Rated E for Everyone; Reviewed on PS3
Twins Reynold and Wren are new in town on the most important day of the year: Halloween! Their parents, misunderstanding the serious business of free candy suggest that they use this as opportunity to socialize and make new friends. Unfortunately the monstrous Grubbins are well aware of how serious candy is and have infiltrated your neighborhood to steal it all!
Costume quest was a result of a “smaller, faster, cheaper” mentality at independent developer Double Fine during a period of introspection. Their first title, the amazing Psychonauts (mini-review: “just play it, dumbass!”), found critical, but not financial, success. Their then current title, Brutal Legend, was facing budget and publisher issues. They made the decision to split off and, in a very short period of time, create realized prototypes for several games that could be completed very quickly by small teams on limited budgets.
“Costume Quest” is the first result of this effort (the second being the sublimely beautiful Stacking) and proves out the strategy wonderfully. The game is, in what’s become Double Fine’s trademark, laugh-out-loud hilarious. It wonderfully captures the priorities of childhood as you strive to keep rescuing your sibling from getting in the way of the more important task of collecting free candy.
In style this is essentially a boiled-down role-playing game. However “boiled-down” doesn’t mean “watered-down” – while simplistic in all particulars there’s a lot of variety here in the upgrades you choose to apply, the numerous costumes you must piece together and the often insane missions you must complete to proceed. The turn-based combat is gorgeous, but very simplistic and only sporadically challenging. It’s the weakest aspect of the game but the six-or-so hour length of the game means it never really has time to grind on your overall enjoyment.
This is the kind of perfectly executed experience that downloadable platforms were made for. I played on the PS3 but the game is also available for XBox Live and, recently, for PC via Steam. Considering the general simplicity of the game – and the sheer timelessness of the theme – I would fully expect to see it iOS/Android soon as well. The game is immensely fun and satisfying. It does cater to a specific group however: people that have ever strapped a crappy plastic mask to their face with a loosely attached, incredibly weak rubber-band and wandered their neighborhood at night asking strangers for free food. If you find yourself in that group you’re going love this game.