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Costume Quest Review


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On 11/15/2010 at 04:53 PM by Chessa DiMola

A fun and charming game that captures the festive spirit of Halloween.
RECOMMENDATION:

Costume Quest is a must for big Halloween fans. Anyone else looking for a fun downloadable title with varying gameplay and lots of character can't go wrong with this game.

Though Halloween has come and gone for this year, the festive XBLA title Costume Quest shouldn't be overlooked. As Double Fine's latest project, Costume Quest is filled with the charm and character that the studio has become famous for creating. Add that to a varied gameplay experience that combines elements from different genres, and gamers have a wonderful gaming experience

The title's premise revolves around what should have been a standard night of trick-or-treating for Wren and her younger twin brother Reynold. Forced to take her little brother around, Wren begrudgingly heads out for the night delivering a constant set of berating insults directed at Reynold's terrible costume choice, a candy corn outfit. As the two are busy collecting candy, a monster, tasked with stealing as much candy as possible, mistakenly identifies Reynold as a large piece of candy and kidnaps him, leaving Wren to rescue him. As a side note, players will select which sibling to choose as the playable character, so if Reynold was selected, Wren would have become the candy corn character who gets kidnapped.

Throughout each section of the game, players will be required to complete particular quests in order to proceed, as well as additional tasks that will earn players candy; the usable currency within the game. The first quest given to players after Reynold's abduction is to trick-or-treat at every house in the neighborhood, a task that will introduce players to the majority of gameplay concepts found within the game.

Thus players set out door-to-door around the wonderfully themed neighborhood that is appropriately decorated for Halloween, knocking on neighbors doors in hopes of getting a good stash of candy. While many doors are answered by friendly neighbors looking to fork over a treat, and offer one of many goofy statements, monsters are lurking behind many of them.

The first time players reach a home that's being ransacked for its candy stash they will be introduced to the battle aspect of Costume Quest, which is in turn-based RPG form. Interestingly, the game’s entire art style shifts at this point from a very cartoony and light-hearted presentation, to an epic and more realistic type of style. The enemies are fully detailed and the characters in your party are transformed from kids in cardboard outfits, to a realistic representation of the character they are imitating.

Each costume design comes with its own set of skills; a general attack, a block, and a special move that may consist of a strong attack, a shield, or health restoration. Which costume players are wearing at a given moment also changes how they execute attacks, whether by hitting a specific button as quickly as possible, moving a joystick quickly, or waiting for a gauge to fill up to a certain point and then hitting a designated button. After every offensive turn, players will defend themselves by quickly hitting the specific button shown on screen.

After a battle is over, players are awarded experience points (level 10 is max), candy, and a Halloween-themed collectible trading card. As players continue onward in the game, their party will include up to three individuals, and since there are no items to use, they too will have to don a costume in order to partake in the quest.

Initially, these battles are quite a bit of fun, as they take players out of the evenly-paced gameplay and hurl them, quite theatrically I might add, into an incredibly well done turn-based battle. As players get further into the game, the battles become more intricate, as the type of enemy changes as well as the number of them, though they max out at three. At first, players will only encounter monsters capable of executing general offensive attacks, but later on, they'll have to deal with multiple enemies that can deliver strong blows, increase their attack power, heal one another, etc. So, for a while, the battling is quite enjoyable, especially as it changes; however after a few hours, players will become experts at defeating these monsters and even after finding and using new costumes, the battling can get a bit tiresome.

Thankfully, these battles are short, taking a maximum of two minutes to complete each, and only get tedious between the major areas in the game. The majority of the experience is incredibly well-rounded, and players will find themselves dividing their time between battling, exploring for costume pieces, trick-or-treating, and completing quests for people within the three main game areas: a neighborhood, mall, and fairground.

Even though many gamers tend to find exploration a bit tedious, the environments within Costume Quest are full of personality, and any fan of Halloween surely won't mind spending hours walking around the wonderfully decorated areas. In order to reach particular areas in the game, or find well hidden items, players will often have to take advantage of their costume's real world abilities, and though not every costume has a real world attribute, the ones that do come in handy. For example, the robot allows players to roller skate around the world, making navigation quick, and can also travel up ramps, providing players access to areas where hidden items may be lurking.

In order to break up some of the tedium of solely exploring and battling, there are plenty of great quests for players to take on. These include, but aren't limited to, bobbing for apples, playing hide-and-seek (though they'll only be seeking), partaking in a costume pageant, finding pie ingredients for people, and trading collector's cards with other trick-or-treaters. As a huge Halloween fan myself, I loved taking on all of these additional quests, as they were so perfectly matched with the holiday.

Completing these quests will occasionally earn them a collectible trading card and/or allow them to progress to a different section, and almost always nets them candy. So to not waste all the effort that goes into collecting candy, players will use it to purchase stamps that can be added to a player's costume. One stamp can be added to a costume, and each adds a particular attribute to the attire, such as increasing attack power or health points. Others give a particular character a unique ability, which includes a spillover effect of their attack, damaging all enemies on the screen, and even allowing a particular character to regenerate life each turn. These stickers are really the highlight of the combat system and add depth and strategy to the seemingly simple system. It's incredibly fun to figure out which combination of characters and stickers make the most effective fighting force.

If there is one downfall to the up-to-eight hours of gameplay within Costume Quest, it's that it’s just too simple. While the gameplay that is present is incredibly fun, especially to huge fans of Halloween, it's a bit hard not to see the untapped potential of the game. There are multiple costumes that are of little use, the same set of quests in each area, combat that grows tiresome after a while, and most disappointingly, fantastically-themed areas that could’ve been put to much greater use. It would be nice to see Double Fine expand upon all these elements in a sequel, taking a good game and making it great.

But as I've stated before, regardless of it all, the game is still a ton of fun. Though the gameplay starts to feel repetitive towards the very end, it isn't bothersome enough to make players want to put the game down. Costume Quest has everything needed for a great gaming experience; good, varied gameplay, great presentation, as well as wonderful humor and atmosphere created by the characters that Double Fine Studios is known for. Anyone looking for a good downloadable title to keep them occupied should certainly give it a try, and for Tim Schaffer and Halloween fanatics alike, you just can't go wrong with Costume Quest.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

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