Costume Quest is a quirky, Halloween-themed adventure title for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade brought to you by Tim Schafer and the folks over at Double Fine, makers of Psychonauts and Brutal Legend. Costume Quest features the team's signature sense of humor and rich environments, only this time with a unique charm that can appeal to both young and old. However, the game isn't all gleeful smiles and sugary treats, as somewhat repetitive objectives, tedious combat mechanics and a handful of odd design choices can at times hamper an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Costume Quest's narrative is meant to excite children eager to partake in their own Halloween adventures and conjure feelings of trick-or-treating nostalgia in adults. The plot follows Reynold and Wren, two siblings who are eager to explore their new hometown by trick-or-treating throughout the neighbourhood. After choosing one of the siblings to play as, the other is kidnapped by a monster who mistakes them for a giant candy. A mysterious, candy-obsessed witch seems to lie at the heart of the monster's sudden arrival throughout town, so the chase is on to save your lost sibling before getting grounded.
In order to unravel the mystery surrounding your sibling's kidnapping, players must adventure throughout town; collecting candy, finding costumes and helping locals along the way. The areas are filled with townspeople who provide varying levels of assistance upon completion of specific tasks. These tasks largely amount to a series of basic fetch quests, which can get a bit tiresome. Fortunately, the witty and charming dialogue keeps things interesting, delivering a handful of truly laugh out loud situations.
Considering it's Halloween and all, trick-or-treating is naturally a large part of this exploration and is handled in a simple, clever way. Players need to approach each house before clearing an area, which results in one of two outcomes - being greeted by a friendly, candy-dispensing human, or a hostile monster ready to fight. The surprise behind each door perfectly suits the nature of trick-or-treating, while seamlessly integrating different core mechanics.
Costume Quest's combat portions consist of turn-based battles with a focus on simple timed button presses, rather than tactics, which can make them feel tedious. Attack/defending moves are enhanced by successfully completing various quick-time events (QTEs) that change slightly based on the costume equipped. The assembled costumes and battle stamps collected during exploration offer unique offensive, healing or shielding abilities. While choosing the appropriate outfits before combat adds a certain degree of strategy, especially in the later sections, the vast majorities of battles come down to QTEs - failing even one or two can make all the difference. Mercifully, there's no penalty for failure in combat, expect having to repeat the mandatory grind.
While Double Fine's charm goes a long way, there's a number of strange, frustrating design choices that detract from the experience. For example, even though the areas are quite compact - without a mini-map, directional arrow or any form of feedback - finding the next objective can become confusing. Saving also becomes a headache, as players have to wait for specific auto-save points that tend to be few and far between. There was one specific instance where I assumed an auto-save had occurred after leveling up, only to return and find I'd lost roughly 30 minutes of progress. Manual saving options are so prevalent nowadays, making Costume quest feel outdated.
The visual presentation gets high marks for adding a great deal of personality to the game. The cartoon character models and environments feel rich and detailed, which makes the world an inviting place to explore. On the other hand, the sound design seems somewhat neglected, as voice acting is strangely absent from all dialogue.
Costume Quest is a very charming and humorous adventure that will appeal to a wide range of audiences. Double Fine's signature style definitely shines through in this Halloween-inspired downloadable title's characters and dialogue, partially giving it a pass for some repetitive missions, tedious battles and strange design choices. Ultimately, it's to you to decide which is of a higher value, but regardless, there's fun to be had here.