Costume Quest Review

Platforms: PSN, Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: October 19, 2010

Halloween only comes once a year and brings a few things besides candy: high dentist bills, candy with razor blades buried inside, and teenagers vandalizing property under the guise of night. There was a time long ago where Halloween was a more innocent holiday for the kids who wanted to spend the night comparing costumes and trick-or-treating. Costume Quest, a game from the creative visionaries at Double Fine, embodies the finer points of this October holiday by crafting a simple RPG with an original premise and charm in every possible place.

Just about every person can relate to the tale Costume Quest‘s tells. Two siblings, Reynold and Wren, have just moved to a new neighborhood in time for Halloween and their parents see this as a perfect opportunity for them to make new friends. Although a questionable parenting tactic, the parents send their kids out by themselves (because I guess there are no child molesters in this town) to go trick-or-treat with the neighborhood children. After some hilarious bickering from the kids, the one you didn’t pick to play as gets taken by a green monster and it is up to you and your new friends to get her back.

The narrative succeeds on almost every level because of its charm, simplicity, and imaginative story telling. Dialogue is hilariously written, which is par for the course for a Double Fine game, and all sounds plausible coming out of a child’s mouth. I’ve fought with my sister similarly to how Reynold and Wren exchange insults, which I found relatable and funny in how they could nail an aspect most of us experienced so long ago. You are going to be reading this clever dialogue because there are no spoken lines. Reading this much dialogue may put off some, but this let my imagination go to work and I just had to imagine what the kids would have sounded like. Child voice actors usually come off as grating and incredibly annoying, so letting my mind do the work was definitely appreciated.

Your mind isn’t the only mind going to work, as the children in the game also have quite the imagination. Your costume may only be a cardboard box and some blue paint to most people, but in their worlds, it is a giant robot capable of launching missiles at any foe. Other things in the world they see have some metaphorical meaning associating to real world objects, giving the game some depth (if you can figure it out) and more charm along the way. This innocent way of looking at the world is such a stark contrast to what we see a lot of the time. We don’t see the surrounding environment from a bald space marine, but from a kid in a french fry costume and that is refreshing.

Costume Quest is not only kid-friendly in tone, but also in the way it plays. It is a “My First RPG” experience, with a simple battle and quest system. The “random battles” equivalent happens when you trick-or-treat, which is necessary to proceed. A friendly adult could be there to net you some sweet candy (which is currency) or a green monster, which leads into a battle. Combat pits you and your super powered costumes in a turn-based RPG fight. You pick an attack, matched with a quick time event, and the enemy does the same during their turn, with a quick time event for you to put up extra defense. It sound shallow, and to a point, it kind of is, but I thought it was actually pretty enjoyable. Picking the different costumes with different specials gives some strategic elements, along with the stat-buffing battle stamp system, but what is here is basic but fun. I found this to match the game’s overall simple feel quite well, but because of this, victory in battles can be achieved pretty easily which might not be to everyone’s liking.

No matter your age, you can’t deny the game has a great art style. While it may lag a bit technically because of a framerate that is a tad jittery, the cel-shaded art is always engaging. Environments and characters pop due to their flat, bright colors and cartoony look. Even though anyone can (and will) like the look, the style works thematically, which adds to the game’s appeal to a younger audience.

Costume Quest brought me back in more ways than one. I’d probably be thrown in jail if I dressed up as a devil and begged for candy, so the intriguing trick-or-treating game concept had me recollect to a time where that sort of activity was done yearly. The turn-based battling system also brought me back to those times because of its likeness to the Pokemon games that I enjoyed so long ago. It may be cool to drive cars, buy M-Rated games, and grow beards but Costume Quest is a kick ass product that successfully shows me a fun game and reminds me of the simpler, more innocent times of yesteryear.

+Funny, light-hearted story with great writing
+Simple, fun combat
+Original premise
+Every aspect is charming
+Art design is strong
-Can be a bit too easy for most people
-Framerate chugs sometimes

Final Score: 8/10

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