Since 1969, Sesame Street has been both a helpful learning aid and an entertaining experience for impressionable youngsters. Over the years, its puppeteering has become iconic, thanks to the creation of characters like Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, Grover and the Count, among others. Heck, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t at least familiar with the memorable creations and their fictional, message-laden lives. The show is simply engrained in popular culture, and seems like it will be around forever. Of course, it’s not like that would be a bad thing.
In order to propel the children’s television phenomenon into a new digital dimension, Microsoft Game Studios teamed up with its license holders. The result is Kinect Sesame Street TV, an eight episode DVD set, which aims to provide kids with an innovative way to interact with their favourite characters, as opposed to simply sitting on a couch while watching. Released at a budget-friendly price of thirty dollars, it’s an interesting venture, which is certainly worth looking into if you happen to know a youngster who has access to both an Xbox 360 and a Kinect motion sensor.
Simply put, Kinect Sesame Street TV is interactive television. There’s nothing complex about it, and its title doesn’t lie. The set contains two discs, both of which contain four themed episodes. Disc one is all about growing up, featuring episodes that talk about how to share with siblings, as well as other challenges that young children have to deal with as they develop. Conversely, disc two offers science-based experiences, which focus on counting, measuring, simple experiments and even the alphabet. It’s all easy to digest, and will thoroughly entertain the younger ones amongst us.
The console plays the discs, but Kinect is required for all of the interactivity, meaning that button-based commands need not be bothered with. During each segment, the camera detects the player, who almost always needs to be standing. Audible prompts and understandable tutorials then tell the kid what to do and when to do it. Expectedly, all of those referenced movements are incredibly easy to memorize and perform, rendering the game a cakewalk for those who’ve aged past its targeted Early Childhood audience.
Different segments require different actions, meaning that things will change throughout each show. However, both discs contain rather formulaic show designs. Sure, they all have unique storylines but, other than their main tales, their runtimes are predominantly comprised of select, themed chunks. Examples include an alphabet show, which tasks players with clapping for the correct letter, a freeze frame counting game featuring the Count, and a coconut throwing mini-game where kids must help a delivery man pick up his dropped fruit. Additionally, it’s worth noting that all episodes feature point and yell photography, as well as the fact that they all conclude with a trip to Elmo’s World.
Although the diverse Elmo’s World experiences – which discuss things like music, plant growing and the beach – will surely end up being audience favourites, they’re not all fun and games. That is, even though the segments’ featured content is arguably better than anything else these episodes present. It must be said that Kinect’s chronicled detection problems occasionally keep Elmo’s quests for knowledge from being all that they could’ve been.
You see, the only time where Kinect Sesame Street TV actually superimposes the player into the game is during the above-referenced segments. It does so by showing a rough outline of the person, then eliminating the odd fault by putting a rainbow-like outline around them. Each move is slightly blurred, but it works quite well – at least from an aesthetic standpoint. Things occasionally become problematic during times where one is prompted to touch things. Unfortunately, the registration isn’t perfect, making it hard to swipe at every on-screen item. Furthermore, accidentally stepping backwards can take a player out of the shot, inserting he or she into the background where movements don’t result in interactivity. Elmo’s World is not broken, however, and does work most of the time – I just felt the need to mention that problems will sometimes arise. Granted, the nice thing is that it allows for two people to play together.
Rounding out this package is a season pass code, which can be used in order to unlock extra content. Inputting its string of letters and digits into an Xbox LIVE redeem code field enters the applicable account into a one year subscription. The payoff is access to tons of extra Sesame Street content, from clips and music to episodes of Abby’s Flying. Needless to say, it’s worth looking into, and should provide hours of additional entertainment.
When it comes to presentation, it’s important to remember that this is an interactive DVD set, and not a Blu-ray compilation. While it looks surprisingly good on a high-definition set, there are moments where compression artifacts stand out. Then again, it’s not like children will notice the issue, as they’ll be too enthralled by each twenty to thirty minute-long episode’s vivid use of colour and quality audio. Other than the artifcating, it’s tough to knock this affordable release and its creative presentation. The Elmo’s World segments are artistic standouts.
Those who know young boys and girls who love to sing, dance, jump and count along with their favourite Sesame Street characters should certainly look into Kinect Sesame Street TV. It’s well worth its appreciably low admission price, and offers quite a few hours of educational entertainment. Sure, it has the odd motion tracking issue and becomes repetitive at times, but kids will be able to overlook those detractions with ease.
Note: Those who’d prefer to purchase a digital copy of Kinect Sesame Street TV can do so through Xbox LIVE, at a cost of $29.99.
This article is based on a copy of the game that we received for review purposes.