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Posted on Nov 4th 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Halloween, RPGs, Candy, Trick or treating, Costumes

From the Double Fine website

I'm cheating a bit with this entry, both because Halloween is over, and because I've chosen to highlight a game that isn't a typical spooky game in the traditional sense. But I think I'm justified in doing so since before we know it, we'll be drowning in Christmas decorations and muzak carols. I'm not quite ready to let Halloween go just yet.

As we grow up, most of us either decide we don't like scary things and avoid them as much as possible, or can't get enough and watch all the horror movies we can get our hands on. That's all well and good; I love a well done horror flick or game as much as the next person. However, when I think of Halloween, some of my favorite memories of this fall holiday have come not in adulthood, but from my youth, when the most important things in my life were the costumes and candy.

Costume Quest is a game that's all about tapping into youthful imagination. Released in 2010, it comes from Double Fine Studios, which produced games like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle, as well as more recent indie darlings such as Stacking and Broken Age. It didn't come from the mind of Tim Schafer, but rather one of their lead animators, Tasha Harris. Tasha's background was in animation at Pixar, and this influence in tone and style can be seen all over this game.  It's colors, lighting, and cute animations convey not just a Pixar polish, but also Tim Schafer's own brand of style as well, and it's very welcoming as a result.

You play as one of a set of twins (brother or sister, it's your choice) and the game opens up with you both setting out to trick or treat and collect all the candy you possibly can. Before long though, your sibling is kidnapped by evil grubbins, and it becomes your job to track down the captors, for fear of your parents grounding you. At its heart Costume Quest is an RPG. As you roam the streets, your primary goal is to seek out each house and knock on their doors. Some will contain a random citizen who will give you a bunch of candy. This is great, as candy becomes the main currency in the game. At other houses you'll be greeted by more grubbins, triggering a traditional RPG battle. Said battle system will feel very familiar to anyone who's ever played any of the earlier Paper Mario games. It's a turn-based affair with the ability to add some oomph to your attack and defense by hitting a random button right before an attack connects. This is a tried-and-true battle system with modern RPGs, and it remains fun and engaging.

Adding to the atmosphere, when a battle begins you're treated to a wonderfully magical sequence in which your main character jumps into the air and, by the power of imagination, is transformed from an 8-year-old wearing cardboard and plastic tubing into a Transformers-quality robot that shoots missiles or a knight in shining armor with sword and shield at the ready. One of the most joyful aspects of playing Costume Quest is seeing this happen, especially as you collect more costumes throughout your adventure. You'll end up seeing sequences like this many times over the course of the game, but by collecting more costumes and experimenting with each of them it never gets old, and embodies so many good vibes about what it was like to be a kid and act out your fantasies of taking on bad guys.

There are several different environments you'll go through in the search for your brother (or sister), including the local mall and a carnival, and you'll recruit other children to join your party. You'll also encounter side quests such as bobbing for apples, seeking out a few hiding fellow trick-or-treaters, or the obligatory fetch quest. None of these side quests are very difficult, and exist mostly as a way to fill in the environments with things to do as your candy stash grows, but keep things from getting boring. There are also collectibles, as you'll quickly start collecting Creepy Treat cards as you win battles. You can think of these as a cross between Garbage Pail Kids cards as the gross candies from Harry Potter. The Creepy Treat cards are a mostly passive collectible, and don't add much to the game, but you'll occasionally trade some with various kids as side quests, and they're amusing to look through at least once.

There a couple dark sides to this game that I'd be remiss not to mention. First, and most annoying, is that the controls as you move around the environment simply aren't very good. When walking in open areas it's fine, but any time you need to maneuver in a tight space or hit a target, like a ramp to access another area, it's extremely easy to get stuck or miss the mark. It's without a doubt the worst part of this otherwise delightful title.

The other downside is that you'll be doing a lot of the same things over and over. You'll be knocking on a lot of houses, completing a lot of fairly simple quests, and assuming you want to collect all the things, searching in every nook and cranny and hitting every little piece of the environment you can with your bag in search of new areas or more candy.

This kid is stoked that you're smashing pumpkins and leaf piles. Ah, rebel youth.

This all adds up to a very My-First-RPG type of experience, but that's kind of the point. Costume Quest isn't a game you're going to sit down with and get lost in for 6-8 hours like a Skyrim or a Persona, it's a game that's meant to be played in 1-2 hour chunks when you want to lay back, relax, and simply have some easy fun, either by yourself or with your own children with their own costumes donned. It's appeal lies in it's endless charm and heart. The dialogue is well-written and humorous in a way that's not necessarily subtle, but subdued and natural enough that it doesn't feel like it's trying too hard. And the sound design and music mesh perfectly with the vibrancy of the rest of the presentation.

Little kids in mummy costumes making puns...I defy you to not smile

Even if you're worried you'll be bored out of your mind with this game, I'm happy to say that the battles actually get pretty difficult. They start off nice and easy, but it's not long before you need to be much more on your toes. By the time you finish off the first area and move on to the mall, you'll not only discover boss battles that make things more interesting, but even the regular encounters with present you with overwhelming odds or grubbins that are just a little higher leveled than you. It eventually gets to the point where you need to hit almost every extra attack boost and successfully execute every block action to have any hope of winning. I never found this maddening, especially because the only penalty for being defeated is getting put back on the overworld for you to try again, but it's a bit at odds with the kiddie-like feel of the rest of the game.

Ghosts, fire, and huge, middle-management bosses, oh my!

Since Costume Quest's original release, it's spawned a snow-covered DLC pack called Grubbins on Ice, which is a direct continuation of the first game's story, in addition to a full sequel, released in 2014. While I've played the first title's DLC, I haven't actually touched the sequel yet. Going back to this franchise for this article has definitely sparked the interest in me again, though, and there's a good chance I'll go back to it. These games are frequently on sale on Steam, PSN, or XBL, and anyone who has enjoyed Double Fine's particularly delightful brand of humor would do well to check them out. While not without their lulls, their youthful quirk and engaging battle system make them a sheer delight that I would recommend to anyone.

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fantastic game! My wife and I played it last Halloween on my laptop with horror movies on in the background and in between handing out candy. I feel like this game holds kind of a special place to me now because of that.
Looks interesting.  What platform(s) did this release for?
@MetalFRO: Costume Quest came out on PS3/360/Steam, the sequel Costume Quest 2 came out on 360/One/PS3/PS4/WiiU/Steam

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