The third game to spawn out of Double Fine's "Amnesia Fortnight" brainstorming session is Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, an interactive story that revolves around some loveable monsters that we all know and love. This is obviously a game aimed at kids--more specifically the 4-to-8-year-old demographic--and it's meant to be played cooperatively with a parent or older sibling. Given the amount of care that has been devoted to the developer's recent releases, it's probably safe to say that Once Upon a Monster is looking to get that same special treatment. How can you not smile when you see the happy-go-lucky Elmo bounce around with the cute furry little monster that is Grover?
Once Upon a Monster unfolds just like a storybook, where Elmo and the Cookie Monster have discovered a lost children's book titled, Once Upon a Monster. Together they read the book and become a part of the actual story, meeting new monsters and helping them overcome their problems. It's a cooperative game (for those family-bonding sessions) where the second player can easily drop in and out. There are a total of six chapters, each taking roughly 30 minutes to complete.
In our demo, we played as Marco, the furry monster in the story that is sad because no one attended his birthday party. Being the helpful monsters that they are, Elmo and Cookie Monster decide to cheer him up and come up with their own celebration. Cookie Monster, of course, runs off to get some food, and Elmo hops onto Marco's shoulders to help him collect a few items for the party. Once we were able to take over, we played as Marco, who was running through this bright and colorful fluorescent forest with Elmo bopping on his shoulders. Marco is quite tall, and while he was running, we had to make sure that he jumped over logs that had fallen in his path and lean left or right to avoid giant rocks. Elmo, on the other hand, had to duck when low-hanging branches appeared and raise his arms to grab the oddly shaped items dangling from the trees. There's no penalty if you miss, but players who do well will earn rewards as they progress.
We jumped to the end of the chapter and reunited with Cookie Monster to celebrate Marco's birthday. Here, the monsters will invite you to say, "Happy Birthday!" along with them, as well as help Marco blow out his candles. Grover eventually joined in on the fun by switching into his Saturday Night Fever white suit to get you on the dance floor. The next part was like a simplified version of Dance Central, where you mimic Grover and dance along to the music.
It's hard not to play this game with a huge smile on your face, especially if you grew up watching Sesame Street. The characters have been faithfully re-created in the game and exude the same kind of charm that they've always had. Like the educational television show, kids will learn a few life lessons about cooperation and empathy, as well as learn to appreciate similarities and differences.
Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is a delightful and whimsical game that is suitable for any young child or any adult who is a child at heart. Sesame Street has made quite an impact on children all over the world in the past 40 years, and it's heartwarming to see that the series continues to live on in many different forms. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster will be available sometime in the fall.