While a lot of fuss is being made in the current days of Double Fine’s unsung masterpiece Psychonauts and its lesser brother Brutal Legend, and in the wake of its exceptional success on Kickstarter, it’s easy to forget that it’s still a gaming studio, and therefore, produces games in order to pay the bills. They made a kinect kid’s game, about whose quality I can say nothing, because beyond its great promotional trailer, it’s still a game on a system I don’t own and uses a control mechanism I don’t like. They also made a bunch of iOS games, a weird puzzle-adventure game where you play a Matryoshka doll, and Costume Quest.
Costume Quest is a child’s fantasy story that plays out the scenario that we’ve all imagined any time we put on a piece of a costume, whether it’s a silly hat or picked up a sword-like stick. It’s the idea that suddenly, then and there, you’re transformed into the only savior of your hometown and you have to fight against unspeakable badness that for some reason, all the pre-existing architecture and infrastructure around you can’t oppose, usually in a way that gives you access to some sweet kickass moves.
This fantasy in adults is what leads to preppers, by the way.
Costume Quest takes this fantasy and sets it in a time when everyone has a reason for a costume and therefore it’s reasonable for people to turn into the Statue of Liberty, a fat unicorn or a Vampire, which is Halloween. Goblins have invaded your town and what ensues is a fun action-RPG with a very simple combat mechanism that rewards players with timing, a taste for repetition, and a desire to collect everything everything everything. This can be annoying, but Double Fine’s main way to extend game experiences is with some form of collection minigame.
With this fairly simple set of mechanics and levels, then, on a graphically unchallenging videogame, Costume Quest deserves attention, and is worth its cost because of its well-written, well-rounded and believable cast of chidlren. For the most part the adults are single or dual-line focused, and mainly say only a few things that the childish characters find incomprehensible, like the apple-bobbing marketing man, whose full-time job promoting apples makes him look rather weird and obsessive to the kids. On the other hand, the children include a positively lovable tomboy, whose dialogue is full of great equalisers, a nebbish dork who strives to emulate an analytical computer, and an overachieving nerd, as well as your central character, an essential everyman – or everywoman – whose dialogue goes more or less unchanged if she’s rescuing her brother, or he’s rescuing his sister.
Costume Quest is a bright, funny videogame based on this concept, with a cast of fun, likeable characters. It’s cheap on Steam, and it’s only a few hours to play through, hours that will be spent, if not laughing, at least with a big smile on your face.