Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster first look preview

Why is monster Marco sad? Why, because nobody came to his birthday party! That's a pretty good reason to be bummed out. So who shows up to save the day and make everyone happy again? Elmo and Cookie Monster, of course! Makes perfect sense to us.

You may not remember Marco from Sesame Street, and there's a good reason for that: he was created by Double Fine, home of industry veteran Tim Schafer, and was created specifically for Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. The Sesame Street characters meet up with him after discovering a magical story book that they enter in order to help out all of the depressed monsters within its pages. Interestingly enough, we were told that the storybook world was created by Double Fine well before the Sesame Street name was attached. It was only after the clear influences were realized that they went to Warner Brothers to obtain the license. Fortunately for all of us, the deal worked out and we will be treated to an adorably cute and original Kinect title upon release.

So, back to Marco. How does one get happy again after the crushing disappointment of a lackluster birthday party? Running through the Electric Forest, of course! This was our first taste of gameplay. It being Sesame Street, a franchise based around helping children develop into caring, helpful adults, most of the gameplay is co-op oriented, with the idea that children will be playing with their parents, older siblings, or each other. In the Electric Forest, one player controls Marco, who needs to jump over logs and move out of the way of oncoming rocks, while Elmo rides on his shoulders and has to duck under various low branches and grab onto the glowing fruit of the Forest. There's no way to fail - we are dealing with 4 year olds, after all - but who cares? It's all about having fun with friends and it certainly succeeds in that aspect.

Sure, running through a pretty forest is fun, but what's more fun than a dance-off? Nothing, that's what. Grover makes an appearance in a Travolta-inspired costume to get everyone doing some dance moves. Don't expect Dance Central here; no one asks players to be particularly precise with their movements, and the moves are simple enough for the young'uns to pull off with ease. Again, it's all about having fun with friends, not judging anyone's dance moves. We certainly couldn't contain our smiles while we danced next to our buddies.

At the end of Marco's tale, many of the Sesame Street cast had shown up to celebrate his birthday. "Happy Birthday!" we were asked to yell at the TV. Kids love yelling things at the TV (watch any kid's show, and you'll find that out firsthand), and when it actually affects what happens on the screen, we can only imagine what their excitement will be. "Blow out the candles, Marco!" Marco was happy to do so, and loved his newfound friends' party.

When the Kinect was released, many of us thought that it was simply not an acceptably hardcore piece of gaming hardware, and that it would only really appeal to kids. If the fine folks at Double Fine and Sesame Street have anything to say about it, it looks like that may indeed be the case. But if the kids’ games have anywhere near the charm and appeal of Once Upon a Monster, we really don't see a whole lot of problems with that.

Feb 25, 2011

Taylor Cocke is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer who spends too much time watching numbers go up in MMOs and ARPGs. You name it, he's written and/or produced for them, which is shocking considering the aforementioned MMO playing.