-Very funny, witty story and dialogue.
-Easily accessible for all.
-Wonderful art and graphics.
-A bit too similar to the first game.
I never really did Halloween when I was a kid. I’m one of those killjoys who rolls her eyes at the Halloween decorations the shops insist on trotting out and flogging to a mostly disinterested British audience every year. I managed to work my way through my formative years without it playing any part in my yearly routine. I never went trick or treating, or ‘glorified begging’ as I was told it was. I’ve never really done fancy dress in any big way either. In fact I’ve probably put more effort into making costumes for my hedgehog soft toys than I have for myself. Costume Quest 2 lets me precariously live out my repressed need to threaten strangers into giving me sweets and dress up in increasingly deranged outfits whilst hitting monsters, which I assume is standard Halloween behaviour for those inclined.
Costume Quest was a game that impressed me immensely. It was simple in places but filled with all the wonderful charm and wit that Double Fine have built their reputation on. Like Psychonauts (another game I love), Costume Quest is a game about being a kid, doing kid stuff and seeing the world in a fantastical way that the adults around them just cannot do. It’s silly and quirky without coming across as pandering or dumbed down. On the contrary, Costume Quest had some really clever writing. Despite my Halloween-cynicism, I was strangely excited about the prospect of Costume Quest 2 (especially after seeing the wonderful announcement trailer).
After stopping monsters stealing all the Halloween candy, brother and sister team Wren and Reynold are preparing to finally enjoy some trick or treating Halloween fun. But would you believe it, an evil dentist has changed history to outlaw the festival. The simple premise belies the sharpness of the writing and the sheer joy of finding all the gags and japes the game has to offer. There is always something happening on screen, be it a quick one liner or a visual gag going on in the background. It seems there is no wasted space in the game world, everything has a purpose. I adored the art style that lead designer Tasha Harris gave the first game, I’m very pleased to see that the sequel has added to it in the best way, keeping the style consistent as new characters are introduced and fresh costumes take centre stage. The game looks brilliant, being so full of colour and life as it is with some well thought out areas to explore.
It plays almost exactly as its predecessor. Costume Quest was never the most challenging of games in terms of gameplay, which is fair, not every game needs to be a hardcore l33t ultra noob-smasher pain-a-thon. I always enjoyed the gentler style Costume Quest took but it would have been nice to have the sequel mix things up a bit more to stop it becoming too repetitive or overly familiar. Very little has changed. The meat of the game is divided betwixt two scenarios; knocking on doors to trick or treat and seeing if you get candy or a fight, and then there is the fighting. It’s not a bad system but one that gets a bit too predictable the longer the game goes on. The fighting in particular runs close to becoming tedious after a while. Two parties line up and take turns hitting each other until one party has lost all its health points, it’s a time honoured system but one that wears itself pretty thin when it’s limited to a few characters with the same moves and little involvement from the player.
The combat system has had a bit of tweaking though. The button timing mechanic for attacking opponents has been streamlined slightly to make it more consistent over the various costumes and there is a more effective block/counter-attack move to be learned. However you’ll be performing the same actions so many times in combat you become numb to them. The joy of seeing the kids you play as transform into literal representations of their costumes and fight giant monsters or robots loses its impact after the hundredth fight or so. The special moves your characters can use are amusing (the clown’s ‘laughter is the best medicine’ is my favourite), but even they become tiresome the more you see them. There are some enemies that certain costumes are stronger or weaker against, but I never found myself needing to worry about it so much and just used the costumes I liked best or had upgraded most recently. You also need to heal your party after fights otherwise damage taken rolls over to the next battle, but even this was never an issue I needed to adjust my tactics for. You can just eat some candy at any point to replenish health or visit a water fountain.
In the end, combat started to become the tedious bits in between the story and exploring. As slight as the fetch quests and trick or treating that make up the bulk of the non-fighting sections are, I still did it all with a big grin on my face. The world is just so cute and charming that I was irresistibly compelled to play on and poke my nose into every little corner of the game. The story was enjoyably bizarre and presented well (it follows on directly from the CQ1 DLC, Grubbins on Ice). It’s frequently very funny and features a twist that had me giggling so much I dropped my controller. I spent a silly amount of time running around being a jerk honking a loud clown horn in people’s face, trying to initiate diplomatic talks with everyone and hitting alligators with candy buckets. That this is a game that encourages such childishness can only be a good thing in my opinion.
It may not be for everyone, but if you’re after a game that captures the child like glee of getting caught up in an insane festival, then Costume Quest 2 may be for you. It doesn’t do anything that its forbearer didn’t do, but it’s a game that boasts buckets full of wit and an incredibly adorable outlook that’s hard to dislike. After all, if it can make stone-hearted me appreciate Halloween in anyway, it has to be onto something.
From my review for Coffee Break Gaming