When monsters invade to disrupt the sacred trick-or-treating tradition of Halloween, kidnap your twin, and attempt to steal all the candy that is yours by right, there's nothing to do but turn your costume up to eleven and kick them back into the netherworld from whence they came. Thus is the setup to Costume Quest, a hilarious and creative RPG-lite from Double Fine that is as sweet as the candy you so eagerly collect, despite its gameplay being highly simplified.
You spend most of your time exploring the world, collecting costume pieces, and of course knocking on houses with the hope that a bundle of candy will be waiting for you on the other side. There are also a handful of side-quests to complete, most in the form of hide-and-seek games or typical fetching errands. Though in most games I find quests such as these mundane and uninteresting, here they are full of so much humor and charm that it was hard for me to keep from smiling the whole way through.
But supposing someone not so nice and full of candy answers the door, then it's time to for some Persona like turn-based combat to occur. This is where gameplay hits a snag, as while fully functional the battle mechanics are extremely basic, revolving almost entirely around quicktime events with little to no variation or strategy to speak of. They are also terribly easy (I failed all but once, and on the final boss no less) which made the few options you are given for altering your character's attacks even less noticeable and necessary. That's not to say battles are completely devoid of fun, as I did enjoy them to an extent, but after only a few hours the repetition becomes grating so much as to have me actively try and avoid encounters (as if the Ninja costume wasn't already awesome enough). Thankfully with the story clocking in at 6-7 hours, it never got so bad as to greatly degrade the experience, and so long as you keep play sessions to short bursts are little more than a minor annoyance.
The big head celshaded look works surprisingly well with the theme of the game, making transitions between the lighthearted character models to the much more intricate (and in some cases suitably creepy) characters used for battles seamless, on top of simply being cute. The fixed camera is at times a hassle, but for the most part works well for the style of gameplay and stays out of your mind where it belongs. I do have one odd complaint about the presentation, which is the lack of any music or sound effects for most cutscenes. Even a simple text scrolling sound would have helped, as the way it is now made them feel awkward and drawn out, not to mention greatly reduced the impact of significant plot points.
Regardless of any problems I mentioned, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Costume Quest to anyone who has enjoyed a Double Fine game in the past. The writing is comedy gold, the characters lively and likeable, and its concept is completely unique. If you are looking for a complex and involving RPG then you won't find it here, but if you can look past the simple mechanics for the heartfelt adventure underneath it is greatly entertaining and worth playing.
Posted: October 7th, 2013