Although Costume Quest lacks length and challenge — it more than makes up for it, with the charm, wit and humor of a Pixar movie. Costume Quest is a game that exemplifies the perception kids have of Halloween night. Adults are clueless, candy is hidden everywhere and you can make a cool costume from pretty much anything. Oh, and sometimes your costume transforms into a giant version of itself in order to fight the candy-stealing monsters that are bent on destroying Halloween. You know, just like the Halloweens we used to have as kids.
The game places you in control of either a brother or sister on Halloween night, forced to stick together by your parents while trick-or-treating. However, when you get to the first house and knock, a horrible monster answers the door and steals your sibling and whisks them away to a massive gate on the far side of town. From this point on your quest to find and save your sibling begins.
The overarching game play involves running around, in and over a world that consists of three different zones: a suburban town, a mall and a mountain village with a carnival. Each zone contains decorated houses at which you can trick-or-treat. Sometimes it’s an adult that answers the door with a snide remark and candy and sometimes a hideous monster that triggers a battle. The background zooms out and your cardboard painted-robot outfit transforms into a gigantic, metallic blue robot complete with missiles and rocket fist. From here the combat follows a turn-based RPG formula. You have a basic attack and a power attack that takes a few turns to charge. After you take your turn, the monsters take theirs and so on till one of the parties is slain. You gain experience and candy after leveling up; you can trade candy for battle stamps that can be applied to your costume for various battle advantages.
Since the battle mechanics are so basic there is potential for the fights to get repetitive, but the pacing, battle stamps and variety of costumes help keep things fresh for the length of the game. As a full-fledged retail game it wouldn’t hold up, but as a bite-sized downloadable with a 5-7 hour playtime it works.
The major selling point of the game is its abundant charm. From the adorable cell-shaded design style to the witty dialogue, it would take the most cold-hearted of individuals to not be enchanted by this game. Made by Double Fine, a studio known for their humor in games (Psychonauts, Brutal Legend), there’s tons of snappy dialogue in the main story as well as humorous asides delivered by the random kids walking around in their costumes. You’ll spend a significant amount of time talking to these characters you see just to hear things like “Man I hope I’m the only banana here tonight. Last year— total bananafest.”
Costume Quest isn’t a game that relies on deep game mechanics or intense difficulty to hook the player. It thrives on its charm and its ability to prey on a sense of nostalgia you didn’t even realize you had. While it could have benefitted from one or two more costumes and another battle mechanic, it’s not something that you’ll notice while playing or that will affect your enjoyment of the game. Costume Quest would be a great title year-round but it’s especially effective in getting you excited for the coming Halloween weekend, and at a ghoulishly good price of $15 on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Marketplace, it’s a hard game not to recommend to almost anyone.