One of my absolute favourite ever games is Double Fine’s Psychonauts – it was bonkers but cute with it, and the gameplay was deliciously varied. However they then produced console only titles for a while and PC fans of their first game have been left waiting.
For this, it would seem.
Costume Quest was released on consoles a year ago, and has now been ported over (available via Steam). The game is tiny in comparison to Psychonauts, both in terms of length and gameplay variation. Having produced such an epic opus may cause problems for Double Fine – how do you top such an excellent game? So, to be fair to Costume Quest, I won’t mention Psychonauts again, except to say that you should go buy it if you don’t have it already – available both on GOG.com with no DRM, and on Steam with Steam achievements.
Costume Quest is set in USian suburbia at Halloween – you play one of a pair of young twins (the one who isn’t KIDNAPPED BY MONSTERS!) and through trick-or-treating, making new costumes and battling monsters, you RPG-alike your way to rescue your sibling. Battling monsters is a turn based, quick time key press affair, where your kids’ costumes come joyously to life. You may just be wearing a bit of tin foil and a safety mask, but come battle time you transform dramatically to a space warrior able to summon meteorites to smite your enemies.
Between battles you explore suburbia, the park, a mall and a fairground, all of which are nicely portrayed. Scattered NPCs dish out a scant handful fairly standard quests, which are fun the first time round. When they are repeated in later areas (find six hiding children, bob for apples in a minigame, spare card swaps) it’s a little disappointing. That said, I genuinely wanted to get all the costumes and battle stamps, so I could see them in action.
There’s a strategy element in choosing your costume and battle stamp combinations to get the right mix of abilities in battle, but you’re fairly likely to find a favourite combo and stick with it.
The game isn’t hard. Any time something may not be immediately apparent, you get bombarded with clues. This makes it a very kid-friendly game, nobody’s going to get frustrated at any of the pretence at puzzles here. The dialogue is engaging, funny and endearing – but sadly all text. The lack of voices does make for a pretty empty soundscape, though you could imagine that it adds to the eerie Halloween atmosphere if you wanted to be generous.
All this said, it’s a pretty and pleasant game. I’m glad I bought it, but I’d have been more glad if I’d bought it at about half price. This is particularly mean of me though, as it’s only marginally more than a tenner.
The game comes bundled with the Grubbins on Ice DLC which revisits the story in the winter time (Wot, no Halloween?). I haven’t finished this though – I started playing, it revisits the same trick-or-treat door-to-door gameplay, and as soon as I found the first of yet another six hiding children, I thought I’d leave the game for a while so I don’t get bored of more repetition.