It’s October, and here at the Red Sector we like to celebrate with style. That means a sick amount of candy and booze. Games are good too! Being that time of year I thought I’d dive into some games that showcase this holiday’s essence and boy does this one have it in spades!
Costume Quest is a exploration / turn based RPG brought to us by Double Fine Productions, Founded by Tim Schafer who’s list of games is rather impressive including such titles as: Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, co-designer of some of the great early classics of gaming The Secret of Monkey Island 1 and 2 as well as the acclaimed Day of the Tentacle.
Costume Quest's development was led by Tasha Harris, A lead animator at Double Fine and a former Pixar artist as well! With Tim Schafer providing support where needed, he basically left it up to her and her small team to create a working prototype. The base concept of the game was an idea that Harris had before joining Double Fine, Yet never had a chance to expand on while at Pixar. She wanted a game to capture "that nostalgic feeling of these kids playing dress-up", and used old photographs of children in Halloween costumes to flesh out the game colorful and imaginative world.
Now here's an interesting factoid: Compared to previous games that had four to five year development cycles, Costume Quest was completed in under a year! This small time frame, as well as a small development team ended up being very beneficial to the project. This shortened schedule forced them to limit certain aspects of this game and focus on core gameplay.Thus preventing the addition of unnecessary (If only interesting) elements of gameplay or as they call it in production lingo "feature creep". With this limited focus, they were also able to zero-in on making features fun and enjoyable throughout the course of the game while keeping it pure and concise.
This game is available as downloadable title and was released on October 20, 2010 on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live to positive reviews. A port to MS Windows through the Steam platform was released about a year later.
So, how does it stand up? Read on!
The game takes place on the singular greatest holiday of all time,Halloween! You play as our tenaciously triumphant twin siblings Reynold and Wren, Having just moved to a new neighborhood, are planning to use their trick-or-treating to make new friends and of course score the mother-lode of all candy hauls! As the player, you will choose which sibling to play as. The two quickly don their costumes with the intent of snagging that sweet, sweet bounty of High-fructose confections! The non-playable character dressing as a piece of candy corn and the playable character dressing as a pretty boss lookin' robot.
While you start your night of sugar-fueled extortion, A monster with a sweet tooth sees your sibling dressed as a candy corn and proceeds to kidnap them as part of some nefarious plan to collect candy. Great,now you have to save your sibling from monsters, be home before curfew and collect as much candy as possible!(Priorities, man.Time is candy!)
Over the course the night you’ll find out that a sorceress named Dorsilla is helping a race of creatures called “Gubbins” collect candy to satisfy a creature referred to only as “Cadverous BigBones”. It seems that the Gubbin’s plan is to take all the candy to their home Repuglia so that BigBones will eat it instead of them.
While quite the simple story, it’s not so bad for what it is. It’s meant to invoke that feeing of nostalgia when you were a kid and feels good and down right fun.
The visuals of this game are great! The kids costumes while in the overworld are quirky and cute. they certainly look like handmade get-ups with recognizable pieces. Feather dusters, cardboard boxes, trashcan lids all the stuff that makes a great do-it-yourself kid costume! That’s just the start though, enter combat and your transported into an imaginary stage where the kids transform into giant awesome versions of their costumes! Each with unique and differing abilities.
The environments are also done in a quirky cell-shaded style that just shows the “Pixar Influence” from the design team. From the quiet suburbs, the mall, and the country side to the spooky cemetery. It just feels like a holiday special. (BTdubs: Check out the Camping store in the mall for a little Double Fine easter egg! The music in here is the same music used for the over world in Psychonauts!)
Overall the choice of this cartoony style fits well with the idea of it being a child’s recollection of the events. The quirky and cutesy visuals are just different enough to keep you hooked for the duration of the game.
Gameplay switches between two elements, overworld exploring and combat.
Exploring is easy, maneuvering yourself around the map interacting with NPC’s for dialogue or clues and quests. This also the main way you’ll be gathering candy by whacking various objects with your candy bag. Man, I wish that’s how it worked. WHAM! Smarties from a mailbox! BASH! Taffy from a pile leaves? I’m liking this universe.
You’ll find yourself with multiple costumes and some of these will have abilities that you can use while walking around. The robot for instance has roller shoes that will help you to leap over ramps and generally speed around. Some other abilities are a glowing sword for the space warrior that will light your way or the Knight who has a protective shield.
During the combat is where these costumes really shine! Now the mechanics of combat are sort of repetitive, a simple quick-time event to ensure maximum damage from an attack as well as defending to reduce incoming damage. The QTE’s can range from timing challenges to specific button presses even button-mashy-charge-up elements. So don’t expect too much variety. The mechanics are clean and simple and because of that simplicity it’s a stable non-glitchy system. Defeat is more of a minor setback than anything else so, don’t feel so bad if you perhaps didn’t pick a good line up of abilities. Each costume also has a special move that charges during combat, after three turns you have the choice to use your ability, these are either extra damage abilities or defensive / support abilities. These also have great animations and really feel good when you land them.
While the costumes have abilities there is also a system for adding additional effects to enhance combat, these are called Battle Stamps. Battle Stamps provide extra abilities and effects such as: adding a counterattack after a successful dodge, adding more hit points, change to dodge and the like. These extras can some times turn the battle in your favor quite quickly. ( Especially the stamp that allows basic hits to hit all targets AND adds a damage over time effect.) Be sure to collect enough candy to collet them to augment your play style.
There is also a set of trading cards that you can collect from combat or finding them in the world, while not totally necessary to complete the set you will get a secret costume if you do so, hey pretty cool.
In conclusion, this is actually a pretty fun game. It’s short but a fun little romp and diversion from the hardcore Halloween scare-fests and gore soaked experiences that we usually end up doing. It’s an innocent throw back to when you ran around the house BELIEVING you were the costume. Doing that all important thing that kids do and that adults forgot how to do..HAVING FUN.
I can not tell you how many times I genuinely smiled while playing this game especially the power attacks/abilities on some of the costumes. I mean the Rocket barrage? Awesome. The heal by Lady Liberty? Something feels awesome about tapping into the same monumental cosmic power used by the greatest sorcerer of all time..Abraham Lincoln.
Now, this game does have it’s down sides, the combat becomes repetitive and some of the exploration pathing gets glitchy. The big thing? Game length, I streched this out (I.e. walking away for food, taking a quick break to do laundry, that kind of thing) and in total it took me probably 8 hours to finish it. With no distractions? I could probably finish it in 6. That said, I think you should play this quirky little title and enjoy a breath of fresh and most importantly creative air. I give this an amazing :
Well, that’s it kid. I got my apple liqueur and gonna mix it up with some of this Caramel flavored vodka..I do like caramel apples. So, hit the streets. Time is candy.