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Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster preview: A children's game for adults


I'll let you in on a little secret about me and Double Fine's next game, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster -- I played it back at E3, but unfortunately let my preview writeup fall to the wayside as the days after the big show continued. What's more shameful is that it was essentially the best game I played at E3, so I was more than happy to check out a new area at Gamescom and get a second opportunity to speak about it. A chance for redemption, if you will.

Luckily, nothing has changed, and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster remains a magical experience two months later.

Gallery: Sesame Street: Once upon a Monster (Gamescom 2011) | 18 Photos

Crafted around the concept of a storybook, Once Upon a Monster divides its Kinect-based gameplay into half hour long chunks, making them both approachable to young children with limited attention spans and palatable for quick replays with parents. The chunk I saw back at E3 involved appeasing Puffalopes and other Double Fine-created creatures, all the while incidentally teaching kids some base concepts (the importance of physical education, compassion, the concept of opposites, etc.).

Today, however, was focused on helping out a friendly flower whose garden had become overrun with weeds. Outside of the usual Cookie Monster/Elmo combo, Oscar the Grouch made a special cameo to help explain to our young flower how to clean things up. As my co-op partner and I grabbed weeds from the garden and tossed them into garbage cans, the mechanics progressed to introduce green weeds (which go in the green garbage) and red weeds (which ... you get it).

The educational aspect was evident throughout our playthrough, whether we were flapping our arms like fools or helping to adjust the pitch of various singing flowers. Project lead Nathan Martz explained the game's educational background as steeped in Sesame Workshop's own "Whole Child Curriculum," a system of lessons aimed at two to four year olds.

But what drew me in initially was the game's Brutal Legend Engine-derived visual style. The soft plush that covers Sesame Street's characters moves with their actions and immediately impresses. Combined with the vibrant, bright colors of Sesame Street's Elmo and Cookie Monster, and the game visually pops. If I had kids, I'd be worried about them trying to hug the television screen while playing the game. In fact, I'm a bit worried that I'll try to do as much myself when the game arrives exclusively on Xbox 360 later this year.

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