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Genres Educational, puzzle
Developers Brøderbund Software (1996)
The Learning Company (2001-2)
TERC, FableVision, and Learning Games Network (2015+)
Publishers Brøderbund Software (1996)
The Learning Company (2001-2)
TERC (2015+)
Platforms Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, OS X, iOS, Android
First release Logical Journey of the Zoombinis
March 1996
Latest release Zoombinis
August 2015

Zoombinis are a series of educational puzzle computer games that were originally developed by TERC and published by Brøderbund Software until The Learning Company bought Brøderbund in 1998 and took over developing and publishing the series in 2001. The series consists of 3 games: "Logical Journey of the Zoombinis" (1996), "Zoombinis: Mountain Rescue" (2001), and "Zoombinis: Island Odyssey" (2002). A new version of the original Zoombinis game (Logical Journey), updated for tablets and modern operating systems, was released by TERC, FableVision, and Learning Games Network on August 6, 2015.[1][2]

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis (1996)[edit]

Screenshot of gameplay

Zoombinis—small blue creatures, each with distinct personalities and appearances—are escaping imprisonment by the evil Bloats, who have taken over the Zoombinis' homeland in Zoombini Isle. Players take on the role of guide and help the Zoombinis reach the safety of Zoombiniville. Throughout the Zoombinis' journey, the player has to solve puzzles, such as having to figure out which pizza toppings Arno and his fellow trolls want on their pizzas in order to let the Zoombinis pass, or figuring out which "mudballs" to launch at a grid-covered wall in order to catapult the Zoombinis up a cliff. The player helps them across many challenges, eventually getting the Zoombinis to Zoombiniville (or Zoombiniton in some countries), a town where it is safe from danger and the Zoombinis can prosper.

The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro wrote that the game was less insipid than he expected, and that the pattern and deductive logic puzzles teach "how to think" rather than a specific skill.[3] Karney said the game was fun and praised its audio cues for children with little reading skills. The game was made in 1995, and released in 1996.[4] In 1997, the game won "Best Home Education for Pre-Teens" at the 12th Codie awards.[5]


The player starts at Zoombini Isle, where they assemble a team of 16 Zoombinis, picking from 5 options each in haircut, eyes, nose color, and footwear, as shown above. Each combination can be used twice in the game, so not all 625 possible combinations are necessary to get all of the required Zoombinis across to Zoombiniville.

Zoombini Isle to Shelter Rock-- "The Big, The Bad, And the Hungry"[edit]

Allergic Cliffs[edit]

There are two bridges hanging over a cliff supported by six wooden pegs. The Zoombinis can only cross one of the bridges, and the bridge they are allowed to cross is determined by their characteristics. If the wrong bridge is selected, the face embedded in the cliff will have an allergic reaction and the Zoombini will be sent tumbling or flying back to the other side. As a result, a peg will spring loose and drop down the cliff. If all six pegs come loose, the bridges will collapse onto the faces and the Zoombinis who did not make it to the other side will be stranded, unable to cross between the cliffs. Assuming the player actually moves the same Zoombini to each of the two bridges (where the first bridge was wrong and the second bridge is the correct one), the player is guaranteed five Zoombinis to the other side.

Stone Cold Caves[edit]

The Zoombinis arrive at a stone face divided into four caves, which can be accessed by one path each. Each path is guarded by two stone guardians, who will only let Zoombinis pass if they have the right characteristics, similar to Allergic Cliffs. If the wrong cave is selected, a guardian will release a rock slide, sending the Zoombini tumbling down the path to the bottom. The player has many chances to find the right cave for each Zoombini before a rock slide tumbles down from above and seals the cave paths, leaving behind those who have not entered a cave. There is wise and quiet Onyx, sweet and snobbish Ferrous, grouchy and mean Ignorameous, and cute and beautiful Crystal.

Pizza Pass[edit]

The Zoombinis arrive on a dirt road guarded by three tree trolls: Arno, Willa and Shyler. There is a pizza machine to the left which has options for different toppings for a pizza and ice cream. The trolls are hungry, and the player must create a pizza with unique toppings for each of them. If none of the trolls are happy with the toppings on the pizza, it will be thrown into a pit. But if one of the trolls likes all of the toppings present on the pizza, it will be thrown onto the rock behind that troll instead. Once a troll receives a pizza with all of the wanted toppings on it, the troll will move to stand on his or her respective rock and wait for the remaining trolls to be satisfied. If the player is unsuccessful in delivering the correct pizza after 6 tries, the Zoombini delivering the pizza will be whacked back a short distance by the nearest troll that is present. If there are more incorrect delivers, the Zoombini will be whacked back to Zoombini Isle. The more incorrect deliveries, the more Zoombinis will be whacked away. Once all trolls are satisfied, they will finish their pizzas until their tummies are full and the remaining Zoombinis will then be allowed to continue their journey. Arno is grouchy and naive, Willa is beautiful, witty and bossy, and Shyler is very shy, quiet, sweet, and cute.

There are significant changes to the puzzle as the level of difficulty increases:

  • Not So Easy: Only Arno is present, and there are five pizza toppings.
  • Oh, So Hard: Willa is added, giving a total of two trolls. There are now four pizza toppings, and ice cream is added with a total of 2 toppings.
  • Very Hard: Shyler is now added, so all trolls are present. Ice cream toppings remain the same as the preceding level, but all five pizza toppings can now be used.
  • Very, Very Hard: Same as Very Hard, but now with three ice cream toppings.

Shelter Rock to Shade Tree[edit]

At the Shelter Rock checkpoint, there are two different paths to take the Zoombinis along on their trek to Zoombiniville, a north path through "Who's Bayou", and a south path through the "Deep, Dark Forest".

North Trail-- "Who's Bayou"[edit]
Captain Cajun's Ferry Boat[edit]

The Zoombinis must be placed on Captain Cajon's boat so that every Zoombini has at least 1 feature in common with the Zoombini sitting next to them. Captain Cajun will throw any Zoombini placed incorrectly off the boat and back onto the dock. In Not so Easy, each Zoombini will be next to 1 or 2 Zoombinis. In Oh So Hard, it is a 2 x 8, where each Zoombini will be next to 2 or 3 Zoombinis. Very Hard is a 4 x 4, where there are 3 or 4 Zoombinis next to each one. Very, Very Hard is a 4 x 4 but with the rows slightly shifted, so that there are up to 6 Zoombinis next to each one.

Tattooed Toads[edit]
Stone Rise[edit]
South Trail--"Deep, Dark Forest"[edit]

The Zoombinis arrive at a clearing in the forest, where they encounter sixteen fleens on rock formation and a tree branch. Each fleen has four distinct features, hair, nose color, eyes, and feet, which correspond to features on each of the sixteen Zoombinis. In the Not So Easy level, each feature directly corresponds to the feature of the Zoombinis, while later levels may use a transitive function or randomize the correlation. The goal of the level is to remove all three fleens from the tree branch, while using as few Zoombinis as possible, since there is only room for 6 Zoombinis to stand out of the way before they fall off of their branch and are chased by their matching fleens back to Shelter Rock. When all three fleens are removed from the branch, a swarm of hornets emerges from their nest and chase the fleens away, allowing the Zoombinis to continue through the forest.

Hotel Dimensia[edit]
Mudball Wall[edit]

Shade Tree to Zoombiniville-- "The Mountains of Despair"[edit]

Lion's Lair[edit]
Crystal Mirror Level[edit]
Bubble Wonder Abyss[edit]


Zoombiniville is where the Zoombinis form a new society after having to leave Zoombini Isle. For each leg of the journey completed at each of the four difficulties, a new monument is added to the town, for a total of 16.

Zoombiniville Monuments
Monument Section Difficulty
The Big, The Bad, and The Hungry Not So Easy
The Big, The Bad, and The Hungry Oh So Hard
The Big, The Bad, and The Hungry Very Hard
The Big, The Bad, and The Hungry Very Very Hard
Who's Bayou Not So Easy
Who's Bayou Oh So Hard
Who's Bayou Very Hard
Who's Bayou Very Very Hard
Deep, Dark Forest Not So Easy
Deep, Dark Forest Oh So Hard
Deep, Dark Forest Very Hard
Deep, Dark Forest Very Very Hard
Mountains of Despair Not So Easy
Mountains of Despair Oh So Hard
Mountains of Despair Very Hard
Mountains of Despair Very Very Hard

Zoombinis Mountain Rescue (2001)[edit]

After the foundation of Zoombiniville, the Zoombinis find peace once more, until a small group of them get trapped inside a cave seeking shelter from a storm. They meet up with strange creatures called Boolies who occupy a city known as Booliewood. As a result of the storm, the Boolies have been scattered across the land, and their leader, the Grand Boolie Boolie, has disappeared. The goal of the game is to recruit a total of 400 Boolies to Booliewood to resurrect the Grand Boolie Boolie.


The player begins in Zoombiniville, where they assemble a team of 16 Zoombinis. There are two "Rescue Site" checkpoints between Zoombiniville and Booliewood, where Zoombinis that do not make it through challenges return to.

Zoombiniville to Rescue Site 1[edit]


Similar to the "Lion's Lair" level in "Logical Journey of the Zoombinis", the 16 Zoombinis must be arranged in a specific order across the shells of 16 turtles that form a bridge across a river, based on a guide engraved on a log along the bank. misplaced Zoombinis are tossed to the correct turtle, and a leg is removed from the pier. When all of the legs fall away from the pier, it falls into the water and any remaining Zoombinis are sent back to Zoombiniville.

Pipes of Paloo[edit]

Similar to "Stone Rise" from "Logical Journey", the Zoombinis must be matched together across a network of platforms, with each pair of Zoombinis having a given feature (hair, nose color, foot, or eye) in common. The plumbing networks range from simple pairings in "Not so Easy" to a single interconnected network of all 16 Zoombinis in "Very Hard". When all connections are made, or the player gives up and leaves Zoombinis behind, they turn a master valve with the click of their mouse, and the Zoombinis are sucked down into the plumbing system.

Aqua Cube[edit]

The Aqua Cube consists of a pod in each of its 8 (or 16 for Very Hard, with 2 interconnected cubes) corners, which contain either a Zoombini or a Fleen. The player operates a control panel with 3 (or 4 in Very Hard to jump between inner and outer cubes) levers to move around the cube in each of the 3 dimensions and save the Zoombinis while avoiding the Fleen(s). If the player catches a Fleen, it chases any saved Zoombinis back to Zoombiniville. In the Oh So Hard and Very Hard levels, there is also a "Warp" button, which allows the player to pull multiple levers in a short amount of time to move across multiple sections of the cube in a single turn and reach stranded Zoombinis while avoiding Fleens.

Rescue Site 1 to Rescue Site 2[edit]

After exiting the Aqua Cube, the Zoombinis reach the first "Rescue Site" checkpoint, where the player can store their Zoombinis and go to other bases on the map before continuing their rescue mission. The second leg of the journey only requires 8 Zoombinis instead of 16, so it is more likely that a player can continue on without having to go back to Zoombiniville and send more Zoombinis before moving on. From Rescue Site 1 there are 2 different routes through the cave network, a left (north on map) and right (south) tunnel.

Zoombinis Island Odyssey (2002)[edit]

In this game, the Zoombinis discover that they left the native moths to die in their former homeland of Zoombini Isle, and return to the Isle, which is now empty of the colonist Bloats who earlier enslaved the Zoombinis. A group of 12 Zoombinis, which can be customized, are each carrying a caterpillar in order to restore the island life. The player must then complete different puzzles, such as growing berries and breeding butterflies, to eventually restore the ecosystem of the island. This is the first game of the series to incorporate science in the puzzles, which include intersection of rates, decoding, astronomical time, Venn diagrams, and Punnett squares, as well as some reincarnations of puzzles from Logical Journey. The graphics have again changed, and the Zoombinis' features are no longer important to gameplay. Here, they are fully 3-D. When the Zoombinis release 224 Zerbles (native wildlife) into the wild, the Zoombinis return to Zoombiniville, and the game is won.

Zoombinis (2015)[edit]

Graphics improvement of updated game
Original Pizza Pass level
Updated Pizza Pass level

Zoombinis is a remake of the original Zoombinis game (Logical Journey of the Zoombinis).[6][7] The main improvements of the remake are updated graphics (see pictures) and that the game is designed to run on modern operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, and others). Zoombinis was officially released on 6 August 2015 for iOS and Android and was released for Windows and Mac, as well as Kindle Fire,[8] on 28 October 2015.[9]

In 2014, TERC, the original creator of Zoombinis, began an internally funded redevelopment of the game. Then, in March 2015, they launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund additional enhancements and releases, including PC and Kindle versions. It was successfully funded.[10] Also in 2015, the National Science Foundation awarded TERC nearly $2 million to study how much "computational thinking" kids do while playing Zoombinis, both at home and in the classroom, and whether teachers can extend the lessons outside the game.[11][12]

Educational Effects[edit]

As a computer game, Zoombinis is an entertaining activity for students from elementary to middle school. However, as an educational tool, Zoombinis stands above many other mathematical, analytical, and logical educational methods. The game works with problem solving through mathematics, deduction, and hypothesis testing primarily by clearly stating the goal of the problem at hand, with the option to either deduce for one's self or learn from with gameplay strategies for success.[13]

Mathematical Aspects[edit | edit source][edit]

The different games a player encounters when trying to get the Zoombinis from Zoombini Isle to Zoombiniville represent many mathematical characteristics. "Pizza Pass", "Allergic Cliffs", and "Stone Cold Caves" exercise the sorting, grouping, and comparing of information. "Captain Cajun's Ferryboat", "Stone Rise", and "Titanic Tattooed Toads" reinforce ordering, linking information, and problem solving. "Fleens!", "Mudball Wall", and "Hotel Dimensia" emphasize graphing and mapping, while "Lions' Lair", "Mirror Machine", and "Bubblewonder Abyss" train the player in sorting, organizing, and algebraic thinking.[14]

Deductive Reasoning[edit | edit source][edit]

Sub-games such as "Allergic Cliffs" and "Stone Cold Caves" require the player to find patterns and arrangements of the Zoombinis in order to pass the obstacle. Each game also has a select number of attempts which may be failures before a Zoombini is taken back to the beginning of the game at Zoombini Isle, giving an incentive for the player to think critically and not randomly guess answers. As a result, these games enable players' deductive skills while also enforcing strategic efficiency.[14]

Hypothesis Testing[edit]

Players also encounter critical thinking with testing and observing different logical outcomes in "Pizza Pass" and "Mudball Wall". By examining the varying characteristics of toppings on a pizza and the number and color of dots on a wall, the player can experiment with the correct patterns to get the Zoombinis to the next level. Similarly, with the deductive reasoning sub-games, these exercises discourage random guessing by giving only a few options to fail before losing a Zoombini.[14] However, with the games that involve more hypothesis testing, the incorrect guesses remain on the screen in a categorized pile so that the player might learn from previous attempts to come to the correct conclusion.

Game Effectivness With Students[edit]

With the game's release in the Spring of 1996, through its continued use in the present, observations of the game have shown it to be efficient and useful for students and teachers alike. As a learning tool, the game is fun and interactive for children born into the continuously evolving technological era of 2016. The characters are generalized, but still have a cartoonish look to entice any young person who wants to learn, and the format of the game inspires group work. The communication created between two or more players talking about how to find the right kind of pizza or nose, eyes, and hair matching Zoombini is a simple and effective way that students have fun learning with the game.[15]


  1. ^ Dean Takahashi (2015-02-17). "Nonprofit brings back Zoombinis educational game and launches Kickstarter". VentureBeat. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  2. ^ Shao, Yiqing (2015-02-18). "Zoombinis App to Be Released for Tablets and Desktop". Boston magazine. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  3. ^ Pegoraro, Rob (April 7, 1996). "The Learning Game". The Washington Post  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Logical Journey of the Zoombinis.(Broderbund)(The Learning Arcade) (Software Review)(Brief Article)(Evaluation)". Computer Shopper (subscription required) – via HighBeam Research. 
  5. ^ "1997 Codies awarded for best software.". Tape-Disc Business  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). April 1, 1997. Retrieved 23 May 2014. 
  6. ^ "Zoombinis on the App Store". iTunes App Store. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  7. ^ "Zoombinis on Google Play". Google Play. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  8. ^ "Zoombinis app page". Amazon app store. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  9. ^ "Zoombinis Steam Page". Steam. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "Zoombinis". TERC. Kickstarter. February 17, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  11. ^ Toppo, Greg (2015-08-06). "How a beloved video game came back from the dead 20 years after its improbable birth". Usatoday.com. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  12. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award#1502882 - Zoombinis: The Full Development Implementation Research Study of a Computational Thinking Game for Upper Elementary and Middle School Learners". Nsf.gov. Retrieved 2016-04-16. 
  13. ^ MURRAY, MEGAN; MOKROS, JAN; RUBIN, ANDEE (1999-01-01). "Mathematically Rich, Equitable Game Software". Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School. 5 (3): 180–186. 
  14. ^ a b c Moss, Thomas P. (2004-01-01). Playful thoughts: A study of the effects of “Logical Journey of the Zoombinis” on elementary students' mathematical attitudes and reasoning skills (Ed.D. thesis). United States -- New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. 
  15. ^ Rubin, Andee et al. What Kind Of Educational Computer Games Would Girls Like?. 1st ed. Massachusetts: TERC, 1997. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

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