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First Impressions : Costume Quest


Costume Quest (XBLA, PSN)

 Publisher: THQ

Developer: Double Fine

Release Date: October 19, 2010

Date of Play: October 19, 2010

Double fine has a bit of a troubled history when it comes to the sales of its stellar titles. Its wonderful blend of humor, original gameplay concepts, and terrific writing produces games that are critically acclaimed, but don’t sell all that well. This is a shame because Tim Schafer and company produce games that every gamer should be able to play and love and cherish.

With Costume Quest, Double Fine begins a new adventure into the realm of downloadable games. Potentially, this could be a match made in heaven. It allows Double Fine to express its wonderful weirdness in a more compact, cheaper form. Games such as these are less expensive both for the company to produce and for the consumer to purchase. This lower cost of entry has worked well for other downloadable titles that veer from the safety of the mainstream, so it could be the perfect fit for Double Fine’s unique brand of entertainment. Should this venture work out, not only might Schafer’s company have a brighter future ahead of it, but we might get to see more frequent releases from the company as well.

Can Costume Quest manage to condense the wonderment brought on by Psychonauts and Brütal Legend into a package that feels both worthy of the company’s history and of your $15? Let’s find out.

  • These kids are absolutely adorable. Their costumes even more so.
  • The title screen already has me interested with a wonderful blend of melodrama and whimsy. It’s hard to explain, but it’s fitting.
  • I want a one-eyed cyclops pumpkin!
  • I don’t mind that there’s no voice acting. The text boxes seem sort of fitting for the vibe the title is giving me. Plus, let’s face it, voice acted children in video games are usually more annoying than endearing, although Psychonauts was admittedly one of the few games to break this trend. I do wish you could progress the text boxes at your own pace, however. Those who read at a slower pace might have trouble keeping up with the rather snappy advancement of the text. That said, it does allow for a more cinematic presentation than games with text boxes for dialog usually manage, which works well with the humorous animation on display here.
  • The writing, even from the very beginning, is fantastic. I get the feeling this game will not disappoint on the humor front. 
  • “Halloween is about showing people who you really are”. I like that line. One could probably say the same for anime conventions, but let’s not go there right now. Furries. Yeesh.
  • I haven’t even so much as moved the left analog stick to walk around and I already want to purchase this game. The writing and concept alone have sold me. 
  • This game is all kinds of adorable.
  • My little girl in the cardboard box robot costume is fighting a monster. She just went through a transformation sequence a la Transformers were she turned into a giant, magnificent fighting robot like in every kid’s fondest Halloween dreams. This game kind of makes me feel like a kid again.
  • Combat is simplistic, but not necessarily in a bad way. It feels reminiscent of an even simpler version of the Mario RPG games, with turn-based combat enhanced by timed button presses to keep it more engaging. I like it. I think it could work, though it could also get repetitive if it doesn’t change or advance over time.
  • Every costume has special powers, such as my current robot costume having a cool missile barrage like something out of Robotech. That just makes me anxious to find out how many costumes there are in the game and what there special powers are. I hope a lot. Because that would be cool. [Note: I looked this up later, and as best I can tell from the menus it’s something like 11. Not too bad for a small game like this, if they all are truly different.]
  • I notice that a lot of the little girl’s dialog is written specifically for the little girl character. It’s not generic “player character” dialog that would be the same no matter which character you chose. I wonder how different some of this dialog would be had a chosen the little boy instead. I might have to go back and check that. Might be a small added bit of replay value if enough were to change. 
  • Haha! Mysterious kitty to the rescue! I like it. Only in a Double Fine game about Halloween could a black cat be a good guy.
  • This definitely appears to be one of those games where you can smash items all over the place to find a collectable item of some sort, which is candy in this case, naturally. I have to wonder what you use it for and how much random searching is necessary. Should I be hunting for candy in every crevice or will this simply give me far too much of the game’s currency and make what looks to be an already easy game even easier? Still, bashing a mailbox and getting candy from it makes my inner child very happy.
  • A treasure coffin. Holding a cardboard box. That is both sort of awesome and kind of creepy. This could be said about the entire premise of the game, really. Monsters coming to life on Halloween? Cool. A child’s fantasy (or perhaps nightmare) come true. An underlying subtext of children being kidnapped by mysterious older strangers while away from the supervision of their parents? A little creepy.
  • See, this is why I love Double Fine. There’s an area of the level that’s blocked off. Most games would have some impassable static barrier. Costume Quest uses a line of children forming a human wall, and each child has a humorous line of dialog when you talk to them. Awesome. 
  • I’m hoping this fixed camera angle never becomes a problem. So far it hasn’t mattered much, but it could make certain hidden items a lot more hidden than they need to be.
  • I’ll admit it. A little ways into the game and I’m a bit lost. A waypoint marker would be handy.
  • Ah. It would appear I’m not lost, I’m just not perceptive enough. Never mind. Still, I think waypoints would be a good thing to have had.
  • Huh. Cool. A little racing minigame using my robot’s roller-shoes gives me hope that other little things like that will be thrown in to keep the gameplay fresh.
  • It is a bit tricky to read the small text boxes while you’re zooming through the neighborhood streets, though. Voice acting would have helped here.
  • I shall henceforth refer to all sets of twins as “clones”. Thanks for the idea, Costume Quest.
  • The graphics look great for a downloadable title. There’s a cute art style that makes up for the simplistic nature of the environments and character models. I can’t help but notice there’s a little choppiness to the frame rate though. Nothing major, but worth noting. A few minor graphical issues are nothing new for a Double Fine title.
  • I’m definitely wishing there were a map. This level isn’t gigantic, but it’s big enough that I think getting lost could be a thing that happens. It would also help to locate missions and other points of interest. 
  • Major props to Double Fine for a generous demo. I’ve no idea how long the full game is, but this trial has given me a good look at the basics of the game and plenty of opportunities to see its charm and humor. 
  • The Costume Quest demo even has a fourth wall-breaking meta joke about it being only a demo. It has more than one of these, in fact. I am a fan.
  • “I hope the full game will respect the fourth wall more”. Great stuff.
  • In battle, there seems to be no way to heal your party. This is a bit strange. 
  • I wonder what happens when you lose a battle? Do you just have to try again? Do you go back to a checkpoint? The difficulty seems pretty forgiving, but I’m still curious about the game’s punishment (or lack thereof) for failure. 
  • There seems to be a good number of random quests to complete. I’m finding a bunch just walking around. I’m hoping this is indicative of a general abundance of things to do in the game.

 Conclusion: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by Costume Quest. I liked the concept, I wanted to support Double Fine, and I certainly hoped the game rocked, but everything I saw of it looked a little mundane in the gameplay department. I was afraid it would be a case of cool idea, good writing, boring game.

Having played it for myself, I can now see how the terrific dialog, the simple but fun combat, and the exploration and RPG mechanics come together in a charming, pleasing package. It may not be the best RPG ever, or maybe even a particularly good RPG at all, but it’s cute, relaxing, fun, and funny and looks to be a world I’ll be happy to spend a number of hours in, collecting candy in silly costumes. 

Let’s face it, Double Fine isn’t known for producing games that are at the top of their category in terms of gameplay. It’s the overall package and the lighthearted presentation that they do best, and in that respect, Costume Quest looks to stack up nicely to the high bar that Double Fine has previously set, and for only $15 at that. Color me impressed. I think Double Fine might have finally found the right venue for its antics.

Result: An adorable success.

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