The fantastic team over at Double Fine have crafted a charming arcade RPG for XBL and PSN; and just in time for Halloween! Costume Quest puts you in the tiny shoes of either Wren or Reynold, twin siblings spending their first Halloween in a new town. You get to pick the one you want to take control of, and the other one is the follower. When I played, I selected Reynold as my leader because, y’know… I’m a boy. Donning your awesome cardboard robot costume, and Wren in her candy corn outfit, you set off into your new neighborhood in search of delicious treats. What starts off as an innocent evening of Trick-or-Treating, full of childish bickering between siblings, quickly takes a turn for the worst when your sister gets kidnapped by a monster who thinks she is a giant piece of candy! You quickly find out that monsters are all over the place, trying to steal all the candy in town, ruining Halloween. After your giant candy corn sister is stolen from you, chasing down the monster who took her is the only option you’ve got. I mean, you wouldn’t want Mom and Dad to find out, would you? You’d never hear the end of it. So begins your journey to gain candy, stop the monsters, and recover your annoying sister. All in a night’s work for a little boy with an imagination.
How can a little boy possibly hope to fight hordes of candy/sister-stealing monsters? With the mighty power of your costume, of course! When you enter into battle with a monster, you go through a quick transformation into a giant, battle-ready version of whatever costume you are wearing at the time. Your innocent little blue robot turns into a huge, Gundam-like mechanized war machine! You then combat your enemies in a fairly standard RPG-style turn based system. With each attack and defend, however, you will need to perform a quicktime action to gain more attack damage or reduce damage taken. Its a fun and simple mechanic to keep you engaged in the battle, and different costumes have different button actions, to keep you on your toes. After winning your battle, you’ll be awarded EXP, candy, and oftentimes a bonus item. This bonus item usually comes as a collectible card that can be kept or traded to other kids in an attempt to fill your whole card collection (which awards you a special costume).
As mentioned, there are a number of different costumes that you can adorn. You also won’t be alone on your quest. Throughout the game, you’ll gain two companions that will help you in your fight to reclaim Halloween and your sister. These come in the form of Everett, a young knight, and Lucy, a budding scientist. Along the way, you will acquire costume patterns, each with three specific items needed to complete a new costume. Once you’ve gotten all three, you have access to that new costume and all the different abilities that come with it. In combat, each costume has a focus: Attack, Defend, Support, and Special. In addition, each costume will have its own unique Special Ability, such as Missile Barrage (offensive attack), Guardian’s Shield (defensive maneuver), Anthem (group heal), and many many more. In all, there are 12 different costumes that you can make and they are ALL useful. Some of them also have an Environment Ability, which will aid you while roaming the game world, outside of combat. For example, your starting robot costume also gives you Heelies to use for faster travel and going up ramps that will give you access to new areas. In addition to collecting costumes, you’ll also be able to spend your hard earned candy on Battle Stamps that will increase your battle prowess through higher attack or defense, poison effects, regeneration and more. I don’t want to ruin all the fun of discovering these things for yourself, so I’m not going to go into further detail about the costumes. Trust me when I say that every costume I got put a big smile on my face.
The only gripe I had while playing was so minor its almost not worth mentioning, but I feel I must. Sometimes during cutscenes the text moved a bit too fast for me to keep up. This was rare, but it definitely happened a few times. Its a shame, because all of the dialog in the game was excellent and I didn’t want to miss a word. Minor gripe.
This game kept me planted in one spot from start to finish. I just couldn’t put it down. The two best words I can think of to describe it are “charming” and “nostalgic”. It evokes a feeling of childlike wonder that I hadn’t felt in over 20 years. The dialog was brilliantly written with kids’ mannerisms in mind. I don’t know how better to describe it. The kids sounded like kids. They said what kids would say. Its so foreign to me now that I’m an adult, and each line made me smile reminiscently, remembering my own childhood. If you decide to get this game, play it for all these reasons. Don’t go into it simply for the gameplay or story (which are both great), but rather, allow yourself to be transported back in time to when you had your own crappy little costume that your parents helped you make. Back to when teenagers were monsters and candy was treasure. Back to when your imagination was the most powerful tool you had. If you open yourself up to this delightful game and allow it to work its’ magic, you will feel like a kid again.