The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
As someone who makes a living via the written word, this may get me
into a bit of hot water: I’m tired of the alphabet. I’ve just about had
it with numbers, too. If you’re the parent of a young child, you know
exactly what I’m talking about. Just about every age-appropriate video,
TV show, and educational game hangs its hat on those two standard lesson
plans. Enough already. That’s why Warner’s Once Upon A Monster game
seemed like such a revelation when it was announced. First, it was based
on the Sesame Street characters that are so revered in my house. Next,
it was educational, but with more of a focus on social skills and other
often-neglected subjects. The fact that it was being developed by Double
Fine Productions was just a delicious extra layer of icing.
no mistake: This is a game for young players and their families. Only
the most die-hard Achievement hoarders will have the endurance to stick
through it if they didn’t start off with a love for Sesame Street and
its characters. If you’re under the game’s intended umbrella, however,
it’s one of the best family focused games ever made.
If you had to
distill Once Upon A Monster to its essence, it’s a series of
educational minigames that you play with Kinect-based motions. Reducing
it that way would be a mistake, however. Double Fine absolutely nailed
what makes Sesame Street what it is, from the Muppets’ loveable
personalities to how educational content is cleverly masked beneath
storylines that kids can relate to. It’s all strung together in a series
of vignettes that make up larger chapters in the game’s virtual
For instance, the game’s first chapter focuses on a
long-limbed monster named Marco. When Cookie and Elmo run into him,
Marco is sitting on a stump alone, celebrating the saddest birthday
party ever. The three fuzzballs then go out into the world to round up
some guests for a proper party. For example, one would-be attendee won’t
go unless he’s wearing the perfect outfit (an opportunity for a quick
lesson on colors), another needs help creating music for the shindig,
and Grover has gotten sidetracked trying to figure out how to fly. All
of these tasks and more are accomplished through intuitive gestures that
Kinect recognizes with ease.
I was curious to see how my four-year-old son would take to the game. After a few afternoons with it, it’s basically all he wants to talk about. I was surprised to see how easily he took to the controls, especially since tasks such as flying via arm flapping and leaning seem so complicated. When he did have trouble, the game didn’t penalize him for it. Rather than punish players who don’t duck out of a low-hanging branch’s way or have poor garbage-chucking aim, Once Upon A Monster focuses on praising successes. It encourages cooperative play through seamless drop-in and out gameplay, and none of the tasks are based on competition — so you don’t have to feel obligated to cut your wee one some slack.
Once Upon A Monster is the
educational game I’ve been wanting since I first had kids. It’s
approachable and easy for them to grasp, while still remaining enough of
a game to keep me engaged, too. If you’re a parent whose kids already
know their ABCs, Double Fine’s game is a fantastic way to reinforce
often-neglected (but critically important) skills like empathy,
responsibility, and friendship. Plus, you can make Grover flap his
stringy little blue arms like nobody’s business.
Email the author Jeff Cork, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.