Word Safari: The Friendship Totems
Word Safari
North American box art
Developer(s) GXB Interactive
Publisher(s) Tomy Corporation
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance platform icon
Genre(s) Role-playing game, edutainment

03ESRB - E 

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Word Safari: The Friendship Totems is the second game in GXB Interactive's Learning Series. Its goal is to be an interactive mentoring tool by providing language arts practice sessions according to USA 1st and 2nd grade national standards.


Five great animal tribes prosper in the Serengeti thanks to the life giving Sacred Watering Hole. One day in spring, the Sacred Watering Hole dries up. According to their legends, a young member of each tribe must journey to the far corners of the Serengeti to reunite with each tribe's Totem Spirit. Only then can the youngling become the Chosen One with the powers to restore the Sacred Watering Hole.

For the majority of the story, the player plays as a youngling from one of the five tribes. After they have completed the spiritual guide's trials, the player reunites with the other tribe representatives on the path back to the Sacred Watering Hole. Players can switch between protagonists by pressing R. The journey gifts them with the knowledge to succeed their dying Totem Spirit.

There are two endings. One has the player become their tribe's Totem Spirit and magically restore the Scared Watering Hole. They are unable to be with their families, but they can occasionally take a corporeal form and mystically guide the animals of the Serengeti. The other ending leads to a hard life of forced migration.


At the start of the single player main story, players can name their protagonist and choose their preferred animal type. Animals can only be switched during the tutorial until late in the narrative. Minor changes to the dialogue may occur and paths on the map may be blocked off based on their chosen protagonist.

Avatar Tribe Name Skills
Wordsafari-baboon Baboon Running: hold down B for a faster dash
Jumping: hop over obstacles by pressing A
Climbing: can climb up trees with bushes at trunk (push up) to observe surroundings
Wordsafari-elephant Elephant Vision: wider area revealed in world map
Strength: move obstacles by moving and holding A
Wordsafari-lion Lion Strength: move obstacles by moving and holding A
Stealth: easier to sneak past enemies and zookeepers
Wordsafari-giraffe Giraffe Jumping: hop over obstacles by pressing A
Vision: wider area revealed in world map
Wordsafari-zebra Zebra Stealth: easier to sneak past enemies and zookeepers
Running: hold down B for a faster dash

Exploration is done from a top-down perspective with limited platforming. Failing a jump will not punish the player. The game will place their character back at their last jumping position.

To finish each area and proceed with the story, the player must perform Good Deeds and earn 100 Wisdom Tokens. The latter can be earned by successfully completing trivia and mini games. There are eight main map areas to be cleared.

Good Deeds are quests given by marked NPCs. Press A next to the giver to receive the quest objective, which range from fetch quests or escort missions. Quest items are automatically placed within the player's Inventory once they are collected. If the player runs into a zoo keeper on the map, he will rob them of an item. Items will need to be retrieved again if they are lost.

Players can be reminded of their current quest objectives by checking the Journal in the Status Screen (SELECT button). The Status Screen also has a command for checking Inventory, a saving option, and a Map Overview of the current stage. Any goal markers and the player's current position are specifically color coded; the legend is always present in map viewing mode.

Mini Games

Mini games are the easiest method for earning Wisdom Tokens, and they occur like random monster encounters typically seen in most role-playing games. These games are based on audio, reading, and spelling comprehension of American English. Homophones, contractions, pronouns, prefixes/suffixes, synonyms/antonyms, verbs, and nouns are randomly tested in each game.

A player's endurance for each game is typically judged by the number of their character's Energy Hearts ( or on the main map). Completely losing a character's health in the game will end it in failure and decrease their Energy Heart count on the main map. If Energy Hearts are emptied on the main map screen, the player will need to redo the current map from the beginning. Lost energy can be restored on the main map by collecting bananas. Clearing a main map increases the maximum energy capacity by one.

There are six mini game types:

  1. Bees: Control a monkey to spell a given word. He must hop (A) around tree branches and hit the corresponding letter bees by throwing stones (B). The game ends prematurely if he runs out of stones.
  2. Falling Words: Move left or right to catch the correct spoken word. The monkey dropping the words will also drop bananas and coconuts on harder levels. Failing to avoid his pitfalls or catching the wrong answer will lower Energy Hearts.
  3. Flies: Letter flies will lower down the screen. The player is asked to spell the spoken word by moving left or right to catch the correct letter fly into their jar. Typos will lower Energy Hearts and temporarily prohibit movement.
  4. Migration: Running animals carry the answer to the word problem. To catch the correct animal, the player must throw a banana in their path (A) to trip them. Running out of bananas or getting hit too many times by the dashing animals will cause the player to lose.
  5. Trap Floor: A tiled bridge is labeled with letters. Spell the spoken word by highlighting the correct letters (direction pad) and selecting them with A.
  6. Rocks: Move along the cardinal directions and select the letter rock (A). Spell the given word letter by letter. Players must avoid emerging hippos and crocodiles to preserve their Energy Hearts.

Press or hold down L/R to have the game audibly repeat a word or to speed up moving obstacles. If games are successfully completed before the Bonus Timer in the upper left corner runs out, extra Wisdom Tokens will be rewarded.

Difficulty is reliant on the player's progress. For instance, if a player answers every question correctly, their next game may be on Pro difficulty. Getting half of the questions wrong or failing a game may lower it to Hard or Normal. On Pro difficulty, obstacles will be faster and the given words will be audio only. Hard and Normal will slow down the game speed and provide easier questions. Easy difficulty does not exist.

Practice sessions independent from the main story can be experienced from the main menu screen. Specific topics, difficulty setting, mini game session, and animal avatar can be selected. Pro difficulty is hidden; press up from Normal difficulty to select it. Players can also replace the standard spoken words with their custom words for practice games.

Africa Facts


In the main story, other wandering African animals may challenge the player with quizzes. These quizzes are numerous trivia about Africa and the Serengeti. Players can either work from memory or learning the answers by visiting Fun Fact Kiosks in advance. These huts provide endless facts for quizzes, and are stored within the Africa Facts heading in the Status Screen.

Quizzes are multiple choice. If the player visited a Fun Fact Kiosk for the challenged fact, they will win 1 Wisdom Token and lose 2 Wisdom Tokens for an incorrect selection. Not visiting the Fun Fact Kiosks rewards 2 Wisdom Tokens for getting it right and punishes by taking 1 Wisdom Token away for wrong answers.

Rewards Program

GXB Interactive ran a now defunct rewards program for users. Users could sign up to the company's official website and use their GXB user ID in the game. The user ID showed their GXB score which they could then implement onto the official website. The website could display a detailed report card and supplementary learning material for the user. Scholarships, achievements, and other goods were also available.