After seeing the potential of Kinect-based learning with Kinect Nat Geo TV earlier this week, we were looking forward to visiting our old friends down on Sesame Street. If older kids could be coaxed into mixing learning into their downtime, we were sure that the same could be said for an even younger crowd, especially given the source material’s long and rich history.
Kinect provides a perfect platform for helping with the basics such as counting and reading, as well as being able to use more interactivity to teach lower social skills, such as learning to play and share. With eight specially developed interactive episodes of the TV show provided across two discs, and a bundled “Season Pass” allowing access to a wealth of non-interactive shows and classic clips, there should be more than enough here to warrant the low £19.99 asking price.
But there are more than a couple things amiss with Kinect Sesame Street TV. Firstly, the interactive portions of the shows are just too few in number. In the opening half-hour episode – where Elmo is turned into a giant and learns that being tall doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be happy, and that people of all sizes have differing skills – there are a total of three interactive sections. Your young ‘uns will throw a ball to Elmo (using any movement at all, as the product is – somewhat understandably – massively, massively forgiving), throw coconuts to Grover in the same way, and dance about in “Elmo’s World.” This section drops your child into Elmo’s horrendously drawn cartoon house and invites them to play with stuff that’s dotted around the screen, such as hanging stars, or the sun and moon that live in opposite corners of the place. Wave your hand over the sun, and it spins. Hit the moon, it spins. Hit the stars, they move on their strings. That’s it. Still, at least Bruno Mars turns up half way through the show to sing a nice ditty about not giving up when something seems to difficult to accomplish. Somewhat ironically, as it turns out.
During each episode, players are challenged to take photos of themed objects that appear in the background, by pointing at the screen and shouting “picture.” This would provide a nice extra layer of interactivity to keep kids from getting bored, but we found that we were being credited with finding the goal object even though we hadn’t moved or said a word. As a test, we faced away from the screen during one show and found 13 out of the 20 available objects, which makes us wonder why Kinect is even needed at all here. In addition to that, there are 20 objects to find in the first episode, one of which is located in a section where we’re learning how to count to six with Grover. “Well done, you can count to six! Congratulations on finding 17 out of the 20 objects!” just doesn’t seem to make sense to us, although as non-experts in the field of learning (anything) we’re sure that someone will come along to tell us that this is the right way to do it.
Kinect Sesame Street TV also suffers from a bit of a lack of focus. Disc 1 – “Growing Up” - has episodes about giving up your pacifier, how boys can play with dolls if they want to, and how to share with siblings – as well as why it’s just fine to be any height at all, as we’ve already mentioned. Then you jump onto Disc 2 – “Science” – which starts teaching you about the tensile strength of an egg, performing basic scientific tests, and the iridescence of bubbles. It just seems like a bit of a jump, in all honesty. It does mean that the package is suitable for 2 different sets of abilities, of course, but if your child is already messing about with the first steps of science, the chances are that he or she knows how to share and isn’t still using a pacifier.
Kinect Sesame Street TV is a superb idea and there’s no doubt that if your younger kids love Sesame Street, they’ll get some limited enjoyment out of this. If they aren’t already big fans of Elmo, Grover, Big Bird and co. though, the distinct lack of interaction required here means that there just won’t be enough to draw them in.
This could – and should - have been so much better but feels just a little bit lazy, which is why we'll do our best impression of The Count to tell you that it only gets 4, ah-ah-ah!