Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: Costume Quest

Costume Quest
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: 19 October 2010

Halloween is a special time of year, especially for children. Thoughts of candy, jack-o-lanterns, candy, costumes, candy, creepy parties, and candy dominate the month leading up to the special night. You know, this kind of Halloween. The talented folks at Double Fine used this magical holiday to set up a grand adventure that children and adults can enjoy. The DLG (downloadable game) Costume Quest brings us back to a time when Halloween was a night where anything could happen.

Spooky times ahead

Taking place in an idyllic town, the events of Costume Quest are just what a child would imagine. Wren and Reynold are newly arrived in town, and have been eagerly awaiting Halloween. The bickering elementary twins force Mom to choose someone to be in charge (your character) so that Trick-or-Treating goes smoothly. It doesn't, of course, as the nefarious (but inept) Grubbins, goblins from another dimension, invade to steal candy for their evil master. The twin not selected gets candy-napped and your character, along with a few new friends, must save your sibling or risk being grounded for life!

Stealing candy is serious business

The game plays out like a standard, turn-based JRPG. Turns come around, attacks are defended and eventually special moves can be used. The genius comes from the costumes. Each one of them has a special attack and offers different stats and abilities . Some abilities are used outside of battle to traverse the town, others are strictly for combat. The folks at Double Fine, and project lead Tasha Harris, went all out in making the costumes have heaps of personality and awesomeness. Costumes are built by finding materials and plans throughout the three hub areas. Each one is unique, and offers something magical whenever you see it in action! Whether its the rocket barrage special of the robot, the healing might of the unicorn, or the draining bat swarm of the vampire, each costume is worth trying out at least once. The enemies are all interesting and, while few in number, each is a threat in its own way. The bosses deserve special mention for being awesome. While not difficult, fighting a middle manager or a midget-goblin in a bulldozer does bring a chuckle or two.

To help against the Grubbin horde, an enterprising youth sells you Battle Stamps. These are added to your costume and offer passive or active effects (and make your costume about %20 cooler). Some will grant you healing each round, some will boost your attack/defensive strength, and others still will add new options to your attack. It's a shame that some of these can really unbalance the game, and some are utterly worthless. A few combinations can make it so that the only enemies that can even attack you are bosses who are immune to the effects. It's not terrible, but it does make an already easy game much easier. This is the kind of game that nearly anyone can pick up and play to completion, making it perfect for gaming families.

Each hub area has a set of similar quests to complete. Some are optional, like finding a specific card for a collector or bobbing for apples. These quests will get you candy, which acts as a currency for Battle Stamps. Other quests are essential to proceed. These might be gathering ingredients for a pie, finding a costume that has an special ability, or even fixing rail cars! The quests are varied, but the optional ones repeat in each hub. It's not bad, considering how short the game is, but it does get a bit repetitive toward the end.

No Halloween is complete without bobbing for apples!

The game is pretty standard in it's mechanics, but it has a personality that brings a smile to everyone's face. The writing is snappy and silly. The sense of child-like wonder, terror, and amusement to the situations is spot on. No recent game has nailed the feeling of being a child again like Costume Quest. This is one of those experiences that we can all relate to in some fashion; whether we are the nerdy kid needing to be rescued or the sibling fearing parental wrath more than monsters. Better than any game I've played, Costume Quest understands what it is like to see the world as a child does. While the adults see teens run amok, the heroes know it's really goblins from another dimension. Truly the strength of this game is making the player feel like a kid again.

For a downloadable game, Costume Quest is a great value. Sure, there isn't a lot of replay value (especially if you are thorough), but the 5 or so hour quest is well worth taking. Grubbin's on Ice, an additional hub area in the Grubbins' own dimension, is available through an add-on, too. The additional content offers more of the same and adds another couple of hours to the experience, as well as new costumes. Honestly, the game is easy and linear, but the personality and sheer whimsy makes it a fun Halloween treat that everyone can enjoy.

Score: 9 out of 10
Bottom Line: A simple yet charming JRPG that's seasonal fun for the whole family
Check it out if you like: JRPGs, Halloween, feeling like a kid, humour and silliness
Downloadable Game of the Year - 2010

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