Review: Kinect Sesame Street TV
Microsoft appear to be in the throes of launching a new wave of kid-friendly Kinect titles that really take advantage of what their motion controller has to offer, possibly influenced by the fact that no actual developer has successfully managed to create a decent core game just yet. Kinect Sesame Street TV and Kinect Nat Geo TV: America the Wild are the first of these titles to hit, pitched as two-way interactive TV experiences that let children learn whilst having fun which, being father to a nine month-old, sounds good to me.
Anyone who played last year’s excellent Once Upon A Monster should know what to expect, although (as the name implies) Sesame Street TV sticks to the tried and tested format of a show that’s captivated young and old alike since the late 60′s, using Jim Henson’s Muppets to help teach kids how to count and get to grips with their ABC’s – but where OUAM was a game in the more traditional sense, KSSTV is a specific learning experience. Not that this is a bad thing however, as the title is fun enough for little ones to feel like they’re actually playing something whilst giving parents solace in the fact that their Kinect is actually getting used, and the kids are doing something constructive with it to boot.
Sesame Street TV is spread across two discs, with the first disc concentrating on the notion of growing up, whilst the second disc gets a bit more technical by looking at Science. The discs contain 8 episodes between them, with each episode split into six chapters that can be played in one go or enjoyed in smaller chunks. New monster on the block Cooper acts as the presenter and introduces each episode’s move, number and letter ‘of the day’, which the content that follows is based on. He also introduces Mirror (who shows the player’s “reflection”), and Flash – the camera that you’ll use to take photos with later on.
The episodes all have their own specific theme, with Elmozilla being the first to feature on disc one, which shows the likeable little red monster as he attempts to make himself taller than his peers, who are all growing just that little bit quicker than him. The main brunt of each episode is played out in the middle chapter, with a long clip concentrating on that episode’s particular theme. It also requires you to take pictures of certain items as they appear on the screen using Cooper Monster and Flash – in Elmozilla’s case you need to point and say ‘picture’ every time you see a ruler (tying into the theme of measuring growth), but in later episodes it can be crayons, baby bottles or egg cartons. There are 20 of these objects spread throughout each main chapter, and some of them can be quite hard to spot, particularly as the main chapter itself is so entertaining – you’ll really need to keep your eyes peeled in order to nab all the items, but older children will soon associate a new camera angle with the possibility of a new item to snap. Kinect appeared to be quite sensitive in tracking movement – sometimes taking pictures when I neither moved nor said ‘picture’, whilst also struggling to recognise either of them at times when I did.
The rest of the chapters concentrate on the letter, number or move of the day, with celebs like Bruno Mars appearing to sing a song or two about growing up, or how awesome fathers are because they begin with the letter ‘F’, and most of your favourite characters turn up in some capacity or other – Grover’s coconut chapter is particularly fun (with its cheeky reference to The Matrix), which is also available as a free trial on the KSSTV app.
Like Kinect Nat Geo TV, Sesame Street features a year’s pass to the Kinect Sesame Street TV app on the Xbox Dashboard, which gives you full access to digital versions of all the episodes featured on the discs as well as a wealth of classic Sesame Street clips from the last 40 years, and a whole heap of episodes of Abby’s Flying Fairy School and Bert and Ernie’s Great Adventures. As someone who remembers Sesame Street from back in the day, this content is priceless and I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter get to the point where she enjoys watching classic clips of Kermit singing Bein’ Green and the like. The app also keeps track of the activities you carry out whilst using it, so you can see which clips have been viewed previously, or earn stickers for completing certain actions whilst playing through the episodes.
The app doesn’t track what you do whilst using the discs however, so there seems to be more incentive to play through the app than the physical discs themselves. It does seem a little odd to feature the same content on both the discs and the app (as Rich pointed out in his Nat Geo review), but there’s a massive amount of gamerscore on offer for the achievement hunters who wish to play through both. Kinect Sesame Street TV could just have easily been a download-only title, but at least it makes the title all the more accessible for those who maybe don’t have an internet connection at home.
I have to admit to not being as engaged by KSSTV as I was by Once Upon A Monster – there was just something very magical about the latter, possibly because it was pitched at both kids and adults, with its cheeky asides and trademark Double Fine charm and sense of humour. Kinect Sesame Street TV is leveled directly at the kids, so any adults hoping to get some sneaky play out of this like they did with OUAM will quickly get bored. That’s not to say that there’s no place for Mums or Dads to get involved though, as there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had whilst helping your little ones to count or recognise letters, and the furry inhabitants of the Street are charming no matter what age you are. In fact, certain human characters may be recognisable to the older generation, and I was surprised to see at least one guy I remember being on the show when I was a kid appearing in one of the episodes.
All in all, Kinect Sesame Street TV is an excellent package – there’s an awful lot of content on offer and the inclusion of a year’s pass to the dashboard app is a real bonus. You can’t really put a price on the sort of education and benefit your children will get, and the fact that most retailers are selling it for £19.99 is an absolute steal.
Review: Kinect Sesame Street TV Results
What we liked:
Great learning fun for kids
Bags of content
Year's pass to the Dashboard app is a bonus
What we disliked:
Kinect unreliable at times
Only really appeals to younger end of the market
Could have been a download-only release