For me, Halloween has always been the most absurd of the commercially propagated holidays, those completely stripped of their historical / religious significance. How candy, pumpkins, horror and costumes fit together is beyond my comprehension. Yet, come every October’s end, I’m greeted with at least a handful of “Happy Halloweens” (which is a bit of an oxymoron if you ask me), an invite to a costume party of sorts and a craving for candy.
If you have ever been ‘Trick-or-treating’ when younger you cannot but associate the two. Halloween means candy..and this is the essence of Costume Quest. Double Fine’s downloadable RPG adventure captures children’s relationship to Halloween in all its simplicity, innocence and imaginativeness. It also doesn’t hurt that lots of fun to play, assuming you’re not expecting a deep gaming experience.
The story of Costume Quest surrounds two young siblings, Wren and Reynold as they prepare for a night of Halloween trick-or-treating. The night gets off to a bad start when one of the children (you choose which) is mistaken for an over-grown piece of candy and kidnapped by monsters seeking to steal the town’s entire candy supply. The remaining kid must now rescue his (or her) sibling and return home before their parents find out what happened. Choosing to play as either Wren or Reynold does not affect the overall plot but it sort of sets the tone for the game’s ‘back-to-basics’ style. Costume Quest is perhaps one of the simplest turn-based RPGs of the modern era. And while this may be a turn off for any hardcore RPG fan, there is more to Costume Quest than what first meets the eye.
Along your quest, you will meet up with other children and a couple will join your party. Throughout the game you will collect costume materials and patterns. Each pattern requires three unique materials. By obtaining new costumes, you can select which of the party members will don which costumes. Upon entering a battle, you will transform into what your character is dressed as. Suddenly, your goofy cardboard box robot costume will become a large missile shooting battle bot. Each costume has an unique attack style and special move. Some costumes allow you to heal a single party member, others allow you to resurrect a KOed party member and so on. Some of the costumes also have exploration abilities that can be used outside battles. Different abilities will help you access different areas, allowing you to collect more costume materials and candy (the game’s currency). The robot, for example, has boosters which will allow your party to move around faster as well as jump off ramps. This is the first and arguably the most useful of the abilities and so I found myself using the robot quite often…though it was great fun trying out all the different costumes.
Another aspect of the battle system is the usage of battle stamps. Battle stamps are stamps that can be equipped to add an extra effect in battle. Some will increase damage dealt while other can stun enemies or increase your character’s overall HP. Battle stamps can be earned in boss battles as well as bought from a young girl’s stamp stand (in exchange for candy of course). Each party member can equip one battle stamp so the battle system ultimately involves choosing the best combination of costumes and stamps for each occasion.