Licensed games often suffer as the developers have to make their game while sticking to any constraints that the license at hand may have. The good news here is that the idea for Once Upon a Monster came first, and then the chance for Double Fine to use the Sesame Street license came along at a later date. As lead director Tim Schafer suggests, it was a match made in heaven. And yes, we are talking about the same Tim Schafer that gave us the swearword loaded Brutal Legend.
This sugar-coated Kinect-only quest is as lovingly crafted as children’s games get. The story sees Elmo and Cookie Monster exploring the pages of a magical book, with each story having a theme ranging from helping others to making new friends. One story involves restoring a garden to its former glory by pulling up weeds and watering plants while another entails putting on a play with Cookie Monster playing the part as a rather unlikely personal acting coach.
The look and feel of the iconic TV show is mimicked closely, right down to Elmo’s infectious laugh and appearances from other characters such as Oscar the Grouch.
There’s a heavy focus on multi-player – Double Fine wanted this to be a game that parents can play along with their children. Or you could just kill two birds with one stone and use it keep two children quiet at once. Controls are intuitive and work perfectly, so much so that no tutorials are present apart from a few vocal prompts here and there from Elmo.
Some mini-games demand more from the player than others – in one you simply have to raise and lower your arms to bang on a drum at the right time. The running mini-games on the other hand are pretty exhausting requiring jumping, ducking, arm waving and lots of leaning to avoid objects.
The six stories take around thirty minutes each, meaning it’s possible to play through from start to finish in around three hours. It’s highly likely though that children will want to play through their favourite parts again, and the achievements have been based around this – a few of them require multiple play-throughs of certain stories.
If you’re a parent looking for something to play side-by-side to the little people in your life, then look no further. You may even find yourself cracking a smile or two – even we had to grin after unlocking an achievement called ‘Right Said Sled’.