For young and old
It is a sad truth that we, as gamers, are a sour, jaded bunch. We immediately pass on some excellent games deemed “too kiddy” or “childish” for the next big thing based around roided-up space marines shooting each other in the face. So it is always a breath of fresh air when a game comes along that is perfect not only for children but for older gamers as well.
Costume Quest, developed by Double Fine (who were behind Psychonauts and last year’s Brutal Legend), takes place in the fictional suburb of Auburn Pines. Fraternal twins Wren and Reynold are new to the neighborhood, and wouldn’t you know it, it is October 31st. After selecting the twin that you will control for the rest of the game, the two head out to go trick-or-treating. At the same time monsters from the land of Repugia invade Auburn Pines in search of candy for their boss, the Cadaverous Big Bones. These forces are led by Dorsilla the Witch, who is looking to win favor with Big Bones and gain entrance into Repugia.
Unfortunately for the not chosen twin their costume is that of candy corn. Needless to say the monsters kidnap your twin, and it is your responsibility to rescue them, lest you be grounded. Along the way you will recruit the aid of Lucy and Everett, two fellow trick-or-treaters to help stop the monster’s evil plot.
Trick or treat
Because the main characters are children on Halloween night, the costumes play an important role in battle. While they look simple in the over world, during battle sequences the children become serious interpretations of their costume. Each has a specific purpose, such as offense, defense, and healing. In total there are ten costumes, from robots and ninjas to unicorns and French fries. You begin the game with the Robot costume, and quickly find components for more. Some of these costumes have uses in the over world as well. The Robot costume allows you to use roller-skate shoes to travel quickly and jump over ramps, while the Knight costume can be used to protect against falling debris or water. The picture of a Ninja, Unicorn, and the Statue of Liberty standing side by side in battle is pretty funny, and it helps establish the game’s charm.
The over world is fairly simple, there are three main hubs: a suburb area, a shopping mall, and carnival. At each of these locations are houses that must be trick-or-treated in order to proceed. Some doors will have adults who hand out candy (the game’s currency), or monsters who must be defeated. The over world also has some children who hand out side quests, like finding a certain rare collectible card to trade with them or bobbing for apples. There aren’t a large amount of side quests, and there isn’t a lot of variety in them but thankfully they aren’t necessary for completion.
The battle system in Costume Quest is very much like the one used in Nintendo’s Paper Mario series. When a character attacks an onscreen prompt will appear, like pressing a button or waggling the control stick. Successfully completing this action will result in an increase in damage, or a decrease in damage if being attacked. Along with this basic attack, there are two other options in battle (aside from running, of course). Each costume has a special attack that can be used every three turns. Some, like the Vampire or Robot, deal massive damage to either one enemy or all of them. Others, like the Ninja make it more difficult to land a successful attack. Then you have the Unicorn and Statue of Liberty, who can heal your units making them very useful. Battles are also influenced by Battle Stamps that can be applied for various benefits, like increased attack damage or status effects like stunning enemies. The battles aren’t that challenging, and there isn’t a lot of depth here, but it is a game perfectly suited for younger gamers or those new to RPGs, as your characters are fully healed after each battle.
Cute and funny
Graphically the game is quite impressive. Using a cell-shaded style very reminiscent of The Legend Of Zelda: Wind Waker, it is very bright and colorful effectively using the traditional Halloween oranges and browns. The character designs themselves are cute, with large eyes and heads. There aren’t that many enemy designs, with four classes split between three enemy species. You have the traditional offensive magic, healers, ranged and melee units, each with similar designs no matter which species (for example healers tend to wear white cloaks, while their offensive brethren wear purple cloaks).
Though Costume Quest might look like a kids’ game, there are quite a few jokes that are outright hilarious. The only real down point is that there is no voice acting, and sometimes the text scrolls so fast it can be difficult to read all of it. The music matches the quasi-spooky nature of the game, but a lot of the time you will be listening to ambient noise like dogs barking or the wind howling.
Joy of Halloween
For a 15 dollar price point, the game is a bit on the expensive side. You can easily collect every collectible and costume in your first run through, which lasts around five to six hours. Once the story is completed you can go back to complete various side quests or collect any costume materials you may have missed. While the story does drag at points, it has a great heart and a touching ending that goes beyond its Halloween trappings. It also perfectly captures the joy of being a child at Halloween time, the exuberance of collecting candy and dressing up as something you have always wanted to be.
Coming from Double Fine, it is not surprising to learn that Costume Quest is one of the funniest games to come out this year. What might be a bit more surprising is that even though it looks like it is directed at children, older gamers should find a lot to enjoy here. The battle system might not be deep and the game might be a bit on the pricey side, Costume Quest’s unique charm and its ability to capture the spirit of Halloween make this a high recommendation.
Great humor, art style, story.
A bit pricey, not a lot of depth.