The ClueFinders

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The ClueFinders
The ClueFinders.jpg
The four members of the Cluefinders team: Leslie, Santiago, Owen, and Joni. The inclusion of four races in the main cast has been pointed out by many critics.
Developer(s)The Learning Company
Publisher(s)The Learning Company (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Year of inceptionJanuary, 1998[1]
First releaseThe ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra
January, 1998[1]
Latest releaseThe ClueFinders: Mystery Mansion Arcade

The ClueFinders is a series of educational software aimed at children aged eight to twelve. The series was created by The Learning Company as a counterpart to their Reader Rabbit series for older elementary-aged students and features a band of mystery-solving teens. The series has received praise for its balance of education and entertainment and has won numerous awards.


The Learning Company era (1997-2001)[edit]

ClueFInders was conceived as a continuation of the Reader Rabbit series, appealing to the older 3rd-6th grade level.[2] The first ClueFinders title, The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures, was released in 1998 and most of the subsequent games were released within the next two years.[citation needed] The ClueFinders' 4th Grade Adventures' was announced on July 13, 1998.[3] Later that year, The Learning Company used Cluefinders' 4th Grade Adventures as the prototype for Internet Applet technology that allowed users to download supplementary activities from the Cluefinders website.[4] Six games were released across 1998-1999, while 2000 and 2001 each saw one new ClueFinders game.[citation needed] These releases were followed by noneducational bonus discs.[citation needed] Cluefinders held a writing competition in 2001.[5] Sponsored by The Learning Company, the competition was open to 3rd-6th grade classrooms in the United States. The winning essay - a new adventure for the ClueFinders crew, won an iMac.[6] In 1998, The Learning Company was acquired by Mattel for $3.7 billion, considered one of the worst deals in business history; the following year Mattel sold off their The Learning Company assets to Gores Technology Group.[7] 2000's The ClueFinders 4th grade adventures: was the first to include the A.D.A.P.T technology, which allowed teachers and parents to monitor the player's progress and included auto-adjustable levels based on the player's ability.[8] In the year 2000, Mattel Interactive hired professional writers Jill Gorey and Barbara Herndon had designed a concept for a TV series, however, the franchise never made its way to television.[9]

Riverdeep/HMH era (2001-present)[edit]

In 2001, Riverdeep acquired many of The Learning Company's properties from Gores Technology Group by selling $40 million in stock.[10] Carmen Sandiego, ClueFinders, and Reader Rabbit were then licensed to the KidsEdge Website in 2002 where they were available to play among 170 games and activities.[11][12] In 2003, The ClueFinders' Reading Adventures was reconfigured to run on Windows XP.[13] The 2004 RCN InterACTION service allowed parents to stream over 35 games in series such as Carmen Sandiego, Clifford the Big Red Dog and ClueFinders over a broadband connection.[14] Compilations including multiple previously released titles, such as Cluefinders Adventure Pack and Cluefinders Triple Pack' have since been created[citation needed] as well as bundled which includes a single ClueFinders title (often "The ClueFinders Reading Adventures") among other games (mostly other Learning Company games) in series such as "Adventure Workshop" and "After School Clubhouse".[citation needed] In addition, the 3rd till 6th grade titles were re-released on the iOS platform on December 19, 2010.[15] Around this time,[15] LeapFrog Enterprises created three Browser games, which cast different voice actors. As of 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (the successor of Riverdeep) is offering the Cluefinders brand as a licensing opportunity on its website.[16]



Development of the games' "super compelling" and "rich" backstory took 16 months.[2] The ClueFinders' adventures take place in the contemporary real world incorporating some elements of fantasy and science fiction, with merely the continued presence of LapTrap pushing the series into the realm of science fiction. They simultaneously had a sense of urgency toward an end goal while allowing players to explore and use their minds on puzzles.[2] Nevertheless, the opening titles from The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures place the series in the present day. The main cast of "complex" and "flawed" characters include ClueFinders founder and tomboy Joni, skater dude Owen, mechanically-minded Santiago, literary-minded Leslie, artificial intelligent LapTrap, and intelligent dog Socrates.[2] They were chosen to be around the same age as the players after the art director ran various character designs by a group of kids; unsuccessful designs included animals, rock stars, FBI agents, which came across as babysitters instead of teammates.[2] They were designed with distinct personalities and with identifiable faults to increase their relatability.[3] The developers used a character grid to aid their writing; it contained information such as: "their flaws, their fears, how they met, where they grew up, and their likely reactions to certain situations".[2]


The series consists of "Multisubject by grade" programs, in which players practice skills and advance understanding of grade-based content.[17] The player can choose to play the adventure mode 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. 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. 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.

Graphics and coding[edit]

During the gameplay, 2D computer graphics are used in the style 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[18][19][20] described as imitating the look of a Saturday morning cartoon Scooby-Doo being repeatedly cited by reviewers. Cutscenes, however, use pre-rendered 3D graphics.

Educational goals[edit]

While Reader Rabbit was popular with younger audiences, the Learning Company came up with ClueFinders to appeal to third graders onward for both boys and girls. To coincide with kids' abstract thinking, the games were activity-centered and included cross-curriculum topics more sophisticated than preschool material, which included algebra, grammar and spelling. To ensure that users actually learned something, the educational content came first before the puzzles, gameplay, and objectives.[2] Andy Young, vice president of product marketing for The Learning Company, noted that the ClueFinders series aimed to show children that it was "cool to be smart".[3] The A.D.A.P.T. Learning Technology was introduced into The ClueFinders titles in 1999; the system contained a series of customisable features that would facilitate the player's learning by Assessing abilities, Developing skills, Adjusting levels, Providing help, and Tracking progress.[21]

Products in the series[edit]

List of games[edit]

Games Platforms and Release Years
The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra

Titled The ClueFinders Year 3 / Cluefinders 3 & 4 in UK

The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures: Puzzle of the Pyramid

Titled The ClueFinders Year 4 / Cluefinders 4 & 5 in UK

The ClueFinders Math Adventures: Mystery of the Himalayas

The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures: The Secret of the Living Volcano

Titled The ClueFinders Year 5 / Cluefinders 5 & 6 in UK

The ClueFinders 6th Grade Adventures: The Empire of the Plant People

Titled The ClueFinders Year 6 / Cluefinders 6 & 7 in UK

The ClueFinders Reading Adventures: Mystery of the Missing Amulet Windows, Macintosh (1999)

Included as a bonus disc with other ClueFinders titles

The Cluefinders Search and Solve Adventures: The Phantom Amusement Park Windows, Macintosh (2000)
The ClueFinders Real World Adventure Kit Windows, Macintosh (2001)

Included as a bonus disc with other ClueFinders titles

The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure! Windows, Macintosh (2001)
The ClueFinders: Mystery Mansion Arcade Windows, Macintosh (2002)

Included as a bonus disc with other ClueFinders titles

ClueFinders: Doom Elevator Browser game
ClueFinders: Jungle Adventure Browser game
ClueFinders: Rescue Browser game


Title Year Games
ClueFinders Adventure Pack[22] 2003
  • The ClueFinders Search and Solve Adventures: The Phantom Amusement Park
  • The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure!
  • The ClueFinders Reading Adventures: Mystery of the Missing Amulet
ClueFinders Triple Pack[23] 2005
  • The ClueFinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra
  • The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures: Puzzle of the Pyramid
  • The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures: The Secret of the Living Volcano
Cluefinders Math Learning System[24] 2007

Books and fan fiction[edit]

Two ClueFinders books, The Mystery of Microsneezia and The Mystery of the Backlot Banshee, were written by Ellen Weiss and illustrated by Mel Friedman.

FanFiction.Net currently has exactly eighteen stories featuring the ClueFinders, and a ClueFinders section was added to Games in 2010.[25]

Other Languages[edit]

  • French (titled "Le Club Des Trouvetout"). These French versions were distributed/published by The Learning Company subsidiary TLC-Edusoft.[26]
  • German (titled "Die Schlaue Bande")
  • Portuguese (titled "Os Caça-Pistas")
  • Dutch (titled "Junior Detectives")
  • Russian (titled "Следопыты")
  • Spanish (titled "Los Pequeños Exploradores")


Computer Shopper and SuperKids described 3rd Grade Adventures as the educational equivalent of the Indiana Jones trilogy,[27][28] while the Chicago Tribune thought the "hip environmental mystery" eased children into applying their thinking and thinking skills through its mystery, animation, and challenges, commenting that it "shines in almost every way".[29] Kiplinger's Personal Finance thought 4th Grade Adventures "works hard for its players' enjoyment".[30] Discovery Education wrote that 5th Grade Adventures "seamlessly combines fun and learning".[31] SuperKids praised the "cartoon quality animation and an alluring storyline" of Math Adventures, and the Cluedo-inspired gameplay.[32] 01Net asserted that in terms of 5th Grade Adventures, the activities take precedence over the merely incidental storyline;[33] in 2001 the site described the series' graphics as "very colorful" and "truly seductive"[34] but three years later the site decided they were outdated.[35] Asbury Park Press noted that Reading Adventures, like Carmen Sandiego Word Detective, "place[d] reading games in the middle of mysteries".[36] Teach thought the Search and Solve Adventures mystery was engaging, and that the game successfully combined storytelling with problem-solving activities,[37] while PC Mag thought it was "mysterious", "chill-inducing", and "engrossing".[38] PC Mag liked The ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure!'s maths, science, and language puzzles, and its adjustable levels,[39] while The New York Times praised the main cast's culturally diversity and maturity.[40]

Exploring Values Through Literature, Multimedia, and Literacy Events highlighted the series for its multicultural and balanced cast in which the nonwhite characters have equal status to the white character, noting that Leslie and Santiago are the main sources of knowledge, though noted there were no examples of software with the primary character being non-white.[41] Meanwhile, while The Boston Herald commented the series had "come a long way", the paper suggested that the decision to include a Caucasian (Joni), Asian (Owen), Black (Leslie), and Latino (Santiago) in its main cast smelt of interference from the California School Board standard.[42] The paper praised the series' "television-quality animation, broad educational focus and lively situations", though thought the early games were uneven in difficulty.[42] Exploring Values Through Literature, Multimedia, and Literacy Events further praised the series' focus on character interdependence; how missions are not successful until and unless they work together.[41] Children's Software Review managing editor Ellen Wolock criticised The Learning Company for focusing too much of its resources on repackaging its old software, commenting that she received the impression the company was "just throw[ing] together" entries in its newer ClueFinders series.[43] Working Mother thought the series offered a "painless way for kids to hone their skills".[44] The Cincinnati Enquirer recommended the "strong" series to gamers who were unable to locate the then-soon-to-be-discontinued title The Sims: Livin' Large,[45] and said "there is a lot to like" about entries in the series, such as its closed captioning of later titles.[46]

One piece of research used the game as a "tool for assessing how children worked on computers in social interactions and influence acceptance by peers in classroom interactions."[47]

Commercial performance[edit]

The ClueFinders' 3rd Grade Adventures a top ten best-selling educational title in retail stores during the months of March, April, and May.[3] By 2001, the first six games had sold around 3.5 million copies.[2]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Since its creation in 1998, the ClueFinders series has won over 50 awards and accolades in three years.[48]

Year Award Recipient Result
1998 Award of Excellence The Cluefinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra Won[1]
1998 Thunderbeam Web site Seal of Approval The Cluefinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra Won[49]
1998 Children's Software Revue's All Star Software list The Cluefinders 3rd Grade Adventures: The Mystery of Mathra Featured[49]
1998 Parents' Choice Award - Gold Award The Cluefinders Math Ages 9–12 Won[50]
1998 Parents' Choice Award - Gold Award The ClueFinders' 3rd Grade Adventures Won[51]
2002 Parents' Choice Award - Silver Honor ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure Won[52]


  1. ^ a b c "The ClueFinders Series Makes the List of Top 10 Additions to The Computer Museum's Best Software for Kids Gallery". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Shannon, L. R. (August 30, 2001). "An Education in Child's Play". The Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  3. ^ a b c d Inc., The Learning Company,. "The Learning Company, Inc. Extends Its ClueFinders' Line of Grade-Based Software With 'The ClueFinders' 4th Grade Adventures'". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  5. ^ "Hello". Archived from the original on 2001-08-02. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  6. ^ "Holiday sites are full of fun and games.(Arts and Lifestyle)". 2000-11-26.
  7. ^ York, By Andrew Cave in New. "Mattel sale ends $3.6bn fiasco". Retrieved 2017-03-31.
  8. ^ Inc, Ziff Davis (2000-09-01). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc.
  9. ^ "Mattel Interactive Enters Into New Media With Its Award-Winning ClueFinders Brand". PR Newswire. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  10. ^ "Riverdeep acquires assets of The Learning Company. (News).(Brief Article)". 2001-11-01.
  11. ^ "Impressive array of content gives KidsEdge a boost.(Arts and Lifestyle)". 2003-02-23.
  12. ^ "Cossacks ride again". 2003-03-13.
  13. ^ "Battle Creek Enquirer from Battle Creek, Michigan on May 13, 2003 · Page 15". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  14. ^ "Bulletin board". 2004-10-12.
  15. ^ a b iTunes. Apple Retrieved 22 April 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ "Licensing Opportunities". Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved 2017-01-17.
  17. ^ Ryan, Kevin; Cooper, James M.; Tauer, Susan (2012-01-01). Teaching for Student Learning: Becoming a Master Teacher. Cengage Learning. ISBN 1111833605.
  18. ^ "SuperKids Software Review of Clue Finders Reading Adventures".
  19. ^ Yahoo! Auctions - Clue Finders - 4th Grade Adventures - The Learning Com
  20. ^ "ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure".
  21. ^ Company, The Learning. "New A.D.A.P.T. Learning Technology(TM) Helps Kids Get the Most Out of Their Software Experience". Retrieved 2017-02-06.
  22. ^ "The ClueFinders: Adventure Pack (PC)".
  23. ^ software, Cybersoftware educational. "Dorling kindersley Clue finders Year 3,4,5 and Cluefinders 6".
  24. ^ "ClueFinders Math Adventures Download Mac".
  25. ^ ClueFinders FanFiction Archive. FanFiction. Retrieved on 2013-09-05.
  26. ^ Letopis Matice srpske (in French). Editions professionnelles du livre. 2001-01-01.
  27. ^ "The Clue Finders 3rd Grade Adventures". SuperKids Software. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  28. ^ "The ClueFinders' 3rd Grade Adventures". Computer Shopper. May 1, 1998.
  29. ^ "Babes In Toyland". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  30. ^ Inc, Kiplinger Washington Editors (2017-04-04). Kiplinger's Personal Finance. Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc.
  31. ^ "The ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures". Discovery Education. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  32. ^ "The ClueFinders' Math Ages 9-12". SuperKids Software. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  33. ^ 01net. "Le club des TrouveTout, l'énigme du volcan". 01net (in French). Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  34. ^ 01net. "Le club des TrouveTout : L'aventure du savoir". 01net (in French). Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  35. ^ 01net. "Le Club des Trouvetout : les plantes carnivores". 01net (in French). Retrieved 2017-04-03.
  36. ^ "Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey on May 13, 2003 · Page 43". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  37. ^ "ClueFinders Search and Solve Adventures". Teach. November 1, 2009.
  38. ^ Inc, Ziff Davis (2001-01-02). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc.
  39. ^ Inc, Ziff Davis (2001-12-26). PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc.
  40. ^ Keim, Alice (2001-12-20). "BASICS; Three R's: Reading, Writing, Rebooting". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  41. ^ a b Schmidt, Patricia Ruggiano; Pailliotet, Ann Watts (2008-01-01). Exploring Values Through Literature, Multimedia, and Literacy Events: Making Connections. IAP. ISBN 9781593119454.
  42. ^ a b "ClueFinders uncover much frustration.(Arts and Lifestyle)". 2002-05-05.
  43. ^ "Purchase of Educational Software Maker Dragged Down Mattel.(Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News)". 2000-02-04.
  44. ^ Media, Working Mother (1999-12-01). Working Mother. Working Mother Media.
  45. ^ "The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 11, 2000 · Page 62". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  46. ^ "The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on September 19, 2001 · Page 73". Retrieved 2017-04-04.
  47. ^ Kientz, Julie A.; Goodwin, Matthew; Hayes, Gillian R.; Abowd, Gregory D. (2013-11-01). Interactive Technologies for Autism: A Review. Morgan & Claypool Publishers. ISBN 9781608456413.
  48. ^ "The Learning Company is Ranked # 1 in Schools". Retrieved April 5, 2017. External link in |website= (help)
  49. ^ a b Inc., The Learning Company,. "The Learning Company, Inc. Extends Its ClueFinders' Line of Grade-Based Software With 'The ClueFinders' 4th Grade Adventures'".
  50. ^ "The Cluefinders' Math Ages 9-12". Parents' Choice Foundation. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  51. ^ "The ClueFinders' 3rd Grade Adventures". Parents' Choice Foundation. Retrieved 2017-03-30.
  52. ^ "ClueFinders: The Incredible Toy Store Adventure". Parents' Choice Foundation. Retrieved 2017-03-30.

External links[edit]