Saturday, October 18, 2014

Non-Adventure Review: Costume Quest

Costume Quest is a role playing game by Double Fine, themed around Halloween, that has children's costumes turn into the real versions that they're pretending to be as they go into battles against monsters.  It's usage of turn based battles does make it repetitive after a while, but the game's humor and charm manages to overcome it's shortcomings.

The game follows a set of fraternal twins, a girl named Wren and her brother Reynold, and their two friends.  The beginning of the game has the player choose which sibling will be the leader of the party.  The other sibling then has to wear a candy corn outfit for trick or treating and is kidnapped by monsters from the other dimensional realm of Repugia who have come to our realm to steal our candy.  The three then have to travel throughout the neighborhood battling monsters in order to save their friend.

It's a simple setup for a story, but the real draw of the game comes once the trio venture into the new land.  In Repugia, their costumes have superpowers that allow the kids to become the characters that they are pretending to be.  They can collect pieces to make new costumes along the way, each with their own unique powers, ranging from those with heavy artillery, such as the robot, to those with healing abilities, such as the unicorn.  The game's creator, Tasha Sounart, made a conscious effort to make sure that both boy and girl characters could wear any costume, as she didn't want to limit the imaginations of the kids by focusing on stereotypes.  This actually works out great for the game, as it would have been awkward to have to choose a costume based on the gender of the kids in your party. Instead, you're given free reign to choose costumes for whatever battle you are going into.  The battles are fought by turn based combat, with quick time events that require you to hit a certain button at the right time to give more damage or dodge an attack.  To help in battle, you also can collect battle stamps, which can be traded won in battle, traded with other kids, or purchased with the game's currency, candy.  These stamps offer up abilities that can be used in battle, which offer such help as giving more power to characters, healing characters, or giving more candy after each battle.

The abilities of the costumes are also used to solve puzzles in the game.  Some puzzles might require you to go up a ramp to get to an out of reach area, which would require skates, which are only accessible by the robot.  You might be required to get past areas with hazordous material falling from above.  This would require the use of the shield, which is only accessible by the knight. There are other costumes with abilities that can be used off the battlefield, whose abilities are viewable by an icon in the top right corner of the screen.  The game can't be completed without solving these puzzles, but it also makes exploring the game's world more fun, as there are a lot of hidden secrets to be found by utilizing these abilities.

The game's art style is a huge draw for the game.  It has a charming aesthetic that is reminiscent of the comic strip Peanuts, helping to give the game the sense of the wonder of childhood that the game is trying to convey.  The backgrounds are also equally as detailed, giving the world of Repugia a similar sense of wonder.  The music is also excellent, adding to the marvel of the world while you're exploring, and adding to the tension of combat while you're fighting Repugians.  There is no voice acting, but the humor in the game's dialog makes up for it.  It's a subtle humor that is fun, and works with the tone of the game.

Costume Quest is Double Fine's first foray into the role playing genre, and largely it has succeeded. Turn based combat gets tiresome after a while, and the game's basic plot and quick time events that are required to increase damage or to deflect a blow may not be for everyone.  However, the charming art style, humorous dialog, fun costume based game mechanics, and fun puzzles make this game worth experiencing.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

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