In the gaming industry the term “family friendly” is often misused. Games which fall in that category generally provide a terrible experience that only a still-developing child could enjoy. With that said, the Kinect-required Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster is the perfect game for children between the ages of 4 and 10 but thanks to the inclusion of co-op and a license that both adults and kids share an affection for, parents may also feel inclined to join in on the fun!
Speaking objectively it’s hard to recommend a game which can be completed in just over 3 hours. For the core Xbox audience, Once Upon A Monster will be viewed as a short and repetitive mini-game collection which has eaten away from what could have been Psychonauts 2 development time. Speaking objectively it’s hard to recommend a game which can be easily completed in just over 3 hours, even if it is designed for kids. It’s clear that Double Fine spent a lot of effort making Once Upon A Monster look and feel as authentic to the license as possible but from a gameplay standpoint the final product has suffered because of it. The lack of difficulty options means that almost any capable adult could breeze through the entire story, earning all stars and bonus content in a single sitting which doesn’t make playing alone very compelling.
So… now that we’ve established that Once Upon A Monster should only be played by or with kids, let’s talk about the actual game. As you’ve probably gathered by now this is a licensed mini-game collection which utilizes the Xbox 360’s Kinect peripheral. The game is divided up in to six chapters, each of which are structured like short stories. Although the characters, settings and tasks vary from the chapter to chapter, the core “helping out a Monster in need” theme is present throughout. The story is packed full of fantastic in-game cutscenes that both adults and kids will appreciate, assuming they know who Grover and Oscar The Grouch are. The mini-games themselves are fairly diverse and are simple enough for most kids to instantly understand. Challenges include; picking out an outfit for a monster to wear during his birthday party, flapping your arms to fly to the top of a very tall tree, throwing balls of junk in to trash cans of corresponding color and much more. Once you complete a challenge you’ll be ranked on a 5 stars scale but as I alluded to earlier, earning all five stars isn’t too difficult.
The developers did a fantastic job with the the character models which helped to maintain a sense of immersion. For a majority of the game you’ll be following the footsteps of Elmo and Cookie Monster with other monsters (including ones designed by Double Fine) making cameos throughout. The developers did a fantastic job with the the character models which helped to maintain a sense of immersion. On the down side, several key characters are missing from this adventure as the likes of Bert, Ernie, Count and even Big Bird are nowhere to be seen. Another problem which became increasingly annoying is that characters often repeat the same phrases and tutorial information. Unless you have the memory of a goldfish you won’t forget that you have to jump over logs as you approach them but Elmo still feels the need to remind you every 10 seconds.
This review was based on a purchased copy of the game for the Xbox 360.