Look. I have to start this post off with an apology. It’s incredibly out of season. I realise it’s June, it’s summer, and the last thing on your mind is Halloween. But tough. This review is about Costume Quest, a game about Halloween, a game which I bought around Halloween last year. I could have saved this review for this year’s Halloween. But a lot of things could go wrong between now and then. Perhaps this blog runs out of steam and I’m not active by that time. Perhaps I’ll have a whole heap of games to review around Halloween and this little, cute game just falls between the cracks and doesn’t get the accolades it deserves. Or I’ll just forget. Probably that one, most of all. So, I’m sorry, but this post is about Costume Quest, a short and sweet RPG themed around Halloween trick or treating.
You start off with a choice: are you a boy or girl? Nothing particularly changes, because the two main characters are twins. But, being female myself, I chose the girl option, and it was up to me to lead my brother around town for a spot of trick or treating. My parents had made me a wonderful robot costume to go in whereas my younger brother was in a candy corn costume. You start the game going around town and knocking on people’s doors to get candy. So far, so normal. But, you soon realise the town has been overrun by nasty monsters. Little goblin creatures who may or may not have eaten your neighbours, and upon knocking on one of their doors, they mistake your sibling for an actual piece of candy and steal him. Horrified at your brother’s kidnapping, you realise that you must embark on an epic quest to get him back. Sure, you’re just a little girl in a robot costume. But when you get into fighting, you actually transform into a formidable robot who can hold up against these evil goblin creatures.
Battle takes place in a very simple way. It’s turn-based, and you choose what action you can take. There’s a small quick-time mechanic which allows you to block moves or to boost your attacks. Plus, you have a super special ability, unique to each costume, which you can unleash after building up for a few turns. For example, you might have the ability to just do a super powerful attack. Or your black cat costume’s ability might be to stealth yourself which means you can’t be hit for a few turns. Or maybe you’re in the Statue of Liberty costume which allows you to heal yourself and your teammates.
Oh yes, teammates. For as every aspiring hero knows, you can’t embark on a quest by yourself. You must recruit your neighbourhood friends to join in your adventure to get your brother back. Some you might have to recruit by doing them a favour first, but for the most part, people are very willing to have a taste of adventure. Plus, who can say no to the little girl in a robot costume? As your companions join you, you also get access to their costumes. Another way to get new costumes is to find pieces of it lying around and then crafting them in a menu. Costumes are the main draw of this game. Costumes give you special powers both in battle and on the main map. For example, the robot costume gives you little roller skates which means you can skate up ramps to access certain areas. You might need to find a certain costume before you progress, using it special ability to access the next area.
Each area is relatively closed but lets you explore it within the bounds of the costume abilities you have. There’s also a lot of interaction with NPCs. There’s mini-games, there’s fetch quests…all the typical RPG stuff you’d normally do. You explore, you find loot, you find more candy and you can use candy as currency to buy stamps which boost your abilities in battle. Of course, you’ll also find more monsters to fight, particularly when you knock on doors. There’s also small puzzles to solve sometimes, usually involving you doing a certain combination of things based on what costumes you have.
But to be honest, it’s not the game mechanics that make this game good. For the most part, the gameplay is pretty mediocre. The battles can get tedious and repetitive very fast. The only variety is in testing out new costumes, which luckily comes often enough, but it’s hardly very innovative or compelling. The exploration aspects are pretty limited and it doesn’t take long to clear an entire area of loot and move on. So why did I bother reviewing this?
Because this game is charming. It’s beautiful, it’s cutesy, and it’s just so charming. The humour in the game is spot on, every moment is wonderfully scripted and hilarious. The monsters, you’ll realise, are not scary and evil but more often than not, just bumbling buffoons who got into the monster business because they’re ugly. You’ll love the world that’s created in Costume Quest, which is goofy and magical, but semi-realistic and at times, rather satirical. The personalities of all the characters is just so fresh and wonderful, it’s genuine and it’s funny, and you’ll really enjoy following the story of Wren (if you chose the girl) or Reynold (if you chose the boy) and their quest to rescue their sibling. You’ll catch glimpses of your candy corn dressed sibling sitting in piles of candy and you’ll often be seriously close to rescuing him, only to find him loaded on a bus which you just miss. Plus, the gameplay elements can be incredibly whimsical. For example, there’s an apple bobbing mini-game in which the man operating it goads you into doing better and better. You’ll find yourself desperately trying to do better at apple bobbing just because of this man’s taunts! It has nothing to do with rescuing your sibling, but kids will be kids and you’ll be just as concerned about amassing a sizeable amount of candy for this Halloween’s haul. That’s not to say the main character is selfish. The main character actually has a lot of heart and seems genuinely concerned about the abduction of their sibling. But still, at the end of the day, you play in a party of young kids and so much of the charm of the game comes from seeing the world from their eyes.
This game will make you feel like a kid again. It’s very short (took me about 4 hours to complete) but it is so sweet, and it will definitely melt your heart at points. Plus if you get the PC version, you get some free DLC with it which is basically a sequel to the main story. Or you can pick it up for consoles on XBLA and for PS3. Overall, if you’re looking for a fairly unique and charismatic RPG to play on a long journey or something, then look into Costume Quest.