Sesame Street just turned 45 last week and in that time, Elmo, Big Bird, and friends have spawned dozens of video games for about every console you can imagine. I grew up with Sesame Street and it’s important to me that my daughter, Mae, also have a love and appreciation for the show. She is getting a little older now so I thought it was time to introduce her to the franchise in video game form.
My wife and I have been working closely with Mae to prepare her for Kindergarten. We want to enroll her in one of the local magnet or charter schools that adhere to a more strict curriculum, so we really need to step up our game when it comes to her reading and math skills. I came across Sesame Street Counting Cafe after stumbling upon another game with a “SEGA Club” logo at my local game shop. After some research I discovered that SEGA released a dozen or so games under the SEGA Club brand that were intended for younger gamers, ages 3-6. The majority of these games feature educational themes and include mid 90’s PBS favorites such as The Magic School Bus and Richard Scary’s Busytown. This line of games also includes a kid-friendly version of Ecco the Dolphin which will be a complete nostalgia-fest if I ever find it in the wild. By seeking out these SEGA Club branded titles, I can be sure that the content will be suitable for Mae and most likely be something within her skill range.
Sesame Street Counting Cafe let’s you take control of Grover and serve a limited selection of menu items to a rather demanding patron. The game play is straightforward, Mr. Johnson gives you his order and then you head into to the kitchen, where you use some basic platforming skills to collect the food items and then return to the guest to collect a star. If you accidentally prepare the wrong food for the order, you can go to the back of the restaurant and feed your mistake to Cookie Monster and start over.
The whole game is a pretty great throwback to one of the older Sesame Street bits with Waiter Grover in Charlie’s restaurant, one of my favorites.
Once you complete enough orders a monkey comes and steals your star for some reason. You have to go find him in order to get the star back and move to the next(almost identical) level. Each new level does introduce additional Sesame Street characters, but they just function as new obstacles, it would have been nice to interact with another character that wasn’t just telling you what to do. Mae enjoyed the game but she and I both lost interest after the third level. One issue I had with the game from an educational standpoint is that the counting aspect is pretty limited. I wouldn’t have expected a Sesame Street game to go into advanced algebra, but it would be nice to throw in some basic addition or subtraction, or at least let the counting aspect surpass four units of each food item.
Sesame Street is all about happiness and friendship but the atmosphere in Counting Cafe feels lonely. this interpretation doesn’t really follow the same formula that makes Sesame Street great, and it shows in our limited attention spans. The game makes good use of voice acting and the sprites are smoothly animated. Overall, I think this is an interesting game, for about 20-30 minutes or so. With our busy schedule, game time is at a premium, so the game really needs to appeal to Mae in order for us to spend an extended period of time with it before it becomes just another game on the shelf. Sesame Street Counting Cafe was a good way to start our SEGA Club collection, but I don’t know if we will be revisiting this one any time soon.