I remember sitting in the crowded aisle of the Microsoft press conference at E3, watching the presentations with mixed reactions. Some I just could not care less about if I were paid to care less about them, while some filled me with childlike glee and anticipation. When Tim Schafer of Doublefine took the stage to present Once Upon A Monster, the Kinect based Sesame Street co-op game, I remembered the joy and entertainment I got out of Sesame Street as a child, and began to eagerly look forward to the rest of the presentation, and to the eventual release of the game.
The game was not a disappointment.
Once Upon A Monster starts off with a live-action scene starring Elmo and Cookie Monster, the two main characters of the game. After bumping into each other inadvertently, one of Elmo’s storybooks falls to the floor. From there, the adventures of Elmo and Cookie Monster through the stories of Once Upon A Monster begin as you are asked to read through the stories with them. The six stories currently in the Once Upon A Monster book (I say currently, because I can’t imagine that DLC stories WON’T be made for this later on) last for about 30 minutes each, which brings the current time up to about three hours for a single successful playthrough. This is short, but there is definite replay value with children, since one of the key educational elements of Sesame Street is learning through repetition and directed understanding.
Gameplay varies across the different stories. From assisting Super Grover to cleaning up trash from a garden to give to Oscar, Once Upon A Monster has you flapping your arms to fly, busting out your crazy moves to dance, winding up your pitching arm to aim and throw trash, dressing monsters and color coordinating, and much more. The wide variety of Kinect potential seems to have been tapped for Once Upon A Monster, and the 30 minute length of each story is just perfect for preventing fatigue while allowing you to feel like you’ve managed to accomplish a goal.
Once Upon A Monster is best played with one adult and one child, with the adult helping the child grasp the game’s directions and guiding them through the stories along with Elmo and Cookie Monster. Don’t have kids, nephews, cousins, or otherwise acquired children? The game is still fun with two adults, especially if those adults were raised on Sesame Street. The visuals and music are wonderfully stylized and whimsical, which makes it not only a treat to play, but a treat to watch and listen to. The only real drawback of the game is that the instructions are given verbally, with minimal on-screen explanation or demonstration, so some smaller children may need help understanding exactly what it is they have to do in order to accomplish a particular goal.
Is Once Upon A Monster for everyone? Obviously it requires a Kinect, so if you have no Kinect, there’s not really a point in buying this game until you acquire one. If you’re not into “cute” games, and tend to stick to a particular genre only, then again, there’s not really a point in buying this game. If, however, you have a wide range of taste, and enjoy a quality game that successfully utilizes the Kinect hardware while simultaneously presenting a wonderful set of stories and a great nostalgic experience, Once Upon A Monster is definitely a game for your library, whether you have a kid to play it with you or not.
|Age appropriate for kids but still enjoyable for adults|
Great stylized graphics and wonderfully whimsical music
Fun and education for kids with great nostalgia for adults
|Instructions on how to play are given verbally,|
so smaller children may require help