|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Double Fine Productions|
|Pub: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|
|Release: October 11, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Patriel Manning
E3 was full of surprises this year. Nintendo unveiled their new console, the Sony NGP got a name, and Microsoft gave Halo fans a reason to believe. Not all surprises were so universally well-received, though, as was evidenced by the audience reaction to some of the announcements. One such announcement dealt with a new Kinect-based game from Double Fine, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster.
Fans of Tim Schafer's previous work might be a bit puzzled by the decision to pursue a licensed property; this will be the first Double Fine has ever produced. When considering the studios' previous titles (Brütal Legend, Psychonauts, etc.) this is definitely out of place to an extent. The reveal, made during Microsoft's press conference, met with mixed reaction. To be sure, though, anyone with children will understand exactly what makes this game appealing: kids will love it.
In Once Upon a Monster, players will join their favorite characters from Sesame Street as they journey through a storybook, helping the monsters they encounter in each chapter. In true Sesame Street form, each chapter will focus on teaching players a life lesson, like the importance of teamwork or sharing. Though the game can be played by just one player, it seems obvious it was designed to be enjoyed by two—parent and child, optimally. That was the way it was presented during Microsoft's E3 2011 press conference. And though the live demo was stiff and slightly creepy, it was still easy to see just how much fun this could be while playing together with a child or younger sibling. In addition, either player can drop in or out without disrupting gameplay, so things shouldn't get too taxing.
As with many Kinect titles, however, there were a few drawbacks. There was noticeable lag and some problems recognizing all of the players' limbs. These issues aren't uncommon with Kinect, but they may cause some undue frustration for the younger players the title is intending to attract.
Completion of the chapters is carried out by participating in a set of games and challenges not unlike the minigames in Kinect Adventures. One of the minigames has players take the roles of Marco, a new character created just for this game, and Elmo, participating in a race where Elmo rides on Marco's shoulders. The player representing Marco leans left or right to avoid colliding with rocks while running down the pre-determined path, and can also jump. The other player ducks to avoid low branches and other obstacles. Players will also be able to imitate the onscreen monsters in challenges that vaguely resemble Simon Says.
In order to nail the look of the show, Tim Schafer and crew visited the Jim Henson studio to examine the way the Muppets from the show looked and animated up close. The results speak for themselves, as the characters in the game maintain that classic Sesame Street visual style.
While this doesn't appear to be an educational game in the way that Brain Training or Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? are, a strong emphasis was placed on learning. Double Fine worked closely with Sesame Workshop to promote some of the goals of the organization through gameplay. This means there are gameplay elements aimed at cultivating proper social and emotional development and promote healthy eating habits. The result, the developer hopes, is that some really important lessons will be communicated without being too preachy.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is slated for release this fall. Stay tuned to Cheat Code Central for the latest coverage.
CCC Contributing Writer