Review

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster Review (Xbox360)

We can't be the only ones who did a double-take when Tim Schafer's group of Fine Times Two game developers announced the next step in its console gaming domination master plan. After the likes of Psychonauts, Brutal Legend and Stacking, a Sesame Street licensed title seemed completely out of place. Of course, those who doubt Schafer do so with caution. And an escape plan.

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is Double Fine's passage into the realms of Kinect. It's an exciting prospect - one of the most innovative developers of the moment, taking control of a piece of gaming tech that the industry is still exploring, and then slapping a well-known children's franchise all over it. What pops out at the end of the equation is entirely unsurprising - a title that is fantastic for kids and may well bring a smile to the average adult's face too.

Oh Cookie, you so funniiee

What Once Upon a Monster does so very right from the get-go is feel less like a game, and more like an interactive episode of Sesame Street. There are barely any menus or scores or interfaces or anything that resembles your regular video game. There are monsters on the screen, and you are interacting directly with them at all times.

Well, at least, interacting with them when they're not telling the next part of the story. The game follows Elmo and Cookie Monster through a series of hour-long stories, with the players watching each story unfold, and helping the furry fellows out whenever they need help, be it trying on clothes, for a party, having a dance, or ducking and jumping to dodge obstacles.

There's a lovely variety of minigames available, and the difficulty levels have been balanced brilliantly. Games are never too simple, and you'll always need to use your noggin or quick reflexes - yet there is also no way to lose the game.

If you're not doing very well in a particular minigame, no-one will shout at you, nor will you die or lose points. Instead, the monsters will joke around with you and give encouragement about what you're meant to be doing. In this way, the game eggs the player on to complete the task in a charming and entertaining manner.

Not that this is the only time when the game oozes charm - it's absolutely full on it. Whether you're old or young or somewhere in between (and trying to pretend that you're not getting old), there is humour here for you.

We didn't realise Justin Bieber was doing a cameo appearance

Elmo and Cookie will banter between each other, and occasionally bump into other characters during their travels. The conversation happens on multiple levels - much like the TV series - where jokes are told that the kids will get, and more subtle jokes sneak out every few sentences to appease the older generation. It's a great mix - but of course, it's hardly surprising that Double Fine of all studios managed to pull it off.

Once Upon a Monster is crafted so well, but it isn't without its faults. While there are plenty of minigames to play through and a great deal of variety on show, they usually go on a bit too long. We found regularly that enjoyment levels for each game would start strong, raise to a peak, then begin to dip as the game dragged on.

It's also worth noting that, depending on how you plan to utilize your time with the game, you may or may not find it to be a little on the short side. There are six stories to play through, and each is around 40-60 minutes long.

Of course, if you're planning to play one a night with your child, then the whole game may well last you a week - then it's all down to whether or not your child cares for playing the same minigames over and over again. For adults, however, once through will be enough, and hence there isn't technically much content available.

Monster loving

Finally - and perhaps the most obvious point - is that Once Upon a Monster is definitely not for everyone. If you have kids who love gaming, Sesame Street or both, it's going to be a must-have. For pretty much anyone else, it's cute, but you'll inevitably feel rather silly stood in front of your TV putting clothes on smiling puppet monsters.

Got kids? Got Kinect? Get Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. It's a unique window into the world of the iconic TV show, with splashes of brilliance from one of the finest developers of this generation.

Best Game Moment: Listening to Elmo and Cookie's banter is always hilarious stuff.

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