A Brief But Charming Quest
Costume Quest is the ultimate childhood fantasy. The ideas of monsters being real and people transforming into vicious creatures are ones that most of us have probably entertained as children, and thanks to Double Fine and THQ, this whimsical fantasy is finally coming to fruition. Luckily, Costume Quest hits the perfect balance of intuitive game play and nostalgic subject matter to make for an excellent weekend of gaming for anyone who still holds a fondness for Halloween deep in their heart.
Upon entering a battle, you'll be treated to an awesome transformation sequence in which your character becomes a life size version of his or her costume. The transformation comes complete with all of the attacks appropriate of the costume, so robots will shoot missiles and space men will fire laser guns. Like Penny Arcade Adventures before it, Costume Quest sports a relatively simple RPG-lite battle system. Each character has a basic attack which, when used several times in a row, will activate a more powerful attack. Attacking and blocking both require timed button presses and other little mini games to complete, but the timing is always pretty forgiving. Although the game starts out quite easy, the difficulty does ramp up decently enough to keep things interesting. The game never does reach the point of being truly challenging, but it's still enough to keep you on your toes.
One of the main driving forces in the game isn't the battle system or the story, though, but rather the costume creation element. While the costume creator is completely linear in that you can only combine parts in specific ways, it's always fun to see the new threads in action during battle, and some of the skills are pretty funny. Further customization is offered in the form of battle stamps, little stickers which can be applied to costumes for added bonuses. One stamp might allow your character to counter attack after a successful block, for example, while another will increase your character's health. Naturally, these stamps can only be purchased with candy, so it's in your best interest to whack every environmental protrusion you can find as most objects in the world will yield the sweet stuff when smacked.
Costume Quest is carried by a charming cell shaded graphical style that fits perfectly with the subject matter. Characters and environments are crisp, bright, and brimming with personality. The costume transformations in particular look great. With all of the cute style that the game exudes, it's a shame that there's no voice acting to back it up. Some of the scenes felt like they could have been improved with the addition of some cute-kid voice overs, pronouncing their R's like W's and generally being adorable. That could have pushed this game to Kirby's Epic Yarn levels of saccharine. As it is though, the audio portion of the game is still strong thanks to a soundtrack that embodies the very essence of Halloween; it's whimsical, but with a mysterious edge.
Costume Quest is one of the strongest XBLA/ PSN games of the year. At five to six hours in length, it's a bit of a breezy play, but it never feels like the game is artificially extending itself through filler. Every quest, side quest, and battle has a purpose, whether it's to find new costume parts or to gain more experience points. Backed by a great presentation and a simple but fun battle system, this game will bring you back to the days when you were a kid haunting the darkened streets on Halloween. And that is perhaps Costume Quest's greatest asset: the sense of nostalgia that permeates every pixel has the power to make you feel like a kid again.