Gimme Something Good to Eat... Play
What happened to Halloween? As a child, it was always one of my top holidays to look forward to, but at a certain age, there just isn't much to do with All Hallow's Eve anymore, that is at least nothing that really has to do with the spirit of it. You can certainly dress up and go to a party or go to one of those theme parks where people pay twice as much for a ticket in order to walk around for several hours and be startled repeatedly, but that's not what it was all about. No, Halloween used to be about BECOMING someone, about letting your imagination run free and living in someone else's shoes for one night.
More than that, you had a mission; GET CANDY. So think about this. You dress up for one night and inhabit an entirely different persona with all that persona's motivations and mannerisms PLUS having the overwhelming need to go to the houses of complete strangers and ask for candy. Putting it this way truly points out why it is that this is a holiday that can only be properly celebrated by children.
Then there's Costume Quest, a game which cleverly allows you to completely side-step this notion and again experience what it was like to be a kid on that night of nights. Through clever writing, simple gameplay, and the most awesome of premises, Costume Quest is a game that captures the fun and whimsy of the lost holiday.
Costume Quest is the story of brother and sister twins Reynold and Wren. They've just moved to a new town and, barring some apprehension about being in an unfamiliar neighborhood, they're ready for their favorite holiday, Halloween. It's at this point that the player assumes control of one of the siblings, with the other sibling dressing as a giant piece of candy corn. This is important because shortly after embarking on their night's journey, the candy corn-ed sibling is abducted by one of many monsters who have invaded the town in an attempt to steal its candy. Luckily, Halloween is our hero's "thing" (and yes, that's all the explanation you get as to how their awesome powers work), and he/she is able to use one of a myriad of costumes to combat the invading menace. Joined by a noble trick-or-treater, Everett, and later a brainy wunderkind, Lucy, our hero must brave the town's landmarks, defeat monsters, and collect candy all in the name of saving their sibling.
What really sells everything in Costume Quest is its writing and presentation. Double Fine (the game's developers) have built a career on making funny and insanely clever games, and this is no exception. From the reverence and nostalgia-inducing charm they place into our little trick-or-treaters, to the hilarious puns and references thrown in, I was smiling the entire time I was playing this game. It doesn't hurt that the art style is thoroughly adorable, and though it might not be the sharpest looking game, the visuals never detract from the experience. Top that off with a soundtrack of Halloween-inspired tunes, and the candy coating of Costume Quest is thoroughly delicious.
That presentation spills over into gameplay as when our little tykes engage their monstrous foes, they transform into what one can only assume is the true visage of what they think they look like in their respective costumes. Costume Quest is a turn-based RPG with a bit of the Mario and Luigi RPG games thrown in as well. Each character can wear any of the games brace of costumes and, combined with a number of stat-boosting "battle stamps", can take on specific roles in battle. For example, the Knight costume with a health-boosting battle stat becomes the team's immovable tank while giving the Statue of Liberty costume a stamp that induces poison turns that character into a major support player with healing and de-buffing power.
You'll use these mechanics as you traverse three distinct areas in the town. This usually involves trick-or-treating or item collecting to oust monsters out of their hide-y holes in order to progress to the next part of the game. It becomes formulaic after a while and although some adventuring elements are present and a few side-activities, it's probably a good thing the game only lasts for about 6-8 hours.
And that would be my one complaint with the game, that their just isn't enough. The variety of costumes keep the game fresh throughout, but adding an extra wrinkle to combat could have gone a long way to making battles feel less formulaic over the game's campaign. Similarly, another side-activity or two could have made each town feel unique, but sadly you'll be doing the same thing three times and then the game ends. Luckily, all this is a moot point because of the game's heart, charm, and presentation, but one can't help but think that there could be more game here.
Regardless, Costume Quest is a game that reminds you why Halloween was great, and for a sentimental old softy like me, that's really all it had to be. Beyond that, it's a smartly written and funny game that isn't hard to get into and play, even if that fact becomes a bit of a hindrance towards the game's end. More than that, though, it's a game that anyone of any age could easily play year after year on Halloween and have just as good a time with it. That alone makes Costume Quest the sweetest thing I've played in months.
Costume Quest gets 4 pumpkins out of 5.