Costume Quest for PS3 and Xbox 360 follows a pair of trick-or-treating siblings who are swept into a fantastic mission to save Halloween
- Excellent art design, witty dialogue, wide variety of entertaining collectibles, musical score is both atmospheric and catchy, combat is balanced enough to consistently remain challenging (despite some very simplistic RPG elements)
- Battle system could've benefited from a little more depth, fixed camera occasionally makes it hard to navigate certain areas
Double Fine's first DLC project is brisk, fun, and undeniably adorable, taking the theme of Halloween and perfectly mixing it with the powerful magic of a child's imagination. With an original, inventive, and extraordinarily witty setting, Costume Quest is a stellar game that will leave you wanting more of what it promises -- costumes and quests.
Price$ 15.00 (AUD)
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It's no wonder that even into our adult years we still wear elaborate and lovingly crafted costumes on Halloween. It's a holiday that gives us the opportunity to be something extraordinary, from ninjas to monsters to comic book heroes — and the only limit to the fun is our own imaginations. This very concept is the cornerstone of the narrative in Costume Quest, the first downloadable title from developer Double Fine Studios (of Psychonauts and Brutal Legend fame), which follows a pair of trick-or-treating siblings who are swept into a fantastic mission to save Halloween from a group of nefarious monsters.
The trouble starts when Costume Quest's main characters, Wren and Reynold, head out for a night of trick-or-treating on their favorite holiday. Before they've had much of a chance to fill their candy bags, the pair runs afoul of a candy-stealing "Grubbin" (read: Goblin) who mistakes one of the siblings for a walking, talking chunk of candy corn. After a short battle, either Wren or Reynold winds up kidnapped (you choose which sibling plays the hero at the start of the game), and it's up to the remaining child to pull off a rescue before curfew.
Double Fine has often stressed that Costume Quest was produced by a very small development team, but the game nonetheless has more than enough polish to match its personality. While there's no voice acting, the animation and dialogue do a great job in expressing the characters' emotions. To that end, Costume Quest is a very cartoon-like world in the vein of TV holiday specials. It's packed with colorful environments filled with dozens of fun background elements (in the form of secret areas and collectibles) and supported by an incredibly catchy soundtrack. It's obvious that real care and attention went into the game, and it shows every step of the way. Moreover, this title particularly benefits from stellar art direction that really takes advantage of the Halloween theme.
In order to combat the various candy-stealing monsters of Costume Quest, main characters Wren, Reynold, Lucy, and Everett use their cardboard and fabric getups to magically transform into gigantic versions of iconic Halloween staples, like vampires, ninjas, and even the Statue of Liberty. Although you start out with just a couple costumes, you'll find more in later levels that further augment your combat abilities. Each costume can be found by collecting certain items, like bed-sheets and tinfoil, which are tucked away in far corners of each level. Once you have all the necessary parts of a costume, it will also grant you a specific field ability needed to advance past certain obstacles. For example, the "Knight" costume has a shield that you can use to protect your party from falling debris on the map, but in battle, comes equipped with a useful protection spell.
Half the fun of Costume Quest is in the costumes, as you'll frequently alter your wardrobe to take advantage of each outfit's special ability. Hunting for costume parts in each level never gets dull, as you'll also be collecting stray pieces of candy — this game's form of currency — everywhere you go. In battle, victory often comes down to having the right costume, as certain abilities are key to triumphing over some tough bosses. You can also spend your hard-earned candy on "Battle Stamps," which will give you some useful stat bonuses, adding some solid incentive to further customize your party.
Combat in Costume Quest isn't complicated, but the game is so well-paced that most encounters will be razor-thin victories. Enemies will usually be at or above your party's level, and the final boss — a steep level 20 challenge — will definitely require some strategy. Each encounter can be won or lost in a few turns, so choosing the right attacks and special moves at the right time remains a crucial factor from the very start of the game to its conclusion. Although the battle system is deceptively simple, you'll still have to pay attention at every turn. Damage from enemy attacks can be reduced with timely button presses, while your own attacks will get some extra "oomph" from small actions like twirling the analog stick, ala Super Mario RPG.
Throughout the six to eight hours of playtime, there's little need for level grinding or backtracking, and battles go by at a brisk pace. When you're not fighting for experience, candy, and collectible trading cards, there are also plenty of quests and small diversions to be found, some of which smartly revolve around Halloween activities like trick-or-treating and bobbing for apples. Beyond the nostalgic value inherent in the minigames, the diversions are also incredibly immersive.
For a relatively short game, there's a lot to do in Costume Quest, and the rewards for completing all the missions are appropriately generous. Even when you finish the game with every collectible and Battle Stamp, you'll still want more, especially with the offbeat dialogue and wacky Halloween costumes. While the scope of the game may seem limited, it's apparent that the one-year development schedule expertly trimmed the experience down to the most important essentials. Overall, the result is an efficient, memorable, and entertaining DLC release that's easily worth its budget price. If this is just the first DLC production from Double Fine, I really can't wait to see what they do next.
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