The ClueFinders

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The ClueFinders is a series of educational software aimed at children aged eight to twelve. The series is produced by The Learning Company as a counterpart to their "Reader Rabbit" series for older elementary-aged students.

The ClueFinders include Joni Savage, Santiago Rivera, Owen Lam and Leslie Clark. The kids are accompanied on all their adventures by LapTrap, an anthropomorphic laptop computer who floats in the air. Although it is often spelled as "Clue Finders," "Cluefinders" or "Clue-Finders," even by sources such as the Internet Movie Database, the series' main title is properly spelled as one word with the "F" capitalized.[1]

The first ClueFinders title was released in 1998 and most of the subsequent games were released within the next two years. 2000 and 2001 each saw one new ClueFinders game, both followed by a different noneducational bonus disc, but no new games have been released since that time. However, bundles including multiple previously released titles, such as The ClueFinders Math Learning System 2007, have since been created.

Games in the series[edit]

The ClueFinders: Mystery of the Monkey Kingdom, which consists of portions of The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra, has also been released.

Overview[edit]

Content[edit]

Although the ClueFinders' adventures generally seem to take place in the contemporary real world, all the products in the series contain some elements of either fantasy, science fiction or both, with merely the continued presence of LapTrap pushing the series into the realm of science fiction. Nevertheless, the opening titles from The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures place the series in the present day.

For the most part, the games almost exclusively use 2D computer graphics and, when 3D graphics are used, it is almost always in cut scenes and therefore pre-rendered. The 2D graphics are apparently intended to mimic the look of hand-drawn animated cartoons with animations that use thick outlines and solid colors on two-dimensional backgrounds. For this reason, the series is often[2][3][4] described as imitating the look of a Saturday morning cartoon, Scooby-Doo being repeatedly cited by reviewers.

In a manner similar to Scooby Doo, a few of the ClueFinders games concluded with a monstrous creature turning out to be a hoax. This includes The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures and The ClueFinders Math Adventures where belief of the existence of a monster was perpetuated by an antagonistic character for personal gain.

Most of the ClueFinders games would separate the main characters into groups of two, and place them into a perilous or mysterious situation, posing both questions and problems that would be explained through cutscenes as the player progressed through the gameplay. These were ultimately resolved in the final scene once the player had "defeated" the game.

Structure[edit]

All the games in the series begin with a quick opening sequence that quickly establishes the game's premise, often ending with a cliffhanger, followed by a title card. The title card is followed by the sign-in screen, where the user can choose whether to play the adventure or to play the game's activities outside the adventure in "practice mode." Choosing to play the adventure will lead to a follow-up sequence which further establishes the premise as well as the overall goal of the game.

The bulk of each game involves traveling between different screens in a predetermined area which has various educational activities. The user will have to play these games to advance through the program and, often, to another area with different games. Most of the time, each area will have one activity that needs to be completed to advance onwards, but which can only be played by collecting items from all the other activities in the area. If a concentrated amount of time and energy is put into it, most players will be able to complete the program within a few hours. The ClueFinders Math Adventures, which takes a much longer time to finish, is an exception.

Throughout the series, the game options can be accessed by clicking on LapTrap. Typically, he carries the following options:

  • Map - provides the user with a map that will allow instantaneous transportation to any previously visited game screen; this option is often changed to "Choose Activity" in practice mode
  • Progress and Levels - provides the user (or the user's parents) with a progress report and the ability to change the leveling of specific activities; in The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures and The ClueFinders Math Adventures, the progress report and leveling files are separated
  • The ClueFinders Club - provides the user with a small database that contains information on each of the ClueFinders, LapTrap and the team's mascot Socrates
  • Settings - allows the user to turn on or off background music and/or background animations; in The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures, background music is given its own option while The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure! has an option to enable closed captioning (which is by default off), making it the only title in the ClueFinders series to offer closed captioning.
  • Credits - allows the user to view the game's credits
  • Quit Game - allows the user to quit the program; the game can also be quit from the sign-in screen
  • Sign In - returns the user to the sign-in screen
  • Return to Game - closes LapTrap, returning the user to the last game screen

Two games in the series feature a specific option that does not appear in any other game.

  • Logic Cube - in The ClueFinders Math Adventures, the user adjusts the Logic Cube to figure out which suspects are responsible for which thefts and where the stolen items have been hidden
  • Reference - in The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures, this file provides the user with information on ancient history for the "Chasm of Time" activity

In all the games except for The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, the ClueFinders are split into two teams at the start. A portable red videophone allows the two teams to make contact with each other and clicking on the phone provides the user with game hints from the other team. The other team will typically either be serving as backup, looking for clues, or else be captured and in need of rescue. In The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, Socrates fills the function of the videophone in providing the player with game hints.

Main characters[edit]

Joni[edit]

Joni Savage
First appearance The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Mystery Mansion Arcade (currently)
Information
Species Human
Gender Female
Title Team Leader
Family Dr. Horace Pythagoras (uncle)

Joni Savage is the leader and founder of the ClueFinders club. According to her profile in LapTrap's "ClueFinders Club" file, she is twelve years old and in the seventh grade. Joni is voiced by actress Chrissie McCarron.

Generally, Joni is depicted as being a bold, headstrong tomboy. She apparently claims to be absolutely fearless and she is, in fact, very courageous, often to the point of sheer recklessness. Nevertheless, it has been repeatedly demonstrated that she is not actually "absolutely fearless," although she might be loath to admit to that. This is best demonstrated in a scene from The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures in which she is obviously worried about her kidnapped uncle, but is not willing to admit it, and pretends instead to have been cheering up Santiago. However, she is still usually very adventurous and confident of success for the gang. Curiously, the programs' box art has an ironic tendency to depict her looking scared or alarmed. Her profile implies that she has a pet anaconda named "Jupiter", though he was never shown in the series.

Throughout the series, Joni is consistently portrayed as white with blue eyes, braided red hair and round glasses. In all but two entires in the series, she wears a yellow backpack, which serves as an inventory for items collected in the game. The two exceptions are The ClueFinders Math Adventures, in which no items need to be collected, and The Cluefinders 6th Grade Adventures, in which Leslie wears the backpack instead. Dr. Horace Pythagoras, the naturalist who must be rescued in The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures, is Joni's uncle.

Joni's "regular" outfit consists of a pink T-shirt, purple shorts, off-white socks, black shoes, and purple hair ribbons to match her shorts. The only games in which she does not appear in this outfit are The ClueFinders Math Adventures, in which she wears a "winter" variation of it as the game is set in the Himalayas, and The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, in which she wears a green T-shirt, a brown vest, blue jean shorts, pink socks with black shoes and blue hair ribbons. In The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures, while she wore her normal clothes while on land, Joni wore scuba gear for underwater adventures her wetsuit is black with red accents, her red scuba pack, black flippers, a weight belt, plus her red helmet.

Santiago[edit]

Santiago Rivera
First appearance The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Mystery Mansion Arcade (currently)
Information
Species Human
Gender Male
Title Team Equipment and Inventions Officer

Santiago Rivera is the team's highly skilled mechanic who can supposedly repair anything. He is voiced by Clayton Stroope.

Like Joni, Santiago is twelve and in seventh grade, making him and Joni the two oldest of the ClueFinders. He and Leslie, whom he has been consistently paired together since The ClueFinders Reading Adventures, form the "brains" of the outfit. Joni has stated in The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures that he is "the best scientist" among them. Personality wise, Santiago is rather sensible and level-headed, which runs counterpoint to Joni's rashness. He can also have a tendency to be hesitant about following Joni's more reckless exploits, preferring to think first before going into action. Despite this, Joni and Santiago seem to get along very well with each other. While not a coward, he does not seem to like getting into danger very much.

According to his profile in Laptrap's "Cluefinders Club" file, he has invented a machine that "hangs up his clothes, turns out the light and brushes his teeth for him. Now he's working on one for Joni." This suggests that he is a great inventor, and that he is also very helpful, as is further elucidated by his willingness to help Owen and Leslie stop the anthropomorphic plant people from invading Earth in the 6th grade title. His file also states that he takes saxophone lessons, listens to vinyl records and collects stamps, rocks, baseball cards, and comic books. He is portrayed throughout the books and games as being exceptionally polite and also possessing a mild fear of heights. In the ClueFinders book series, it is stated that his parents are Latin-American revolutionaries and that he lives with Joni's family while they are away.

Being Hispanic, Santiago has black hair. He is the tallest of the ClueFinders and his eyes are always drawn black. His "regular" outfit consists of a yellow sweat jacket with a greenish-black shirt underneath it, jeans and red tennis shoes. As with Joni, his outfit is altered to be more appropriate for the Himalayan climate in The ClueFinders Math Adventures. In The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, he wears a light blue T-shirt, jeans and a different pair of shoes. In The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures, while he wore his normal clothes while on land, his scuba gear for underwater adventures has a wetsuit that is black with blue accents, a blue scuba pack, black flippers, a weight belt, plus a blue helmet.

Owen[edit]

Owen Lam
First appearance The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Mystery Mansion Arcade (currently)
Information
Species Human
Gender Male
Title Team Supplies and Nutrition Officer

Owen Lam is the "hippest" member of the ClueFinders. His voice is provided by Brian Michael Gregory.

Owen loves pizza, skateboarding and, evidently, the word "dude." He is also to some degree, a source of comic relief in the games. His personality (and method of speaking) runs especially counter to Leslie's and the two of them frequently bounce off of each other. This is because Owen apparently finds her superfluously elaborate form of talking annoying (despite usually being easily able to understand her) and she dislikes the way in which he translates her complex words into layman's terms. However, it has been shown, as in The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures, that the two of them can get along when they need to. In more recent games, Owen is instead paired with Joni, whom he seems to get along better with.

Owen is eleven years old and in the sixth grade, making him the second youngest member of the team. His lucky hunches have helped the team solve all of their mysteries. His life's ambition is to be the first person to skateboard on Mars, according to his profile.

Owen is Asian-American and wears his black hair with a bowl cut and his "regular" outfit consists of a green shirt, blue shorts, orange tennis shoes and purple-lensed sunglasses. As with the others, his clothing was adapted for the climate of the Himalayas in The ClueFinders Math Adventures and, in The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, he wore an orange shirt, green shorts, sandals and the same glasses.

Leslie[edit]

Leslie Clark
First appearance The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Mystery Mansion Arcade (currently)
Information
Species Human
Gender Female
Title Team Research Officer
Family Captain Clark (grandfather)

Leslie Clark is the youngest and most intellectually inclined of the ClueFinders. Her grandfather is Captain Clark, the captain of the ship featured in The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures. Leslie is voiced by Keoni Asia Gist.

Her profile in LapTrap's "ClueFinders Club" file states that she won the National Spelling Bee when she was nine, holds the local record for checking out the most library books a year and that her first word was "encyclopedia." Leslie's trademark gag is the way in which she uses complicated words in casual conversation apparently in an attempt to display her extensive vocabulary. For example, she describes tossing a frisbee as "exploring the aerodynamics of this projectile". She teaches some classes and studies molecules in her spare time.

Leslie is African-American and always appears with her hair in dreadlocks, but her actual hair color varies from black in the earlier games to dark brown in the more recent ones. Leslie's eyes, usually drawn black, were shown to be green in The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures. She is ten years old, but is in the sixth grade, having skipped a grade. Leslie's age was originally given to be eleven in The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures, but this was changed in later products. Since The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures is the first game of the franchise and is a prequel to all of the others, the change is therefore a retcon.

Leslie's "regular" outfit consists of a yellow shirt with a matching miniskirt, a purple vest and small brownish shoes. As with the rest of the ClueFinders, her outfit was changed in The ClueFinders Math Adventures, which marks the only time she appears in pants rather than a skirt. In The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, she wore a light purple shirt and a dark blue skirt with matching boots. The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures marks the only game in which she wore the backpack instead of Joni, except it is orange instead of yellow. In The Cluefinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure!, she and Joni both wear identical backpacks.

LapTrap[edit]

LapTrap
First appearance The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Mystery Mansion Arcade (currently)
Information
Species Turbo T.U.R.T.L.E.
Gender Male (apparently)

LapTrap is an advanced artificial intelligence built in the form of a floating laptop. His voice is provided by Les Hedger, who also voices various other characters in the ClueFinders games. It is quite probable that his name is based on "laptop".

Specifically, LapTrap is described as being a Turbo T.U.R.T.L.E. (Turbocharged Ultra-Rugged-Terrain Laptop Equipment) and his function in the game is to carry the game options in a manner similar to P.O.P. (the "program options pad") from the Reader Rabbit series. Interestingly, both P.O.P. and LapTrap are small with a similarly "bug-eyed" appearance. Making a character serve as the options menu has the obvious advantage of eliminating the need for having any options appear on the game screen itself, though it means that LapTrap must always be clearly visible except in cut scenes.

LapTrap originally belonged to Dr. Horace Pythagoras in The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures, the first game in the series. At the end of the game, Dr. Pythagoras gave LapTrap to the ClueFinders and, much to his chagrin, LapTrap has since accompanied the kids on their subsequent adventures. LapTrap himself is quite anxious about being in dangerous situations and his protests are frequently a source of light comic relief. Nevertheless, he has occasionally displayed a reluctant willingness to join the kids on their adventures. Humor is also derived from his rather pompous nature and the great pride he takes in his technological abilities.

LapTrap is yellow in color and he usually floats so that he is at "eye level" with the kids. His "eyes" are located on one of the shorter sides side of his base and, except when he is displaying the game options, he always appears in a "closed" position. In The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, LapTrap appears very different from in all the other games, being more oval in shape and having green pupils. In all the other games, he is rectangular, though sometimes with slightly curved edges, and has either black or yellow pupils.

LapTrap can translate thirty languages into English (this may have been increased to thirty-one after the events of The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures) and, on two occasions, he had robotic arms extend out of his body so that he could grasp hold of something; however, in The ClueFinders Math Adventures, when entering the Great Hall, Laptrap talks about handball and Joni says "But you don't have arms." In The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures, he was shown to possess sonar and video projection technology and, sometime prior to The ClueFinders Reading Adventures, Dr. Pythagoras gave him the ability to create small probes called "LittleTraps." These LittleTraps are smaller than LapTrap and round with proportionally larger eyes than LapTrap. In The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure!, a character named AliTrap, who appears to be a LittleTrap, functions as a "second LapTrap", with LapTrap aiding Joni and Owen and AliTrap aiding Leslie and Santiago.

Socrates[edit]

Socrates
First appearance The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures
Last appearance The ClueFinders Reading Adventures
Information
Species Dog
Gender Male
Title Team Mascot and World's Smartest Dog

Socrates is the team's mascot and, supposedly, the world's smartest dog. He can't talk, but in his only major appearance, The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, he is shown to "think out loud" in the manner of Garfield and Snoopy. The voice for his "psychic thoughts" was provided by Derek Sorentino. In that game, he seemed to act as the game's narrator, an idea which is supported by the fact that he speaks in past tense in the cutscenes. In no other ClueFinders game is a narrator featured.

Socrates originally appeared in The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures, but he has not appeared since except for a brief, non-"speaking" cameo at the end of The ClueFinders Reading Adventures. Nevertheless, his profile remains in LapTrap's "ClueFinders Club" file.

According to his profile, the ClueFinders found Socrates on Gabistan, "the island of talking animals," where he appeared to be the only animal who couldn't talk. Despite this, he has PhD's in mathematics, literature, physics and philosophy from the University of Gabistan. Socrates was top of his class in obedience school and his "secret ambition" is to send LapTrap there. His profile states that he is twenty-eight, though whether or not this is literal or in "dog years" is unknown (though the latter idea is supported by the fact that twenty-eight literal years is, though not impossible to reach, quite old for a dog).

Notes[edit]

  • LeapFrog Enterprises has created three browser games ("Doom Elevator," "Jungle Adventure" and "Rescue") featuring the ClueFinders, though they use conspicuously different voice actors.[5] Two ClueFinders books, The Mystery of Microsneezia[6] and The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee,[7] were written by Ellen Weiss and illustrated by Mel Friedman.
  • FanFiction.Net currently has exactly sixteen stories featuring the ClueFinders, and a ClueFinders section was added to Games in 2010.[8]
  • The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures and The ClueFinders Search and Solve Adventures are both set in the ClueFinders' home town, which appears to be a typical American suburb. Based on The ClueFinders Reading Adventures, it seems that the ClueFinders' home town is located near the Sierras in California. The area under their town is inhabited by a secret civilization of sentient plant life. The local newspaper is called the Learning Times, which is a nod to the newspaper featured in the Reader Rabbit games.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Official ClueFinders website as well as the fact that this spelling is used on jewel cases.
  2. ^ SuperKids Software Review of Clue Finders Reading Adventures.
  3. ^ Yahoo! Auctions - Clue Finders - 4th Grade Adventures - The Learning Com
  4. ^ ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure
  5. ^ LeapFrog Games: Third and Fourth Grades
  6. ^ Microsneezia at Amazon.com
  7. ^ Banshee at Amazon.com
  8. ^ ClueFinders FanFiction Archive. FanFiction. Retrieved on 2013-09-05.