Twins Wren and Reynold are in for the Halloween of their young lives. New to the neighbourhood, not only do they have to endure lame costumes and having no friends, they have to battle an invasion force of monsters, goblins and magical aliens in a epic quest to collect candy and beat their curfew home.
Costume Quest is a cheerful role-playing adventure that offers an enjoyable weekend’s worth of quests and wry humour. For $21.25 from the PlayStation Network, and playing like a stripped back junior version of Final Fantasy, developers Double Fine Productions bring us a short but very playable adventure. Although it’s a little too simple, it still manages to be fun and addictive enough to get you playing right through to the end - and loving every minute of it.
You begin the game in a typical suburban home. Dad is buried in the newspaper and mum is giving Wren and her twin brother Reynold the hard word. They’re new to the area so Mum decides that Halloween should not only be a good time to get candy, but also the perfect time to find new friends. In the meantime, and using impeccable ‘mum logic’, she reassures the twins that they will always have their best friend with them - they will always have each other. In the ensuing outburst of denial and gagging sounds, mum decides to put someone in charge. As you can imagine the kids lobby hard for power, with Wren’s assertion that she is ten minutes older only getting the retort from Reynold that it just makes her ten minutes lamer. In the end mum chooses - and this is where you select which character to play in the game.
The introduction is very enjoyable, giving a good look at the cute cartoon graphics and spot-on humour. Although there is no voice acting (the dialogue is presented in a series of speech bubbles), the light and slightly sardonic tone is well established. However, the pace of the text may make it difficult for younger players to follow. But despite this, the general thrust of the story is pretty easy to keep up with. If you select Wren to be in charge, she gets the cool robot costume and Reynold gets the lame candy costume, and then it’s onto streets.
But things are not that simple. The first house is not occupied by a kind Grandma ready to fork over bags of candy, the door is answered by a goblin. The goblin is raiding the house for lollies and is very pleased to see a giant talking candy standing in front of him. So Reynold is kidnapped and it’s up to Wren to get him back before curfew. Because, although she knows she is her parent’s favourite child, she figures she still might get in trouble if she lets her brother get kidnapped on her first night in charge.
So it’s Wren, and her robot costume, against the candy stealing, brother kidnapping goblins. As the goblin attacks you enter battle-mode and Wren is transformed into a giant robot. You then play a very basic version of the turn-based battles familiar to those fans of the Final Fantasy games. You have three attacks initiated with he face buttons: a basic attack, a chargeable special attack as well as a slot for an alternative attack that can bought and equipped during general gameplay. Attacking and defending typically requires hitting a button when prompted - hitting the right button at the right time being the difference between dodging an attack, taking critical damage or landing a knockout blow.
Winning the battles get you XP and candy. While the XP is what you’d expect, increasing your hit points and attack power, candy is your money. When not battling goblins you move around the familiar environments, whacking garbage cans, mailboxes and fire hydrants for candy, while talking to various NPC for quests. Generally the quests involve finding objects or information and returning to collect XP, costume designs, costume components or candy.
The costumes are probably the most enjoyable part of the game. All are very cute when worn by Wren, or the two friends who join her during the game. While she starts out with a Robot costume, along the way you can find and build, among others, the Lady Liberty, Black Cat, or Armoured Knight costumes. Each costume comes with its own special and dramatic transformation scene. For example the Spaceman appears with a light sabre, the Cat roars into life as a giant Black Panther or the Packet of Fries manifests as an enormous salt spitting spider monster.
They also have their own special attack and defensive abilities - like the high-damage area attacks from the Robot or fiery Jack-O-Lantern, the Knight’s defensive shields, or Lady Liberty’s health regeneration. You can also spend your candy on stamps, which attach an extra ability to your character. These can add critical damage, stun or poison attacks, splash damage or health regeneration. The battle-system is simple, familiar, clutter free and very enjoyable.
Costume Quest is very easy to like. From the little kid dressed as a princess who claims she is wearing her costume ‘ironically’, to the relationship between Wren and Reynold - the story’s adorable emotion centre . However, while there are some good gags, the gameplay is a bit too simple. Overall, the game takes less then five hours to complete - although you’ll probably find yourself immediately playing through as the other sibling and getting those costumes you may have missed.
Rising up out of the delays around the Jack Black vehicle Brutal Legend, Costume Quest is an undoubted success. With a Christmas download already set for December release, it is a happy little title, simple enough for the kids but with a nostalgic vibe and enough humour to draw in those a bit older.