Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster is a based around the famous and much loved Sesame Street characters from the TV show, such as Elmo, Cookie Monster and even a guest appearance from Grover. All these friendly and caring characters introduce you to a storybook world which offers children an engaging way to interact with the on screen characters through the use of Microsoft’s Kinect. Although the game is aimed at a younger audience, you get the first impression that it’s one for the whole family to join in with, even if you’re not an avid fan of Sesame Street.
The kinect based game is simple to use as the adventures begin inside an interactive storybook. Players will go through a variety of chapters, where they will meet and discover new characters that will require help and assistance. Elmo and Cookie embark on a journey into this magical storybook and they first discover a monster called Marco who is feeling a little bit down in the dumps and needs cheering up. You’ll need to get ready to stand and pose in certain positions as each character moves their body and players need to replicate the same actions. For some reason this seems to brighten up Marco’s day. Later on, you’ll need to sit on Marco’s back to collect streamers which are dangling from branches high above you. Leaning from left and right, carefully guides Marco through this forest area, while reaching out to grab streamers and trying to avoid obstacles that have been conveniently placed along the path. The Kinect is responsive on some of the actions, and other times seems quite delayed as you try and dodge a pile of rocks or even jump over a nearby puddle.
Most of the games entice the player to be very interactive with the game from banging drums using your arms in tune with the falling music notes, to flapping your arms as you make your way up a giant tree. The tree based flying game expects players to flap their arms continuously, collecting and opening up flowers along the way. Even though this is a relatively simple game, there are times when my arms were aching slightly, so I’m not sure whether children would really want to play this mini game to the full extent, or I’m just really unfit. Occasionally a small breeze would come along and you would briefly just need to place your arms out to the side of you as it gently guided you up the trunk of tree. I guess it gives you a little break from all the flapping, but the tree was quite big and it could be a little repetitive.
Throughout the journey through the storybook, you’ll encounter new characters who will tell their own story of why they need your assistance and help. The watering the garden section enables players to use their hands to throw seeds onto a bed of soil like a frisbee and extend their arm out like a hose to then water the seeds. They eventually grow into flowers that blossom and bloom, but sure enough the dreaded weeds appear on the surface and need to be plucked out of the soil. Using both arms forward and making a grabbing action with your hands to grab the weed, a swift plucking up enables the weed to be removed.
Other times you’ll need to dress up the character with a selection of clothes, from astronauts’ helmets to pirate’s costumes. A simple wave through a moving clothes carousel enables you to pick a costume and push forward with your hand to give the monster the attire. Other games include cleaning up a messy garden in which you have to pick up basketballs that have been left abandoned on the ground and then attempt to toss them into Oscar the Grouch’s trash can. It’s all depends on how hard you throw the basketball whether it will land safely in the trash can. If you miss a couple of times, it doesn’t matter as the game doesn’t grade you down in any way.
Throughout the game we see communication between Elmo and Cookie Monster and watch their friendship grow. This bright, colourful game is about showing children the acts of kindness and teaching young children the disciplines of politeness. The controls are relatively simple to use, although I found the kinect not as responsive as I had hoped for at times. Each chapter offers a heart-warming tale of the beloved Sesame Street characters and enables players to feel connected to their favourite TV icons. It’s very much like watching the TV show happening within a storybook.
The storybook itself is controlled by actions such as swiftly moving your hand to the right and left to turn the pages, while if you need to go and investigate one of the stories, you’ll need to have your hands together then swiftly part them to open the chapter. I felt that children may need some assistance in this area, as it wasn’t always easy to actually perform the correct interaction. It’s made quite clear that this game is aimed for the younger audience, but some of the games may need some adult supervision for full interaction of the Kinect based game. Overall the game is bright and colorful and aims to guide children through a selection of problem solving issues and to form relationships with each character. Each monster has their own personality and voices their opinion on life and the characters surrounding them. The game wants to direct children in a positive way, through the interaction of helping each character with their problem. The game offers a co-op mode which encourages players to get their family and friends on their feet for some party fun action.
Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster educates and guides children in a family friendly way by adding a whole host of different environments to interact with, showing empathy when monsters are going through hardships and encouraging children to think about and feel emotion for each character. Whilst the game offers a mixed range of gameplay activities for children, they are not the most challenging of games, making it absolutely perfect for families with small children. Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, with its endearing charm, simple gameplay and larger than life characters, is undoubtedly one of the best kiddy games currently available for Kinect and is an essential purchase for Sesame Street fans and little people everywhere.