NOTE: This is a shortened review without screenshots.For my full review, please visit Real Gamer Reviews
Costume Quest is a Halloween-themed, turn-based RPG developed by Tim Schafer’s crew at Double Fine Productions. For those who don’t know, Tim Schafer is the mastermind behind critically acclaimed (but not necessarily financially successful) games such as Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Full Throttle and more recently, Broken Age. In many ways, I feel that Tim Schafer is the Tim Burton of video games. Whilst not all of his games (or in Burton’s case, movies) are necessarily fantastic, all of them share a common, whimsical and imaginative style with a quirky sense of humour. Therefore, going in, I had big expectations going into this game. Needless to say, given the big red thumbs down above this review, these expectations weren’t quite met.
The game takes place on Halloween, where you (the character that you pick) and your sister/brother (the character that you didn’t pick) go out trick-or-treating, only to have your sibling kidnapped by strange monsters. You effectively spend the rest of the game in an attempt to rescue said sibling. There are three major locations to explore, including your initial suburb, a mall and … another suburb with a fair. Simple, straightforward, and not a whole lot more to say than that.
As previously stated, Costume Quest is largely a turn-based RPG. Unlike many other turn-based RPGs such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, battles are not random encounters. Instead, they are generally triggered by either knocking on doors (“trick or treating”) or walking into a wandering enemy. A large majority of the enemies that you face in the game are compulsory
, as you are required to “trick or treat” every house in each area in order to move to the next area.
The “class system” in the game is determined by the costume that each character is wearing. Each costume has a normal attack (which to my knowledge is the same regardless of which costume you use) and a special attack, which you can use every 3 turns, which each have their own unique abilities. This usually consists of extra damage, healing, armour or some negative effect on the enemy (such as stun). You initially begin with one character with the Robot suit. As you progress through the game, you unlock more characters (maximum of 3) and costumes (of which there are many). Unfortunately, despite the large number of costumes, many of the characters play very similarly and largely fall into 3 major classes – a fighter that deals damage, a healer and a character that provides buffs. This is exacerbated by the fact that, apart from one single boss fight (in which you are constantly reminded to use a particular sort of character), you can more or less run through the entire game without changing your costumes at all.
The battles themselves play out similarly to most turn-based RPGs, with the notable addition of timing-based button prompts, which will be familiar to people that have played Paper Mario or The Mario and Luigi RPG series on handheld Nintendo systems. The prompts for each attack depend on the costume that each character is using, and successfully completing these will lead to additional damage (when on offence) or reduced damage (on defence). These prompts include things such as pressing a button immediately, pressing it at a certain time, twirling your left stick around or mashing a button repeatedly. Although these do add some
depth to the battle system, in the sense that you can’t entirely fall asleep at the wheel and just mash A repeatedly, it still remains far too shallow and far too easy. I am practically an old man when it comes to gaming, and even with my old-man reflexes, I managed to hit approximately 99% of the prompts without any trouble.
Winning the battles awards you with which is used to level up (which increases HP and strength) and candy, which is the currency in the game used to purchase stamps, which can be equipped to your characters to give bonuses, such as increased damage/defence, splash damage and so on. Once you’ve reached the level cap and/or have purchased all of the stamps (both of which I did prior to finishing the game), there’s no longer any purpose to the battles, making the already cumbersome and tedious battles just that much worse.
The rest of the game is padded with tedious fetch-quests, hidden-object finding and an awfully unoriginal and unimaginative mini-game. Worst of all, you are required to do these same activities each time you move to a new area. Most (but not all) of the costumes that you unlock have a secondary ability that can be used outside of the battle. The Robot suit, for example, has rollerblades which allow you to travel faster (which is generally why you’ll spend most of your time in this suit) and travel up ramps, leading you to so-called “hidden areas”. The other costumes have abilities that are, for the most part, used once in a particular part of the game (most of which is right after
you obtain the costume) and then never necessary again. As a result, most of these abilities seem really tacked-on, which is a real shame as I feel like they could have done so much more with it.
First things first – I loved the cartoony art style used for this game. I really have no complaints about the graphics. The characters are cute and the setting is undeniably Halloween. Remember - nothing screams Halloween more than Jack-O-Lanterns and candy, and be warned – there are Jack-O-Lanterns and candy everywhere
in this game. The sound and music are, for lack of a better word, appropriately Halloweeney. One thing that they absolutely nailed is the animations used for the battle transitions, in which the cardboard boxes and cheap trousers used to create the children’s costumes are transformed into visually-impressive life-like versions. This will hit all the right spots for anyone that’s worn an awful costume in their younger years and imagined looking so much cooler. With that said, having these animations play out every single time you enter a battle wears out very quickly, which is exacerbated by the fact that there’s no way to skip them.
Another major gripe that I had was the complete lack of a map/mini-map. This, coupled with the fact that most of the sub-areas in the game look more or less identical, resulted in me walking around in circles looking for the last house to trick-or-treat, or the last hidden child.
By far the biggest hook for this game is the classic Tim Schafer-esque humour and dialogue that we’ve come to expect from Double-Fine. Whilst not every line will necessarily make you laugh out loud, it’s hard not to at least smirk. At the very least, you’ll appreciate the effort that Double Fine has gone through to give each and every character a unique line of dialogue. It should be noted that the game lacks any voice acting, instead opting to go with on-screen text. On one hand, it’s a shame, given how awesome the voice acting has been in some of DF’s earlier (i.e. Psychonauts) or later (i.e. Broken Age) has been. On the other hand, bad voice acting could have destroyed the delivery of the quirky, humorous one-liners.
Overall, the game was largely disappointing. It’s a shame, really, because the quirky presentation and humour really highlighted everything I love about Tim Schafer’s games – it was more everything else that let the game down, most notably the repetitive and shallow gameplay. I can honestly say that during the 8 or so hours that I spent finishing the game (including the DLC), I can’t think of many moments that I actually enjoyed myself. Therefore, with a heavy heart, I can’t recommend this game to anyone.