Last year I had the pleasure of aiding the kids (and wifey) review Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster on the Xbox 360. It’s seldom you’ll see a kids game made with such loving attention to detail. The one issue we had with it wasn’t a fault of the game really but Kinect is a little tricky for for a two or three year old to operate, and try to operate it they will if it features some of their favourite characters.
Fortunately that’s where the new breed of interactive TV programmes for Kinect come along. Kinect Sesame Street TV is one of these. What you get on the disc are a number of “episodes” of Sesame Street, cut into scenes that are all individually accessible. All of your favourite characters from Elmo to Big Bird are present, in a live action (i.e. puppets, not animation) TV show. The characters interact with each other in the same way they would in a standard TV episode, there are even the questions they ask the viewers with the pause for a reply. The difference is the majority of these replies are properly interactive! You might be asked to shake your hands wildly to fluff someones hair up, or the character might put on a shirt matching the colour of your childs top.
The interactions aren’t continuous and there is definitely more watching than interacting. On occasions Fifi waved her arms madly at the telly to no discernable effect because she wasn’t supposed to. This left her temporarily confused but she soon got herself immersed in the story again. As a little 3 year old girl who stalwartly answers all the questions that Dora the Explorer asks, even though she’ll never get a proper reply, Fifi got on with Kinect Sesame Street TV like a house on fire. It was great to see her expression when her favourite character (Elmo), responded directly to her interaction. You could see her reassessing what on the face of it appeared to be a TV programme as she sat there.
There is plenty of content on the disc, so it shouldn’t drive parents too bonkers with repetition. Of course kids love watching the same thing over and over and over and over again, so there is nothing to fear there. Given how finickity some games are with the Kinect sensor, interactives like this are a definite boon for the younger audience. I don’t think we’ve had as much fun with the Kinect sensor as a family since we played the mini-games bundled with the device*.
It’s always interesting to see how young kids pick up game interfaces; touch and gesture activation seem much more natural to them than using controllers or joysticks, and the Kinect is probably the easiest way for them to do this.
*I personally enjoyed gun building in the last Ghost Recon game but that’s obviously not for kids!