D'you like getting your pantaloons charmed off?
Costume Quest is Double Fine's first foray into bite-sized gaming. It feels as though the developers took very tried-and-tested game mechanics, mixed them with a quaint but clichéd story and proceeded to dip the combination in a vat of charming, artistic goodness.
The gameplay on the other hand is not quite as imaginative. The exploration consists of basic traversal, which has a tendency to drag due to the painfully slow movement speed of characters, through one of three, admittedly large, locales while bashing everything in sight with your candy pail, in hopes of receiving a morsel of candy. You will engage in trick-or-treating from the get-go. Behind every door is either a friendly adult, handing out huge amounts of sugary goodness, or a bloodthirsty monster.
The combat is turn-based and requires timed button presses, movement of the left analog stick, repeated tapping of a certain button etc. for any individual attack you may wish to perform. All-in-all it is quite simple and quickly becomes repetitive. Jaded RPG enthusiasts beware, if you’re looking for a challenge, this isn’t it. Battles are all played out in an identical fashion, your party attacks, and then your enemy attacks. After three turns, you gain access to a special ability which varies depending on the costume you’re wearing. Wash, rinse and repeat. It should be noted that pretty much every encounter is nigh impossible to lose. The game has a tendency to hold your hand and never let go lest you do something devious like be creative.Rewards for battle include, obligatory currency (in this case, candy), XP and collectable cards. These cards ultimately don’t mean anything but there is an achievement up for grabs if you manage to find them all. Sometimes, you might pick up a Battle Stamp after a fight. These stamps allow your characters to gain individual abilities that come in handy during battle. The effects can range from increased HP to a new combat ability. Candy is used to purchase further Battle Stamps outside of encounters.
Costumes are interchangeable and grant the user varied and somewhat unique combat styles. Costume patterns and materials are found by completing quests and exploring the world. Most costumes have an ability which can be used outside of battle, such as the robot’s skates which allow you to traverse environments faster. Due to the fact that costume changes are reflected by your character model in battles, I often found myself eagerly seeking out the next costume purely to see how much exponentially cooler I looked.
The area where the game truly shines however is in its writing. Every NPC has something charming or witty to say. Every aspect of the dialogue oozes a certain pizzazz which will have you reading all of the game’s text with a huge grin plastered on your face. However, the lack of voice acting or so much so as Nintendo-esque mumbling is very noticeable in spots. There will be occasions where awkward silences will arise and have you cursing the game’s lack of sound effects.
Quests are well-written and genuinely humorous. They will have you reminiscing and wishing your imagination had been as active as the children portrayed in the game. There is one point where the player must find a costume promoting patriotism in order to gain entry into a patriot’s party. Neat little touches like this aid the game in becoming much more than the sum of its parts.
All in all, Costume Quest is a game that should be experienced if only for the inner child in all of us. Its clever dialogue and adorable look will provide more than enough motivation to press through the rote gameplay mechanics that this charming, downloadable title has to offer.