Uses Early Childhood Curriculum
Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece uses the Sesame Street early childhood development curriculum in 18 minigames that focus on music creation, movement and dance, learning about instruments and the sounds they make, as well as musical patterns, musical concepts (i.e. pitch and tempo) and notation.
This game for the Wii is also available on the Nintendo DS, but we chose to review the Wii version because of its emphasis on being physical. By playing the game, kids will jump, dance and move their arms in a variety of ways.
Two Modes of Play
Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece offers two ways for kids to explore its content: a story mode and a play games mode. In the story mode, kids join Elmo and Abby on an adventure to four different locations to gather instruments and skills so that they can create a "Musical Monsterpiece." Abby uses her magic to transport the characters (and your child) to the different locations, including The Magical Street, The Music Room, The Count's Castle, and The Neighborhood. In this mode, the minigames appear in a specific order so that young kids don't have to navigate multiple screens.
In the mode where you just play games, kids (or their parents) select a location, and then choose a game found in that location. All of the 18 minigames found in the story mode are available here with no need to unlock them.
By using the Parent's Page, adults have an option of creating a specific games playlist for their kids. To access this page, parents simply push the "B" button using a separate Wii Remote. The second Wii remote can also be used by a parent or older sibling to assist a preschooler without the young child having to give up his own Wii remote.
How to Play
Overall, the 18 minigames are fun to play, and they succeed at teaching kids about music and dance. In one game, kids will jump while holding the Wii remote to collect musical notes that are floating in the air above Elmo as he runs. In another, they'll help Abby collect everyday objects to complete a sound pattern. Kids will hear a pattern that might contain the squeaks of Ernie's rubber duckie and the shaking sound of a full box of pasta. From this game they will learn that music can be created by more than just instruments.
For making music, the mini-game called "Shake Your Maracas" lets kids accompany Hank Honker as he plays music on his banjo. Preschoolers make music by shaking the Wii remote and their actions transfer to Elmo on the screen who is shown shaking a pair of maracas. While making music with Hank is fun by itself, the game ups the ante by layering on a freeze game. Whenever Hank stops playing, so must you. When kids freeze at the correct time, Elmo rewards them with a "good listening" compliment.
One of the games that teaches kids about musical instruments is called "Find That Instrument." Using a gameshow format hosted by The Count, kids tilt the Wii remote so that instruments sliding down a conveyor belt go right or left to end up with either Elmo or Abby. Each muppet has a graphical list showing which instruments it wants. After each round, The Count explains that certain instruments, such as strings or percussion, belong to groups.
Why It Is Good
Most of the games can be played by jumping, tilting the Wii remote back and forth when holding it sideways, and pumping or waving your arms. We found a few of the games to be slow to respond to arm movements, including one where you are helping Abby to fly higher or lower to grab floating musical notes. For notes that are high, you need to pump your arms to make Abby soar. This motion didn't always register. Luckily, missing the notes doesn't matter, and the onscreen characters don't give you a hard time.
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment demonstrates their deep understanding of preschoolers' gaming skills in how they set up this game. Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece provides all of its instructions by audio and also provides short videos showing kids how to play each game. As kids play, the game adapts its difficulty to match the child's skill level. For the youngest preschoolers, parents can add the second Wii remote to control the game and together they can have fun simply dancing and making music with Elmo.
With a cheerful musical score performed by Los Angeles-based Ozomatli, kids will hear a wide variety of music. Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece makes learning about music giggly, physical fun. Don't miss it.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.