In the game, a hairy, bipedal creature invades an old, abandoned mine in the town of Sapphire Falls. Scaring away tourists, the creature succeeds in stealing a mysterious treasure map that no one has ever been able to read. Two aspiring fourth-grade reporters, Sally Chu and TJ Adams, along with their pint-sized dog Gizmo, travel to the mines to solve the mystery.
- Sally Chu - TJ's friend. She is skeptical of the creature's existence, and is interested in finding a practical explanation for the sightings.
- Thomas James "TJ" Adams - Sally's friend. He is convinced the creature is real and wants to photograph it as proof. He has sandy blond hair and carries a flash camera around his neck.
- Gizmo - Sally and TJ's pet dog, who tags along with them.
- Ranger Addy Wise - The local ranger. She was present at the initial sighting of the Sapphire Mines "monster", and allows Sally and TJ entrance into the mines.
- Samuel Brannon Jr. - The mayor of Sapphire Falls, who aspires to be president of the United States.
- Gillian Gonzales - A geologist and an adventurer who wants to keep tourists and miners away from the mine, believing it should only be open to scientists.
- Jedidiah "Jed" Mason - A former miner, who wants to buy the mine and put himself back to work.
- Entering the Mine: At the start of the game, Sally, T.J. and Gizmo arrive at the mine and ask Ranger Addy Wise for permission to go inside so they can take a photograph or two. She allows them to enter for this purpose, but they apparently decide to start hunting for the creature instead. In the first room, they meet Samual Branon Jr., who the player can make them converse with by selecting comments that appear on the screen. After the conversation ends, Sally, T.J. and Gizmo journey deeper into the mine.
- Platform Problems: Before any new tunnel can be entered, the lights must be turned on. This is done by guiding Sally over the scaffolding to reach the lever with the correct answer to a math problem that appears at the top of the screen. Once this is done, the lights usually stay on, but they do go out on occasion, requiring the player to replay the activity.
- Opening the secret passage: After the first "Platform Problems" activity is completed, Sally, T.J. and Gizmo discover a secret passage that can only be unlocked by placing gems in indentations of three different shapes. There are three activities that the player can play to collect gems, but "Platform Problems" must be played before each of them. In the main room with the secret doorway, the player encounters two more characters, Gillian Gonzales and Jed Mason, who can be conversed with in the same way as Samuel Brannon.
- Laser Letters: The player is presented with several different possible spellings of a word, only one of which is correct. This word must be boxed in by a laser, which starts at the center of the screen. Naturally, there is something to stop the player: a robot which cuts through the laser, making it restart at the area where it was cut. So, don't forget to be careful because you have to restart it again and you will lose some points.
- Map Madness: The player controls a hanging cart and moves over a map engraved into a rock wall. The player will receive a hint about which country they should go to in order to find a gem. The player can press the space bar to zoom in on the map. When the cart touches a country, that country's name will become highlighted, at which point the player can try digging for gems there by pressing the enter key. If the country matches the location clue, the player will unearth a gem. Occasionally, coal and steam clouds will appear over the map. Coal is needed to power the cart, and should be collected to prevent the coal supply from running out. Steam clouds are meant to be avoided.
- Tablet Turnover: The player must match all of the stone tablets in order to uncover some gems underneath. Each stone tablet will have either text or a picture on it that pertains to some historical figure, location, event, or object. The player must make matches between tablets that depict the same historical aspect. The magnifying glass can be used to get a detailed description of what each stone tablet depicts by selecting the magnifying glass and then clicking on the tablet. The way that the tablets are arranged and matched is very similar to Mahjong solitaire, where tiles only be matched if they are not covered by any other tiles, and have enough sides exposed so that they could be moved left or right without disturbing other tiles. Any tiles that do not meet these requirements will be inaccessible when clicked on.
- Looking For Clues: Once the door is opened, Sally, T.J. and Gizmo fall into a canyon, which conveniently has an abandoned hot air balloon for them to use as transport. They also discover the monster, and Gizmo tries to capture it, but fails. A bit of its fur remains in the canine's jaws, and it actually bears a label, revealing that the creature is actually a fake. After travelling through caves and gathering enough clues, they move on to Crystal Keys and then Race Chase.
- Crystal Keys: The player must create a tune by playing a piano made of crystals. Above the piano is a music staff. Musical notes will move from right the left, across the staff and the player must play determine the correct notes to be played on the piano. The player must complete three tunes in order to move on.
- Race Chase: The faux monster jumps into a mine cart and TJ, Sally and Gizmo jump into a different one in turn. Gizmo, angry at the crook in costume, unwisely attacks him, which leads to his capture. Desperate to rescue their friend, TJ and Sally attempt to catch up with the creature. This leads to an activity in which the Sally and TJ's mine cart is navigated left and right in order to grab cans marked with "T" and "F" to answer true and false questions. Correct answers speed the cart up, while incorrect ones slow it down. The questions are based on content from the previous activities. The player must complete this activity three times to move on.
- Costume Capers: The player uses critical thinking to determine which of the three suspects is the culprit, based on the clues collected.
There are three possible endings, depending on the identity of the thief. Once the Costume Capers activity is complete, the thief will be revealed and their motive will be clear:
- Samuel Brannon Jr. wants the treasure to procure enough money for his presidential campaign.
- Jedidiah Mason wants to put himself back to work by stealing the treasure to procure enough money to buy the mine.
- Gillian Gonzales wants to pull off a treasure hunt and keep tourists and miners away from the mine.
Then the thief will be taken to the authorities by Ranger Addy. Sally will conclude that there is no monster, but TJ says that they still can't be sure of that, as Gizmo looks curiously at another monster-like footprint.
- Addition and Subtraction
- Multiplication and Division with Remainders
- Fractions and Decimals
- Units of Measurement
- Parts of Speech
- Story Creation
- Earth Science
- Natural Science
- Famous People
- Art History
- Musical Clefs
In 2001, JumpStart Adventures 4th Grade: Sapphire Falls was re-released as part of a 2-CD set with the game JumpStart Adventure Challenge included as a bonus disc. This release is often referred to as JumpStart 4th Grade Deluxe.
Circa 2003, the game was re-released as part of the Advanced series under the title "JumpStart Advanced 4th Grade: Fundamentals".
- The plot of the Sapphire Falls game is similar to (and apparently could have been based upon) the Scooby-Doo animated series.
- Unusually for an updated version of a classic game, this product contains no characters or storyline elements from the original version. It shares this trait with JumpStart Toddlers (2000). However, like most updated versions of classic games, it does contain a number of activities which bear a strong resemblance to activities in the original version.