of the ones in the word are and hit them even when 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. Literally; 6th Grade starts in one of their backyards and goes from there.
  • Wham Shot: At the end of Mystery Mansion Arcade, the kids confront the Mastermind leading the other villains, and surprise-surprise: it's Carmen Sandiego.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The games frequently end abruptly, but 5th Grade in particular leaves the most loose ends.
    • Was Lab-5 ever recovered from the seafloor?
    • Did the tubeworms end up "inside" when Leslie hit the tsunami button, or did they simply fall off when the spaceship shed its exterior?
    • The mystery of how people from different times are together is never answered, nor is the question of how all those people will adapt to modern civilization after being rescued.
    • None of the cast seems to care that the brain-eating aliens are still at large.
  • When He Smiles: Mathra at the end of 3rd Grade.
  • Women Are Wiser:
    • Minor case in The Mystery of Microsneezia where Owen and Santiago are thrown by the Spot the Impostor situation with Laptrap and S.N.A.I.L. but Joni and Leslie quickly work out a plan without exchanging a word.
    • The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee also features this with Joni who doesn't immediately buy the story that a local director was using the titular banshee to drum up publicity.
  • 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?"


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Clue Finders


Stuck Underground

Or as Leslie would say, "sequestered in a subterranean chamber with no apparent means of egress."

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / SesquipedalianLoquaciousness

Media sources:

Main / SesquipedalianLoquaciousness