Costume Quest (XBLA)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Monday, November 1, 2010

Graphics: 7.50
Sound: 8.00
Gameplay: 8.00
Replays: 4.00
Gamelength: 7.00

Many people wondered what Double Fine Productions would do next after Brutal Legend came out last year. As it turned out the studio was working on several different titles at once, the first of which was revealed to be the downloadable Halloween themed RPG Costume Quest. THQ signed on as publisher, and despite the fact that the game was revealed earlier this year it came out just in time for the holiday. It may be a little short and does become repetitive but the game’s quirky nature and brilliant writing will ensure that players decide to see it through to the end.

In Costume Quest players choose to be either Reynold or Wren, siblings who are ready to go Trick or Treating around their neighborhood. Whichever you pick gets to wear a robot costume, while the other begins in a candy corn costume. After going to the first house, it is discovered that monsters are invading some of the houses and stealing all of the candy in the neighborhood your sibling is mistaken for candy and kidnapped. So your goal becomes not only to trick or treat and get as much candy as possible, but to rescue your sibling and be back before your curfew. Along the way you will make some friends who will join you on your quest and participate in some other activities as you move from location to location. As you may be able to tell, the story is fairly straightforward and seems as though it is going to be a very kid oriented affair but what makes Costume Quest just as enjoyable for adults as kids is the style of the writing. If you’re familiar with anything Tim Schafer has been involved with you should recognize his contributions to the game as the dialogue is often very witty. In some ways it seems as though the game has been written to resemble some of the cartoons of old where kids will understand the basic plot and storyline but adults will discover subtle references that give the tale universal appeal.

The gameplay in Costume Quest is split up between exploring the world and completing quests and fighting monsters. As you might expect from a game based around Halloween, a lot of your time is spent trick or treating. This aspect is somewhat of a gamble, as you never know if the door will be answered by an adult who will give you candy or a monster that you will have to battle. In between doing this, there are other quests that you can attempt to complete while exploring each of the three environments (there’s the traditional suburban neighborhood, a shopping mall, and a rural area). These include participating in a bobbing for apples minigame, collecting and trading monster themed cards with other children, and using costume specific abilities to complete tasks. Many of the costumes have their own abilities, such as the robot’s ability to zoom around the levels, and these are used in some occasional quests and minigames. Although the use of these abilities is limited, they add some additional variety to the game. However, towards the end of the game it starts to feel as though you are doing the same thing just in different locations and that makes it seem repetitious. It is also possible to buy items for your characters via stamps, which when applied will provide different attributes. Everything is handled via candy, which is the in-game currency. This seems very appropriate and gives you further incentive to try to find as much candy in each area.

When you enter into a battle with a monster, your characters turn into what their costumes are and enter into a turn based battle. Double Fine has clearly made this more of a beginner’s RPG as there are only two major commands to worry about (normal attack and a special attack which you can only use after a certain number of turns) but they have made the battles a bit more interactive. Like Paper Mario and a few other games, when performing an attack or being attacked by an enemy players are asked to press a specific button in time or move the joystick to deal extra damage or gain extra defense. It’s a minor addition but makes the battles seem more fun, and this a major plus considering that over half of the game is spent in these turn based fights. In addition to this, a lot of effort has been made into making the special attacks as flashy and over the top as possible (go to Youtube and search for Costume Quest Statue of Liberty and you’ll see what I mean). You’ll never get tired of watching some of the special move cinematics, as they have a quirky charm to them that is also present in the rest of the game.

Although the visuals aren’t necessarily going to knock anyone’s socks off, they are very high quality for a downloadable title and feature a very striking art style. The in-game exploration graphics have a Saturday morning cartoon feel to them, and the characters are wonderfully animated. Each of the three areas has its own subtle touches that make them look different than the last, and players will be sure to enjoy the look and feel of each one. When the battles begin, the art design shifts in tone and gets a little more mature, often bringing to mind pre-teen oriented super hero cartoons or even some Japanese anime. It’s an interesting mixture and makes Costume Quest a very visually appealing game. However, there is one issue that pops up during the exploration segment. There is some noticeable slowdown in some of the areas, and while I’m not sure exactly what the cause is it does happen enough that players will be able to recognize that there are some performance issues. This is ultimately a minor issue though, and if you’re like me you will be able to move past it and enjoy the game anyway. The soundtrack for the game is a mix of spooky and lighthearted, and even though there aren’t many songs in the game the ones that are included fit perfectly. Some people may complain about the lack of voice acting, but I actually found it quite charming as it made you want to read the dialogue and seemed like a nice throwback to old school RPGs and adventure games.

Costume Quest is a fairly repetitive game, as you do the same tasks in different areas. And yet, due to how fun the combat was and how well designed the environments were I found myself enjoying this game and playing it for hours on end. Once you beat it there’s really no reason to go back (as you can easily get all of the achievements in one play through) but for the 8-10 hours it lasts Double Fine’s downloadable effort does a lot of things right. Halloween may have just ended, but Costume Quest is a title that players can enjoy any time of year, so if you’re looking for a short easy-going title to play in between major retail releases consider giving it a shot.

Full Disclosure: Review copy provided by THQ

Overall Rating: 8.00

Leave a Reply