Review – Costume Quest

Costume Quest
I’m doing my very best to wear out the word nostalgia while writing reviews this month. Mind you, I’m not complaining that so many releases seem to be tapping visuals and controls that take me back to those earliest memories of clutching a controller in my hands – and began the era of my parents trying to wrench them away from it to occasionally get some fresh air.

While Costume Quest wants for the word nostalgia, the digital release hits a different pocket of memories with the childhood recollections of suburban existence. In time for Halloween, the game revolves around that one magical night each year when we stumbled from house to house collecting the candy needed to fuel a power fantasy preceding those offered by videogames, imagining ourselves to be the very characters we tried to mimic beneath an awkward mix of plastic and cardboard.


Costume Quest
Costume Quest begins by asking the player to solve the eternal struggle of my childhood, finally settling sibling rivalry by choosing to put either Reynold or Wren in charge of the other, allowing the player to choose which character they’ll be playing as for the rest of the game. From there there’s every invitation to begin trick or treating, walking outside in their clunky costumes to begin knocking on doors and shaking down houses for a sugar payday.

Unfortunately, whichever sibling wasn’t selected is soon stolen by monsters, who mistake your twin for a piece of candy, the largest and sweetest find in their quest to steal every last piece of the sweet stuff from town. What immediately ensues is an RPG light situation that is as comically unhinged as one might have come to expect from the fine minds of Double Fine.

The player enters into a turn-based battle situation where they transform into an idealized realization of their costume – a cardboard robot becomes an awesome anime machine, a wooden sword and shield becomes the tools of an armored knight, and fluffy unicorn dressings, well, you become a fluffy unicorn.

The turn-based battle offers a standard attack mode based on each costume, as well as a special attack that becomes available after two standard attacks have been issued. After the initial battle, the player will quickly meet another trick-or-treater willing to join their party, with a third waiting about halfway through the game.

Costume Quest
The RPG light tactic that from then on carries throughout the entire game could get old very fast, but here’s why it doesn’t.

Every normal attack offers some form of button prompt that makes the attack deadlier – either by pressing one button at just the right moment, or another quickly enough to charge a meter. Many costumes share between a few of these tricks, but the treat is that being on the ready for them will go a long way to helping you survive battles. Additionally there are battle cards to be purchased, which allow the player to assign one specific ability or skill to each party member, swapping them around depending on battle situations – extra health, extra damage, poison effects, strike after successful dodge, it’s all standard RPG fare.

These light touches introduced just enough strategy to not overwhelm and bog me down with tutorials, while also not simply allowing the game to devolve into passive button mashing in order to issue commands between naps.

There’s an initial learning curve that’s quickly overcome as you learn the abilities of each new costume, and getting zen with the game’s pace doesn’t take very long at all – but slacking off can be deadly. Anytime I didn’t take a battle seriously enough to worry about making those attack prompts count usually resulted in death. Quick button prompts also allow the player a chance to lessen the damage of enemy attacks, and it wasn’t long before I was verbally reminding myself of the button layout for the controller before each battle.

The best strategy came from mixing cards and costumes that offered quick attacks – enemy healing powers usually meant that the odds of surviving decreased as conflicts dragged out. But the challenge here is never nightmarish, and there’s never any need to level grind – even though I did once, but that was purely for candy.

Costume Quest
The structure of the game lays out a formula that repeats through three stage areas, the player knocking on doors to find either candy or monsters, while also discovering small side-quests around each area, at times assisted by some costume powers like the robot rollerskates or ninja invisibility trick. Even a small diversion such as an apple bobbing contest stole more time from me than I would have anticipated.

It’s a light and playful bit of exploration, confined by area barriers but open in the sense that you can try to complete some quests before knocking on more doors or vice-versa, but each area is focused so that the player often falls into a natural progression that leaves no stone unturned.

Nostalgia and charm, those old buzz words, really help stave off a sense of repetition that could drag this release down some notches, with small joys like battle animations and monster banter keeping a grin on my face late at night. In earnest though, the game taps a sense of compulsive behavior, with trading cards and costume bits that I simply couldn’t leave undiscovered – and I didn’t.

As the first digital title from Double Fine, Costume Quest delivers a complete gaming experience during a bout of episodic releases from other studios. The game had no problem depriving me of over six hours in a very short period, which seemed an ideal amount of time for Double Fine’s humor and wit to develop and run free, but also wrap the story up before running short on steam. And while some audio might have helped the humor of the dialogue to pop a bit more, the complaint seems minor given all the other nods to verify that this game was crafted by people who very fondly cherish their own Halloween memories.


Developer
Double Fine

Publisher
THQ

System
Playstation 3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE) (Xbox LIVE reviewed)

Modes
Singleplayer

Release Date
October 19, 2010 (PSN) / October 20, 2010 (Xbox LIVE)

Price
PlayStation 3 (PSN) $14.99 / Xbox 360 (Xbox LIVE) 1200 Microsoft Pts

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

    I really like the new setup. I also love that you are one of the only sites to actually post price and other relevant info. I’ll be waiting until next Halloween when I can grab it for $10. ;)

    • EdEN

      $10? By next halloween we can get it for $7.50. Speaking of Halloween, it’s weird that Sony didn’t put Siren up for sale at a discount since it IS october and the next store update puts it out of “range”. Oh well, maybe next year.

      • http://www.reverbnation.com/ujnhunter Ujn Hunter

        Well $7.50 would be even better, rarely do 1200 point games get discounted to 600 points however, more likely 800 points. Also, Siren is pretty difficult, I imported the Asian Blu-ray when it came out (because you know how I hate Digital Downloads and $30-40 is WAY out of my DD range) and it came with a Soundtrack CD.