The children’s selection for Kinect is growing and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the latest children’s game, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, it will definitely be a good stocking stuffer this holiday. Here’s a quick overview:

Kids can explore alongside their favorite Sesame Street characters with this game that puts them inside a storybook using Xbox Kinect! Share a whimsical adventure as a story called Once Upon a Monster comes to life. Players join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Oscar, and other friendly new monsters in six episodes where kids will fly, jump, dance, and more, using their arms to flip the pages of the story. The story mixes fun playful activities with problem-solving challenges to help kids learn valuable life skills as they play. A friend or a parent can join for two-player, side-by-side play.

The Story

This is the first title that has a story mode, inside an actual story book. Neat and different. The story is kind of out there and really makes no sense, as are most Sesame Street episodes, however the fundamentals are top-notch for a learning title. Kids start out with Elmo and Cookie Monster and they want to read a book and I have to say, I’m really glad developers are doing these intro movies in full motion video and in high-definition at that. Opening this book teleports you inside of the book and you begin your adventure. Each chapter is about a new monster, I believe there are six of these although I didn’t let my little guy finish it (school night!). Each monster has you do several different things to proceed. I’m not sure what the goal is, if there is one, but it seems each chapter has its own goals.

This is the magical story book that teleports you, yes that is animation on FMV background.

The Gameplay

The game mixes up quite a few different gestures so it’s not repetitive at all, which is always welcomed. Kids don’t seem to get bored with it either, because of the way it mixes it up. With the monsters you encounter, you have different tasks to achieve. I found some of them to be really interesting! For example, there is a session where it teaches you rhythm, which is great as most music games don’t care about kids. Your objective is to air drum to the beat and it teaches this by dropping rain drops onto a drum, when the raindrop hits the drum, you hit that drum. There are also really basic things such as color matching included as well, which I had a hard time determining what age group this game was intended for. My 7-year-old boy is past the sesame street age and it’s not in his “cool” factor, yet some of the things the game has you do, he had to think about it for a minute so I really can’t say what age group this is for…could be 5-8, could be 5-10…I suppose it depends on your child and their education level. Some of the achievements are actually challenging as well which doesn’t help. Another example is there is a basketball type game, I really don’t think a 5-year-old is going to determine how hard to throw an imaginary ball, yet its in there…you have to be spot on, otherwise it stops short or goes too far.

Oscar's basketball game, it was a cool idea, just might be difficult for the younger ones.

Multiplayer

Where this game really shines is the multiplayer. Kinectimals had none and Sesame Street allows a parent or friend to jump in and out at any time. Where this really worked out was my son was having trouble with one of the activities, so I was able to jump in right away and help him out. It teaches cooperative teamwork in itself which is a valuable asset in my opinion, however I can see kids fighting virtually over activities as well. A good example was an activity with Oscar the Grouch, and he created “trash balls” and you have to grab these balls and shoot them in his trash cans. I was helping my son with it and we kept trying to grab the balls and it wasn’t working too well, and I could tell he was getting frustrated when I kept grabbing a ball, I know kids aren’t as mellow as us adults, so it could be a problem. Other than that though, the multiplayer worked very well and it helps parent teach children in an interactive way.

Graphics and Sound

Usually I only mention this when there is something to mention. I have to say the graphics are very good for a children’s game, compared to Penguins of Madagascar for example, Sesame graphics are way better. They did use all of the character voices as well so everything will be recognizable to the Sesame Street fans. A side note that I couldn’t fit anywhere, there is no loading wait time which is huge for kids, since we know how impatient most are. During a loading screen, someone is talking or there is something going on the screen that they can watch, the devs really thought a lot of this through.

The graphics are nice and colorful!

The Controls

Kinect works flawlessly in this title. It’s not really an active title as you are standing and moving your arms in some way or another, so its good for the older folk that can’t move around a lot and it’s not really tiring at all even with moving your arms because of the way it has you doing all kinds of different things. It is a well designed game.

Conclusion

Overall, it’s a fantastic games for kids, but as I stated, the age/difficulty thing is really confusing. If you think about Kinectimals, it is pretty much for kids of all ages, this game not so much…so I will leave it up to parents to decide whether this is a good title for their children or not. After the story is complete, kids do have the option of replaying levels as well, and like most kids nowadays, they never get bored from doing the same thing over and over, replay value for them is probably really high, I wouldn’t be too worried about it collecting dust.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster
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