“When you think joy and fun, you can’t help but to think about Jim Hen­son”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Games&apps -

“Our in­dus­try is very mo­not­o­nous, emo­tion­ally. It’s all burly ado­les­cent, testos­terone-filled dudes who con­quer death and shoot it in the face. That’s awe­some, but how about a game about joy, a game that’s up­lift­ing and fun. When you think of those kinds of emo­tions, you can’t help but to think about Jim Hen­son. That guy left his mark.”

Once Upon a Mon­ster asks play­ers to duck and jump as Elmo runs through a for­est on mon­ster-back. An­other se­quence is a dance-off with Grover in a white disco suit, and later you’re re­quired to shout “Happy Birth­day!” at a party scene and help blow out can­dles.

In­ter­est­ingly, it didn’t start life as such a di­verse ti­tle, and orig­i­nally was in­tended to be a Mup­pet-free mu­sic game.

“The orig­i­nal name was Happy Song,” says Martz. “We were talk­ing among our­selves, ask­ing, ‘Don’t you have a happy song?’ I said wouldn’t it be great if there was a game where cute mon­sters could help you make a happy song. That was the ge­n­e­sis – to make this creativ­ity ac­ces­si­ble” to kids.

“We re­alised it had to be more than mu­sic and needs a whole range of ac­tiv­i­ties,” he says. “Once we had a range of ac­tiv­i­ties, we needed a story to unify them, and a world to base it in. The last piece was Se­same Street.”

One of the great­est chal­lenges was au­then­tic­ity, and Martz says the de­vel­op­ers were lucky to work so closely with the Se­same Street peo­ple (and mon­sters). “We vis­ited the Hen­son Crea­ture Shop in New York. We re­fined the fur and their arms. I can tell you the dif­fer­ence be­tween Elmo’s arms and Grover’s arms, who’s handed and who’s got strings.

“We’ve tried to be re­ally faith­ful to the de­signs. Be­cause we’re on a pow­er­ful plat­form like Xbox, all the fur has a vivid sys­tem for each char­ac­ter. There’s even a Mup­pet tis­sue sim­u­la­tor, so when their limbs move, it feels . . . Mup­pety!”

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