From our sugar-addled youth...
As I was doling out candy to the assorted door-to-door treasure hunters last Halloween, I began to wonder about today’s generation of costumed kids. Do they go through the same dilemmas we did? Do they argue amongst themselves on whether or not to “do both sides of the street”? Or get upset when they draw the courage to visit the really creepy looking house (with gravestones, scary music and a guy in the toy casket surprising visitors) only to get lollipops in return? Do classmates laugh at the guy who got the cheap-looking Ninja Turtles outfit?
Costume Quest purports to answer these questions and more, in a manner most colourful. This is a semi-RPG that plays with the child’s spirit and imagination on October 31st, with almost a Jerry Seinfeld-like attitude. Because really, what is the deal with adults that give out raisins?
So you’ll have to suit up and do battle in your paper and tin can costumes. When you run into said goblin, your party transforms into whatever they imagine their costumed personas to be. A cardboard box robot becomes a fully-armed Gundam robot, a generic knight becomes a Paladin warrior, a white unicorn becomes a rainbow-powered majestic steed, and so forth. Part of the fun of this game is how it takes the perspective of the kids’ imaginations. The robot will assume all kinds of overdramatic poses. The Statue of Liberty’s healing attack involves red and blue stripes, along with the pictures of a bald eagle and Abe Lincoln’s face. The smartest decision in Costume Quest is that it never discloses whether this entire elaborate adventure is the real deal or just the children playing make-believe. One adult briefly alludes to the goblins as “teenagers”, as who else would be terrorizing the streets at night? But otherwise, they could be real goblins, or the kids could have invented the whole shebang in their heads. Having that semblance of doubt feels all the more curious.
Otherwise, this is a decidedly rudimentary RPG. Your combat options are restricted to a basic attack, a special attack that loads up after two basic attacks, and a possible third, equipped ability. The different costumes merely dictate what your special attack is. You can use hard-earned candy to purchase and equip badges that offer assorted stat changes. That is about the extent of the game’s complexity. That the game’s level cap is TEN should tell you that Costume Quest is suitable for a younger audience. Anyone expecting Junctions or Gambits or any kind of crazy customization system that makes no logical sense should stick to the dozens of other RPGs that I can never figure it out.
My one qualm with a game that aims to keep it simple stupid is that it probably shouldn’t be using phrases like “splash damage” or “DOT”. Lest we see Costume Quest raise a fine generation of Warcraft addicts.
Everything about the gameplay is kept equally as simple as the combat. Your various side-quests include playing hide and seek and a bobbing-for-apples mini game. Trick-or-Treating involves knocking on a door and getting either a tacky adult who gives candy or a goblin that makes you fight for your sugary prize. There aren’t any particular brain-bending puzzles, and only the final boss will test your RPGing merits. Despite the seemingly simple and redundant nature of the game, I never quite found myself bored at any point. You consistently find new costumes to ogle over, new areas to visit, and no shortage of cute dialogue. While the game doesn’t have much in the way of “rolling on the floor laughing my ass off” moments, there are plenty of good chuckles and smirks to be had at the assorted bits of dialogue. And you’ll get to wax nostalgic at your memories, like laughing at the kid with the generic ghost-sheet outfit.
It took me about 5-6 hours to finish Costume Quest and nab all of the achievement; a reasonable length for a downloadable title, to be sure. Odd as it sounds, this is not a game to be playing for any kind of complex, difficult test of wit. But rather, it’s more of a leisurely ride through memory lane and a chance to laugh at the awkward thrill of the candy hunt. I would consider it worth playing, and perhaps worth making an annual Halloween tradition.