Costume Quest comes from Tim Schafer and Double Fine, those responsible for one of my favourite games ever. No, not Grand Theft Auto, but Psychonauts. It was for that reason alone I downloaded the Trial game. Then a small playthrough later I’d bought the game.
On first glance, Costume Quest appears to be a simple “collect-em-up”. On second glance it appears to be a Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) inspired Role-Playing Game. That is, it has kids who can transform into giant warriors who battle the also now giant monsters over the land.
The game begins with the protagonist – you can choose to be either Wren or Reynold – and their twin – preparing to go out trick-and-treating soon after they’ve moved to a new neighbourhood. The usual sibling rivalry exists, with neither happy with the arrangement.
It’s not long before a trick-or-treat doorknock results in the protagonist’s twin being kidnapped by a real monster, and sent (ok, thrown) over an ominous looking gate. Obviously you want to get past that gate, because the only person who’s allowed to abuse your twin is you! However, the gate won’t open until every house is cleaned out of candy.
As you wander the neighborhood there’s a lot to do. Exploring is necessary to find candy, costume patterns, costume pieces and more. Candy is found by hitting things like garbage bags, fire hydrants and the like; or by trick-or-treating houses.
Trick-or-treating might get you candy from the human house owner, or it might send you into battle with the monster who has taken over the house for the night. In battle, your current costume transforms into a giant ‘real’ version of whatever it represents. Your character begins with a robot costume – two painted boxes and rollerskates. In battle this becomes a huge robot with a multi-missile special attack.
Your character soon picks up a friend who has a knight costume. As you collect patterns, and costume pieces, you gain more costumes that you can pick and choose from to help you explore, or win the battles. Later on, you get to spend your candy on “battle stamps” which can be used to upgrade your fighting abilities.
There’s a lovely contrast here between the “safe” world of the neighbourhood with the cute Halloween decorations and clueless adults, and the undercurrent of the monsters being present. There’s also the contrast between the little kids you play, and the huge warriors they become in battle.
To be honest, the battles really jarred me in the beginning. I was enjoying the exploring far more (as is my wont). Also, battles are basically turn-based, quick-time events, which I’m really not a fan of. Mainly because I appear to suck at them. However, after I left the neighbourhood for the next stage of the game, the battles became more frequent, and I began to enjoy them. There’s a small amount of strategy involved in picking your battles (as a Level five, can you defeat two level sixes and a seven?) and which enemy you try to destroy first. The good thing is that losing a battle doesn’t really have much effect. You can come back and try again later, if you like.
Humour! How can I not mention humour when this is a Tim Shafer/Double Fine production? The game is riddled with it. Some is out and out laugh-out-loud, while some is subtle, giving the game something for everyone to at least smile at. Oh, and look out for a few Psychonauts references in there …
Apart from the battles, the game is very simplistic, and I doubt a “hard core” RPG, or even JRPG, fan would get much out of it. If you’re good at quick-time events, then I’d say that even the battles aren’t likely to be difficult. Having said that, I’m enjoying the whole experience – a lot like I did Psychonauts. The exploring, the cute graphics, the story and the humour make me want to keep playing, and see what happens next.
I’d always suggest playing the Trial before actually paying for the game, but for me, this game is worth the 1200 points.