Ever wanted to go on a secret mission with a hamster, elephant or a chicken? Now's your chance.
There's something about the Spy Fiction genre that makes it perfect for geography edutainment works. Kids think the idea of being an international spy is awesome and spies really do have to be up on the geography, culture, and history of the places they work in. In the 80s, Brøderbund Software did it with Carmen Sandiego, in the 90s, Highlights for Children did it with Top Secret Adventures, and in 2003, WGBH created their own entry in the genre, but with a few twists...
Welcome to the Fin, Fur, and Feather Bureau of Investigation.
The FFFBI is an educational website featuring flash games, quizzes, and quasi-text adventures that educate about geography and world cultures. It's also really, really, funny, and quite Troperiffic.
The animal agents of the FFFBI travel the world thwarting outlandish plots by villains like CRUST, a conspiracy of crustaceans bent on ruling both Earth and Mars, the Cyber-Toothed Tigers, a gang of feline computer criminals, and the Sandwich-Faced Daddy's Boys, a group of none-too-bright gangster gnus. They're sometimes assisted by other law enforcement agencies like Scotland Barnyard, InterPoultry and their bitter rivals, the Clean-cut and Impossibly Intelligent Interspecies Agency, or CIIIA. (Did we mention this is a World of Pun?)
Operatives of the FFFBI include:
- Deputy Director Napoleon, a rather incompetent and dim-witted king penguin obsessed with food, the head of the agency.
- Duty Officer Abe Soloman, a hammerhead shark Master of Disguise who can be a bit scatterbrained but has his heart in the right place.
- Agent Gwendolyn Wrist, a hyperactive hen obsessed with multitasking, something of a Cloud Cuckoolander.
- Agent Nelson, a somewhat slow-witted African Elephant and alleged stealth expert.
- Agent Harry Elbow, a meek hamster technology expert.
- Agent Bridgette LeMoo, a French cow, the resident linguistics expert and Only Sane Woman. On loan from InterPoultry.
- Agents Sonia Surge and Gina Glitch, bickering twin computer bugs and martial arts enthusiasts.
- Agent Mitch "The Itch" McGurk, a Jazz-loving weasel who prefers to work alone.
- Agent Wrench, a literal grease monkey who works as a janitor and mechanic. A bit cynical.
- Coffee Guy (real name unknown), a hippie/beatnik mandrill with a Mysterious Past and a coffee obsession in charge of post-mission debriefing.
This Dossier lists tropes used by the FFFBI
- The Ace: The Clean-cut and Impossibly Intelligent Interspecies Agency.
- Action Girl: Wrist, Surge and Glitch, and LeMoo are all effective secret agents, although Surge and Glitch are the most focused on combat. LeMoo isn't usually a field agent, but manages to save the day in I Left My Art In San Francisco.
- Angels Pose: Glitch and Surge strike these in some of the photos of them.
- Atrocious Alias: The Sandwich-Faced Daddy's Boys have one in-universe— their name is meaningless, not at all intimidating, and was only chosen because apparently every other possible name for a gang had already been taken.
- Civilized Animal: They wear clothes, build and use technology, and engage in espionage. (And have the same countries and cities as in our world.)
- Cunning Linguist: Agent LeMoo speaks "over 22 languages" including "all major European, African, and Asian" ones (and Pig Latin), and apparently attempted to learn three more over the course of a weekend.
- The Cracker: Most of the Cyber-Toothed Tigers' crimes focus on causing havoc to computer systems or the Internet.
- Daytime Drama Queen: Agent LeMoo is apparently obsessed with Spanish-language Telenovelas, but claims it's only to keep her Spanish fresh.
- Defective Detective: The FFFBI agents all have their neuroses and idiosyncrasies and tend to screw up comically, but they do always manage to save the day in the end. (At least if you've been playing right.) In-Universe, other agencies consider them incompetent— a letter from the director of Scotland Barnyard on LeMoo's desk describes them as "less like a workplace, and more like a family, and a dysfunctional one at that." But LeMoo still prefers it to working anywhere else.
- Edutainment Show: A website that features games and text adventures teaching about geography as well as some other subjects like art and science.
- FBI Agent: All of the operatives, plus the player in missions where you're addressed directly.
- Fun with Acronyms: FFFBI, CIIIA, CRUST, and more.
- The Ghost: The Bureau Director is never seen, although Napoleon once refers to them as "she", implying that the current office-holder is a female of an unknown species. On a larger scale, the Axis of Weasels are referred to as one of the FFFBI's enemies, but are never encountered in the course of the mysteries.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Most of the international missions feature a few words of the local language spoken in dialogue, and there's usually a puzzle based on the phrasebook portion of the Dossier.
- Gratuitous French: Agent LeMoo sometimes throws French words into her English dialogue.
- Instant Expert: In Greenback Blues, Agent LeMoo claims she is attempting to learn three new languages over a weekend. In I Left My Art In San Francisco, she becomes an art expert over the course of another weekend.
- Interpol Special Agent: InterPoultry is Interpol's equivalent in the FFFBI-verse. Despite the name and the many bird-related puns in the briefing statement about them, they do employ non-avian agents like LeMoo, a Jersey cow.
- Interservice Rivalry: The intense rivalry between the FFFBI and CIIIA, to the extent that Napoleon issues an agency memo devoted to strategies for defeating them at tug-of-war at an inter-agency picnic.
- Interspecies Romance: In Destination: India, Agent Nelson, an elephant, has a Celebrity Crush on Gita Rai, a tigress.
- Intrepid Reporter: Bunkum and Codswallop are a duo of frog journalists who occasionally expose the FFFBI's weaknesses. They're something of a parody of Woodward and Bernstein as depicted in All the President's Men.
- Kangaroos Represent Australia: Agent Adelaide Cairns, a kangaroo, is the contact from the FFFBI's Sydney Bureau Office in Destination: Australia.
- Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: While we mostly see anthropomorphic animals in the course of the missions, CRUST's mission statement says they want revenge on humans for eating their compatriots with butter, and in some of the missions where he talks directly to you, Napoleon says that the FFFBI normally doesn't hire humans (because Humans Are Morons), but they're asking you for help this one time because they're desperate.
- Master of Disguise: Agents Soloman and Nelson are both supposed to be this. Soloman's disguises work more-often In-Universe, but both tend to look comically like paper-thin disguises in the illustrations, probably out of Rule of Funny.
- Mission Control: Most of the international missions have an active agent pared with an agent at home by Hidden Wire who gives them advice and background on the locale.
- Must Have Caffeine: Coffee Guy, hence his name.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Agent Nelson's bio mentions that he is named for Nelson Mandela. Presumably this would make Nelson his first name, but it's hard to tell, as he has Only One Name.
- Only Sane Woman: Agent LeMoo, usually.
- Overt Operative: The FFFBI's agents never really try to disguise the fact that they're spies.
- Panthera Awesome: Most big cats in the FFFBI universe seem to be quite popular or charismatic. Tiger Skip Intro, the head of the Cyber-Toothed Tigers, is a criminal mastermind noted for his charisma, tigress Gita Rai is a famous Bollywood actress, and Agent Bao the clouded leopard is the closest the FFFBI comes to a suave, Tuxedo and Martini-style agent.
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Quite frequently, usually intentional because of the comedic nature of the site.
- Spy Fiction: The same sort of comical, nonalchoholic take on the Martini-flavor as Kim Possible and Spy Kids. Kool-Aid?
- World of Pun: And how.
- Worst News Judgement Ever: Destination: India has a clipping from the India Inquirer about new bi-numerical street signs (both Hindi and Arabic numerals) being installed in New Delhi that ends with the Lampshade Hanging "Bystanders agreed with India Inquirer reporters that it was indeed a slow day for news." However, we don't see a page number, so it's possible the article didn't appear on the front page.