Today I learned about making friends and matching colors.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is a co-op enabled adventure through a charming book of the same name with everyone’s favorite monsters: Cookie Monster and Elmo. The pair make their way through the book’s chapters, meeting some old friends and new monsters as well. Along the way they help the various new monsters with their problems, from setting up a birthday party to helping one monster put on a play. Once Upon a Monster goes a bit further than most children’s games.
I could tell I was going to need help with this one, so I recruited an expert on all things Sesame Street to join me. My three-year-old nephew.
Together we played through the game he regularly squealed with excitement at Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and the other funny looking monsters occupying the screen. I, on the other hand, was impressed by not only the fact that the Kinect had no problem recognizing both of us (there is a bit of a difference between the two of us) but also easily figured out when my nephew would occasionally walk away for a minute or two. For the most part the game, which is really just a series of mini-games held together by a simple story, kept him entertained and when playing with him I too was fairly entertained. The game certainly looses a lot of its draw though when the little one wanders away and you aren’t likely to pop in Once Upon a Monster too often without a mini-person around to play with (child or child-like midget will do).
Once Upon a Monster offers far more sophistication for a children’s game than most though; dealing with some rather serious subject matters rather than just finding new ways to make you match colors. The game makes an honest effort to teach about friendship, overcoming shyness, being brave and feeling empathy for others. Yes, this is often conveyed in a mini game that is a lighter version of Dance Central or by leaning left and right to run through a forest, but still, Double Fine deserves credit for not taking the easy way out. My personal favorite though are the couple of levels that work to teach kids the basics of pitch and musical notes by having you raise and lower a singing flower until it hits the right note. (Sadly though, the game’s DLC “Close Encounters of the Furry Kind” plays into the more traditional “match colors” type of kids’ game.)
That is the real shining moment of Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. The lessons the game is trying to teach go so far and beyond most kids’ games, including other Sesame Street games, that it is already kind of a winner right there. Further, the fact that the games are enjoyable and that it is best when a kid plays with an adult can help to further these ideas for the little ones. It doesn’t hurt that Once Upon a Monster is built around a couple of Sesame Street’s most iconic and classic characters either.
The game does suffer from some control issues (like most Kinect games) and there is a bit too much repetition in the mini-games. While some moments really shine, others seem to drag on and one part (that involves actively narrating a story) is walking the line between what a kid that is into Sesame Street can do. My nephew didn’t always understand what he was supposed to do based on the game, but was able to follow along with me fairly well, and seemed to genuinely enjoy his time with the game though.
Once Upon a Monster doesn’t offer much to anyone playing without a kid along with them outside of the basic charm that comes with Sesame Street (and the fact many of us grew up with it). Those with a kid, nephew, niece, little cousin, etc., will certainly get far more out of Once Upon a Monster than those without. It is certainly a great family game though and a fantastic addition to the Kinect library.
Now, for absolutely no reason other than pure awesomeness, here is this:
Tomorrow I become an outcast and a super hero at the same time in X-Men: Destiny.
Final Rating: 7.5/10
CBR Break Down:
Console Played On: Xbox 360
Time to completion: Approximately 6 hours.
Gamer Score Earned: 880/1105
Price Bought at: $10
Current Price: $12.73 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: Under $15 is worth it, under $10 if you just want to try it yourself (sans kids).
Why you should buy it: Great family friendly title with a good message behind it.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: You’re a grouch.