JumpStart Adventures 3rd Grade: Mystery Mountain

JumpStart Adventures 3rd Grade: Mystery Mountain

JumpStart Adventures 3rd Grade: Mystery Mountain is a personal computer game in Knowledge Adventure's JumpStart series of educational software. As the title suggests, the game is intended to teach a third grade curriculum. This is the only version of this game created and, unusually for Knowledge Adventure, is still being sold over ten years after its initial release in 1996. It is currently included as the "Fundamentals" disc of JumpStart Advanced 3rd Grade.

Set in a retro-futuristic universe, the game concerns Polly Spark, the bratty daughter of an apparently very wealthy inventor, and her attempt to alter history so that her inane answers to a history quiz she failed will be correct. To do this, she sends twenty-five reprogrammed robots back in time and, with her father conveniently away on a business trip, she takes over Mystery Mountain, the literal "mountain mansion" where she and her father live. The goal of the game is to help Botley, the robot assigned to keep Polly under control, save the world by retrieving each of the twenty-five robots and bringing them back to the present. The characters from this game were later featured in JumpStart Typing.

Characters in the game

Botley

AndroidXL2 ("Botley") is an amiable robot possessing levels of artificial intelligence and self-awareness not feasible with current technology. Botley was built by Professor Spark as a "prototype companion device" for his daughter Polly since the Professor had difficulty finding sitters for her since she kept scaring them away. Curiously, Botley seems to be able to override his own programming if he sees fit since he stated that it was against his programming to reveal the existence of the Time Machine and that he decided to reveal it to the user anyway given the global emergency Polly had created.

Botley is mostly cerulean in color with three buttons on his chest. The blue button makes a rocket come out of his back, enabling him to fly, though not very well since he wasn't programmed to fly. The red button opens up his stomach plate, but the game never explains what the green button does. Botley has a yellow antenna on top of his head that flashes when he activates his "powerful sensory device" and he can extend his right hand several yards by uncoiling a purple cord at the edge of his right arm.

On the bonus JumpStart Adventure Challenge (or, in JumpStart Advanced, Far-Out Field Trips, Ultimate Field Trips, or Extreme Field Trips) disc included with later releases of JumpStart products for 3rd-6th Grade, Botley appears gray instead of blue and he is depicted as being a tough mountain climber; almost a polar opposite of his more affable persona in JumpStart 3rd Grade where he appears to be rather clumsy and certainly not athletically inclined. Botley also appears in JumpStart SpyMasters: Unmask the Prankster, JumpStart SpyMasters: Max Strikes Back and JumpStart World. According to the JumpStart World interactive map, his best friend is Frankie (a dog who first appeared in JumpStart 1st Grade), his favorite color is silver and his "birthday" is February 14 (Valentine's Day).

Voice actors were not credited for the specific characters they voiced in either JumpStart 3rd Grade or JumpStart Typing, but Botley was most likely voiced by Tony Pope in JumpStart 3rd Grade and by Michael Goeff in JumpStart Typing. His voice was supplied by Dee Bradley Baker for the "Mystery Club" disc of JumpStart Advanced 3rd Grade. Although Botley continues to appear in JumpStart products, JumpStart Typing remains his last appearance in the canon established in JumpStart 3rd Grade.

Botley has his own fanlisting.

Polly

Polly Spark is Professor Spark's third-grade daughter and Botley's main purpose is the unenviable task of keeping her under control. Apart from JumpStart 3rd Grade, Polly is featured in JumpStart Typing and in the JumpStart Power Prep interactive DVD series.

In JumpStart 3rd Grade, Polly serves as the game's antagonist and is portrayed as being a spoiled brat, regularly calling Botley names such as "Snotley," "Potley" and "Dotley." The game also makes her out to be rather fiendish considering that many of her changes to the timeline would almost certainly result in many people being hurt or killed, though it is unlikely she is entirely aware of the damage she can cause, (for example, one of her changes would supposedly cause people to believe that radium isn't dangerous and therefore continue to use it in luminous paints) as well as give her a degree of personal power verging on world domination.

In JumpStart Typing, Polly is considerably nicer and agrees to help Botley rescue Coach Qwerty from the Trophy Room, though only when she is faced with the possibility of her father finding out that she had locked him in there to begin with. At the end of JumpStart Typing, she apologizes to Coach Qwerty for her actions and he forgives her. One consistency, however, between her seemingly antithetical portrayals in 3rd Grade and Typing is that in both games her bad deeds arise out of wounded pride resulting from the fact that she apparently considers herself intellectual supieror to others.

Interestingly, it is not until JumpStart Typing that she and Botley actually appear together, since, in JumpStart 3rd Grade, she remains in her father's secret chamber, apparently the Mountain's control room, for the entire game and communicates with Botley and the user only through a series of video monitors. Also in 3rd Grade, she appears to have a small robotic lackey, who looks somewhat like a floating shark. This robot delivers Botley and the user new TransQuizzer disks, can occasionally be seen attempting to sabotage the Mountain's generator with a banana and appears with Polly in her father's secret chamber at the beginning and end of the game.

Polly has blonde hair set in pigtails and she wears large glasses, what appears to be a lab coat worn as a dress and red sneakers. Most of the time, her eyebrows float above her head in a cartoonish fashion, though they tend to come down onto the tops of her glasses, as seen in the above screenshot, when she's in a particularly diabolical mood, making her look rather sinister. She was probably voiced by Jeannie Elias in both JumpStart 3rd Grade and JumpStart Typing, although she may have been voiced by a "Pat Lentz" (presumably Tony Pope's wife Patricia Lentz) in JumpStart 3rd Grade.

Professor Spark

Professor Spark seems to be a world-famous inventor living inside Mystery Mountain, which he fills with countless strange inventions. He is also father to Polly and the creator of Botley. Polly's mother is never mentioned and is presumably deceased, though Professor Spark's mother (Polly's paternal grandmother) is. Professor Spark's mother is described, by Polly, as cooking "odoriferous" sausages, but, since Polly speaks of her in the past tense, it suggests that she is also no longer living.

Although Polly seems to be spoiled, Professor Spark does not appear to be particularly doting. In fact, he is implied to be rather strict, especially with regards to the Time Machine, and he is often evoked to be a mysterious, though benevolent, figure. He appears with a lab coat, glasses like his daughter's, black hair and a beard. He only appears in person at the conclusions of JumpStart 3rd Grade and JumpStart Typing, although a giant portrait of him and Polly can be seen on Mystery Mountain's first floor in 3rd Grade.

Like Botley, he was probably voiced by Pope and Goeff in JumpStart 3rd Grade and JumpStart Typing respectively.

Ms. Winkle

Ms. Winkle is Polly's schoolteacher, who speaks in a rather high-pitched voice and seems to get a bit over enthused about what she's teaching. She teaches in a Googie version of a traditional schoolhouse, which is located on a hill near Mystery Mountain. There, she uses a device called the TransQuizzer to record her tests. Ms. Winkle is apparently not married since Polly sometimes refers to her as "Miss Winkle," although "Ms. Winkle" is more commonly used.

Ms. Winkle's appearance is radically different in a screenshot used on the game's original box and in the user's guide than it is in the actual game. There she is depicted as a middle-aged Caucasian woman, whereas she is considerably younger and Black in the actual program. This has since been corrected on newer versions of the program's box.

Ms. Winkle was probably voiced by either Elias or Lentz. She has not made any speaking appearances following JumpStart 3rd Grade, although she seems to have a cameo in JumpStart Typing where she -- or a woman resembling her -- is part of the crowd in the "Fans Go Wild" activity. Her schoolhouse was featured in KnowledgeLand, an online game formerly included with JumpStart 3rd Grade and JumpStart Adventures 4th Grade: Haunted Island.

Activity presenters

Many of the activities in the game are presented by one of Professor Spark's robots. These robots are as follows:

  • Mort - Mort appears in the kitchen activity, where the object is to feed him. Within the game's universe, all robots have voracious appetites, but Mort in particular has been nicknamed "The Bottomless Pit" by the other robots. Mort does not have an obvious "purpose" like the other robots, although he says he knows a lot about math.
  • Mrs. Beasley - Mrs. Beasley is the archivist of the Art Gallery. She apparently loves organizing the digital art in the Virtual Collection and she therefore has little patience with Polly, who frequently leaves the art unorganized.
  • Bothoven - Bothoven is a robot built in the form of a door knocker on the door to the Music Hall. Like his namesake, he appears to be going deaf.
  • Maestro Trombot - Maestro Trombot, usually called simply "Maestro" in the game, is head of the All-Winning, All-Robot Chorus. Trombot believes that if Polly were to pay more attention to her music lessons, she wouldn't be such a rotten person. Trombot speaks with an Italian-sounding accent and his name is an obvious alteration of "trombone."
  • Egbert - Egbert is the "resident egghead," who resides in the Shrinking Machine Room with his specimens. Egbert has a deep emotional attachment to his specimens, calling them his "lovelies" and his "babies," and he is deeply insulted when Polly insults them or his care of them. Egbert was made out of recycled tin cans and is proud of it. He briefly mentions that his role model is the NORAD computer.
  • Monty Monitor - Monty Monitor is built into the Wheel of Invention exercise that guards the Time Machine. Botley says the Wheel of Invention was built to prevent robots from traveling back in time to taunt the early computers.

Gameplay

Each of the game's twenty-five missions (one for each robot that must be rescued) begin with the user selecting one of Polly's questions from the TransQuizzer. On the TransQuizzer, Ms. Winkle poses a historical question of Polly and Polly gives a surreally humorous answer. Polly then appears on a monitor to state which robot she has sent back in time for the question and to list the four Mission Clues that need to be found for the mission.

Botley, using his powerful sensory device, then determines which games need to be played in order to retrieve the needed Mission Clues. Once all the Mission Clues have been collected, the user will still need to collect an increasing amount of Invention Points in order to be allowed to enter the Time Machine Mission Control. For the first TransQuizzer disc, the amount of Invention Points required is one thousand and it is subsequently increased by five hundred for each disc, reaching three thousand on the fifth and final disc.

Once inside the Time Machine Mission Control, the user has to get past the Wheel of Invention in order to acquire a Time Key and enter the Time Machine itself, though Polly has apparently reprogrammed the Wheel so it's not just a quiz, but rather a quiz show called "Pollywood Squares." Here, Monty Monitor quizzes the user with questions that provide the point in time where Polly has sent the missing robot and which eventually reveal the correct answer to Polly's original test question.

After this activity is completed, the user enters the Time Machine and travels back in time to retrieve the robot and bring it back to the present, where the rescued robots are deposited in an area called the "robot roost." After the robot has been rescued, the user begins a new mission by selecting another question from the TransQuizzer. The game continues in this manner until all twenty-five robots are returned to the present, at which point the game is completed.

The game takes a longer time to complete than the other JumpStart games as the user must play at least four different games for each of the twenty-five missions, totaling an absolute minimum of one hundred games in all. Such lengthy gameplay was the norm for JumpStart games made in the mid-1990s.

Activities

Except for the opening scenes, which takes place inside Ms. Winkle's classroom, the entire game is set within Mystery Mountain. The games found within the Mountain are as follows:

The Front Door

The front door activity occurs at the beginning of the game. Here, when Botley and the user arrive at Mystery Mountain, Polly announces that she has changed the locks and the user must therefore play a game resembling Simon with the door panels in order to get inside. Afterwards, the game may be accessed by clicking in the lower right corner of the screen on the first floor. However, the game only needs to be played once, since it provides no Mission Clues and a very limited number of Invention Points.

The Jumbo Electro Generator Room

Mystery Mountain has a limited amount of "power" and playing the Mountain's games uses it. In this activity, the user is presented with several monitors displaying a number with an operation above it. The user must select which numbered batteries form an accurate equation when placed on the monitors. Once the game has been completed, full power will be restored to the Mountain. Aside from the front door exercise, this is the only game in which no Mission Clue can be earned.

The Robot Kitchen

In order to open the door to the kitchen, the user has to solve a combination lock using addition, subtraction and multiplication. Once inside, the user has to feed the robot Mort using metric, molecular and standard forms of measurement.

The Professor's Virtual Collection

The Virtual Collection is found in the Mountain's Art Gallery and, as the name suggests, it is a virtual museum of various famous works of art. In this activity, Polly gives a clue pointing to a particular work of art, which the user must then find and bring up onto the digital display. Once the correct work is found, the user will have to play another activity where several boxes must be rearranged so that all their sides match. For this game, the user will have to use art, synonyms, antonyms, homonyms or mathematical problems to match the sides.

The Painting Gallery

In the painting gallery, which is also found in the Art Gallery, Polly reads a short story (typically about two sentences long) that she has written and asks for an illustration to be drawn. The user must then select the appropriate background and add the stamps and music or sound effects needed.

The Music Hall

To open the door to the Music Hall, the user must discover the ever-changing password by unscrambling four words, which reveal the letters that need to be unscrambled to form the password itself. Once Botley and the user get inside the Music Hall, Polly demands to hear a particular piece of music. However, it turns out that Polly has somehow mixed up the chips and the user must put them in order so the musical piece will play correctly. The instruments include a piano, a cello, a guitar, a French horn, a flute, and a bassoon.

The Biosphere

Since Professor Spark's Biosphere, a geodesic dome containing a closed ecological system, is too delicate to be entered, the user must fly one of several remote-controlled probes called "Explores" through a cavernous maze to reach it. However, there are several airlocks which Polly will only open if the user correctly answers a biology or geology question. The answers to Polly's questions become clues which allow the user to determine which of the Biosphere's five environments she has hidden a Mission Clue or Invention Points in. The environments include a desert, a rainforest, a savanna, a mountain range and an ocean.

The Shrinking Machine Room

The Shrinking Machine Room contains a device called the Shrink-O-Matic, which can reduce anyone or anything to the size of a molecule, and a shelf filled with specimens cared for by Egbert. In the game, Polly provides a hint and the user, using Egbert's analyzer, must determine which specimen her hint refers to. Once the specimen is found, Botley is shrunk down and the user must play a Breakout-like game with him to find the hidden Mission Clue or Invention Points.

The Observatory

In the Observatory, Polly announces that she has sent one of her father's spaceships, containing a Mission Clue or Inventions Points, into deep space. She then beams a radio wave containing a clue as to the spaceship's whereabouts into a black hole. The user must then blast the clue out of the black hole before it is "sucked into another dimension" and then decode the clue with the Professor's Alien Signal Decoder in a grammar activity. Once the hint is unscrambled, the user must use a star chart to determine which constellation Polly has sent the missing spaceship to.

The Robot Maze

According to Botley, the Robot Obstacle Course is the most dangerous part of the Mountain and Professor Spark therefore uses it to test out new robots and to correct bugs in other robots. This activity consists of a logic puzzle in which the user must unscramble a series of commands to make a robot (named "Buster" in the user's guide though he isn't given a name in the actual program) reach the square on the bottom left corner of the screen.

A strikingly similar game called "Map Mice" appears in the Learning Company's The ClueFinders 4th Grade Adventures: Puzzle of the Pyramid, the ClueFinders version ironically being significantly easier.

The game's conclusion

Once all the robots are rescued, Polly reveals her ultimate plan to use Botley for the extra credit question, which more than makes up for the entire quiz. For the extra credit question, Polly said that the universe began with Botley (she calls this the "Big Bot") and she therefore wants to send him all the way back in time to the Big Bang, which would cause him to be destroyed. Unfortunately for Polly, it's at this point that her father arrives home from the Inventors' Convention. Professor Spark and Ms. Winkle, via a video monitor, agree to let Polly take the quiz again, though Ms. Winkle states that she can't give Polly a test with the same questions twice. Therefore, Ms. Winkle decides to give her a quiz on Latin, which does not please Polly.

The storyline ends at this point, but the user can continue playing the Mountain's games for study purposes or for fun. The user can also enter the Time Machine Mission Control and view the "robot roost" without acquiring the Invention Points that would otherwise be required, but the Wheel of Invention cannot be played nor can the Time Machine be entered.

Trivia

  • With a release date of 1996, this is the oldest JumpStart game that has not been retired from the product line.
  • This is the first product in the JumpStart series to use computer-generated imagery as well as the first to not feature any songs. Given that Pat Lentz and Adryan Russ are listed in the credits for singing and writing songs respectively, the game was apparently going to have songs at one point in its development cycle.
  • Although the game's advertising implies the robots sent back in time are villainous, it is made clear in the actual game that Polly has reprogrammed otherwise benign robots to do her bidding.
  • This is not the first educational game to feature a schoolteacher named Ms. Winkle. In 1994, Abudoe Software released an educational computer game called Ms. Winkle's Class, which, much like the earlier products in Knowledge Adventure's own JumpStart series, attempted to create an enjoyable educational experience in a classroom setting.
  • Although they appear in written form after the user signs in, the words "Mystery Mountain" are only uttered once in the entire game. Most of the time, the game's setting is referred to simply as "the Mountain."
  • Clicking on the frog located in a bowl on the second floor will cause him to put on a hat and become C.J. from JumpStart 2nd Grade.
  • The green moaning plant in front of the Bio-sphere is a lot like the Piranha Plant from the Mario series.

External links and references

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