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With Halloween fast approaching it seemed fitting that we choose to dig out this Halloween-themed sequel to the cult original, Costume Quest. Created by Double Fine’s lead artist as well as former Pixar artist Tasha Harris during the development of Brutal Legend, this sequel, arriving four years later after the first, became a surprise hit for the company. Still for those not familiar with the original game, its not essential to have played it as fraternal twins Wren and Reynold are forced to travel through time to stop the evil dentist “Dr. Orel White,” who has teamed up with a powerful time wizard to eliminate Halloween.
Despite looking like a kidified version of the Final Fantasy games with its use of a turn-based combat system and cutesy graphic style, what you get is a game which, surprisingly, has a lot more to it than first appearances would have you believe. After all, this isa game where characters don’t just dress in adorable Halloween costumes but actually turn into these alter egos when they enter in battle with the various enemies they encounter along the way, meaning that the character wearing the Superman costume turns into Superman, the clown turns them into a tumbling clown healers and the candy corn . . . well that character just sits there and does nothing for the whole battle.
With each of the costumes coming with their own special abilities as well as strengths and weaknesses much like it’s JRPG counterparts, players must work out which costumes will work best together and ensuring that your group has enough heavy hitters and healers to ensure they can deal with whatever enemy they are facing. At the same time, players can also choose to throw down trading cards to change the conditions of the battle so that the enemies attacks damage them or giving a character additional attacks.
However, it is the combat mechanics where the game really stumbles with each of your characters assigned a different button on your controller the reason why. It’s especially confusing seeing how everything is turn-based and as such all actions could have been kept to the same button. Each turn, a character can choose to attack, use an item or special ability, which is all pretty standard for this type of game. The downside however comes that each character attack also requires the player to hit their assigned button at the last moment to maximise the damage of their attack. While this might be fun for the first few battles, it soon becomes tedious using this quick-time-esq combat system.
However, one of the fun aspects of the game is that each of the costumes also has a special ability which can be used while exploring the world the game is set in. For example, the Pharaoh costume can use its staff to zipline between buildings while the clown costume has a clown horn that is an ability which is used a lot more than you’d expect, be it scaring away alligators or engaging in a “Devil Went Down To Georgia” style duel between clown horn and fiddle!
Outside of the main plotline, there are a number of fun side-quests throughout the game, such as finding kids playing hide and seek or finding additional cards to swap with other kids in the game. Being a Halloween game though its only fitting that your characters also get to engage in trick or treating with houses either rewarding players with rivers of candy to add to their stash or revealing additional monsters to be battled. Players can also collection additional candy by basically hitting anything on the levels be it a trash can, mailbox or alligator. Pretty much anything they hit can give them some extra candy which can be traded for costume upgrades and additional cards via Shady, the creepy guy in a trenchcoat who it seems for some unexplained reason would rather take candy than money from the kids.
Switching between past and present realities both come with their own unique style with the past reality combining a childhood joy of Halloween alongside a New Orleans setting. The future setting however sees a world in which Dr. Orel White has succeeded in outlawing Halloween and creating a dystopian society where costumes and candy have all been outlawed and where teeth-themed troopers patrol the streets looking for potential trick or treaters who have setup their own underground resistance. Because of the colourful cartoon art design these worlds are a lot of fun to explore, especially as you’re never sure exactly who your going to encounter as you make your way through the levels.
While the game might have a short playtime of around 6-8 hours, making it easy to slot in-between games, especially if your not looking for another long title. At the same time the highly repetitive gameplay here will make you glad that the game is not longer, especially with the combat mechanics, which far too quickly became more grating that I would have liked. It especially felt at times like I was being forced to play through numerous quick time events than a more traditional RPG combat mechanic, which it initially appears to be aiming to provide.
A fun little title and no doubt the game that kids will find providing a gateway into RPG’s alongside Kingdom Hearts, but for the older player,despite some genuinely amusing moments throughout, its combat mechanic far too soon becomes too much of a grind to make it a more enjoyable experience outside of providing a fun yet disposable Halloween treat.
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Midnight City, Majesco Entertainment
Platform(s): PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
Mode: Single Player