Costume Quest Hands-On

We go door-to-door looking for treats in Double Fine's upcoming downloadable game.

Double Fine Productions will release its newest game later in the month, a downloadable title called Costume Quest. This charming role-playing game marks something of a turning point for Double Fine. After previously developing a pair of games in Psychonauts and Brutal Legend--whose retail success couldn't quite measure up to their critical acclaim--the San Francisco studio is shifting its focus from boxed retail products to smaller, less resource-intensive downloadable games. As the first such project from Double Fine, Costume Quest feels very much like the studio is taking a breath of fresh air in the wake of big budget design burdens--its gameplay is simple and uncomplicated, with a story delivered entirely in speech balloons without the help of voice actors. There's also candy. And unicorns. But more on that in a moment.

Costume Quest gets its name from the central mechanic driving the action throughout the game. As a young child on Halloween night, you're in search of new costumes capable of giving you the superpowers you need to take on the oafish monsters that have kidnapped your sister (or brother, depending on your character selection). The search for those costumes feels like an adventure game of sorts: You run around town looking for specific items hidden away that, once cobbled together, become a full-fledged Halloween costume, such as a robot, the Statue of Liberty, or, much later in the game, a mighty unicorn.

Aside from making you look cool--and in the case of the unicorn, extremely cool--those costumes mostly come into play when you're swept into a battle against the game's ugly yet oddly endearing monsters. It's a simple turn-based combat system that doesn't bombard you with spells and abilities; instead, it uses a timing system for basic attacks similar to the Paper Mario series. After performing a few of those basic attacks in a row, you can then unleash a special ability unique to whichever costume you happen to be wearing. While hardly a strategy game, the choice of which costumes to wear into a fight--and when to cash in its special ability--seems to be the main focus of your mental processing power in Costume Quest. Will you play as the space man so you can devastate enemies with your don't-call-it-a-lightsaber laser sword? Or will you dress up as the knight so you can buff your defenses with the shield power? And that's all before you get into the potential draw of the over-the-top animations that accompany your special abilities, like the absurd visage of Abraham Lincoln sweeping across a fluttering American flag when you play as the Statue of Liberty.

All of this dressing up and monster clobbering takes place in suburban Anytown, USA. The game begins in a nondescript neighborhood of residential homes, cul-de-sacs, and tree-lined sidewalks. The Halloween atmosphere is spread on thick, with orange leaves everywhere and children running around town in all manner of costumes. And though the children are fully decked out in Halloween attire, the eccentric adults give the town just as much personality--like the dental health enthusiast who runs an anti-candy bobbing-for-apples game where you have to dodge the worms and parasites because he "only buys organic produce." You'll also go trick-or-treating, which gives the game a random battle element because you never know whether there'll be an adult inside to give you candy (the game's currency) or one of those monsters that has just been caught burglarizing. With a script penned by Tim Schafer, everyone you meet seems to greet you with some sort of humorous overture, like a monster that you catch stealing candy and introduces itself before a battle with, "You remind me of my parents…from whom I am BITTERLY ESTRANGED!"

Wren gives good advice.

All of this amounts to a game that's nothing if not charming. If there's one thing left to be determined, it is how well the battle system holds up throughout the duration of the story because its simplicities might fall prey to repetition in the later stages of the game. But it certainly makes a good introduction. Expect to see our Costume Quest review later in the month.

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36 comments
mygame-spotfile
mygame-spotfile

Wow, a Halloween RPG? That could keep me occupied, though I couldn't gather much about the battle system, If that only cost so many pounds I could easily consider it, though I get the horrible feeling this will play like Animal Crossing or MySims... Invader ZIM!!! :D

Keymahan
Keymahan

Think this will be worth my time.. Fun game inn between Castlevania and Fable!

magicalclick
magicalclick

Anyone recall FairyOddParent has this same thing basically :P,

eternal_blade3
eternal_blade3

It looks kind of fun, but also I could use something that really screams HALLOWEEN! And it looks like this fulfills.. All the orange and whatnot :D

ukrainerules
ukrainerules

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

robomonkey94
robomonkey94

I love tim schafer and double fine basically nothing they make can be bad

advocacy
advocacy

I'd like to find more about the battle system before I commit to a purchase.

CrashOV
CrashOV

@ KaBoOm: Ofcourse they would. everyone would. Who'd pay for a small game like this in this day and age? I'm not saying te game isnt fun. But people just wont pay more then 5$ for a game like this anymore. if that even.

Rickystickyman
Rickystickyman

Anyone notice the invader zim doll in the video? It was attached to a lamp. This game looks interesting, but Tim seems to be aiming way to low. I think they should make some real games, instead of downloads. Not saying this game is bad, but I would prefer one of his epic games.

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

"Why do creative games like these never make it to the PC... :S" Because almost everyone downloads these tiny little games for free. Games like this take 5-10 minutes to fully download. Just look at world of goo. Over 90% of the people who played it pirated it. Chances are most people here who want it on PC would have pirated it as well

game_gt3
game_gt3

looks very stupid. i like it :D

Son_of_Bane
Son_of_Bane

@feleas Indeed mate. I don't understand why most people seem to think that BL was a failure. Okey it wasn't a "game of the year" type but it still was fun as hell, and at least worth a 7-8 on 10.

feleas
feleas

Look interesting, but I wish Tim's bosses didn't make him give up his efforts on Brutal Legend 2, and make 4 small games like this one. SIGH

ArachisPT
ArachisPT

Why do creative games like these never make it to the PC... :S

Ceraby
Ceraby

Sound like a game I'd love. =D

Cobra5
Cobra5

I think it doesn't look very good, honestly :/ Looks like they are aiming too low. Its too small and simple. There is nothing here to make it actually entertaining, other then having somewhat unique of an idea of a setting. That's been the problem of all of Shafer's games IMO... Great settings, characters... poor gameplay.

scorpion_great
scorpion_great

well ye its not like there's any other good games they can work on like Psychonauts 2...oh wait that's right were still waiting for the damn sequel!

KaBo0m
KaBo0m

So basically terrible, overly simplistic gameplay that hopefully can get by with it's wonderful charm and humor

homsarrunner3
homsarrunner3

awesome. Can't wait to pwn monsters as an EPIC UNICORN OF JUSTICE!

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

Looks like a lot of fun. I hope it does well. I was one of the few who was really amped for Brutal Legend and was not disappointed.

mull20641
mull20641

As much as i love Tim Schafer, and I believe the game will be amazing. I foresee another commercial failure for Double Fine.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

Aw, no voice actors though? Ron Gilbert's DeathSpank, in my opinion, took a good route in that department. It's a bit disappointing to hear this won't be fully voiced as well. Especially since Double Fine and Tim Schafer have, up to this point, been so well known for their great use of character and dialogue writing.

Arcterran
Arcterran

hey not bad Schafer and Tasha...not bad....

yxw
yxw

can't wait for the review .

soulzDestroYer
soulzDestroYer

@RazerBlade13 ahh yes he can just look at Brutal Lgend that game sucked so bad the art design for characters look like guitar hero

Barighm
Barighm

Er...darn, now the battle system sounds dull, but to be fair, I've never played Paper Mario.

TheZorker
TheZorker

I've always wanted a game based on that episode of Buffy. ;)

snugglebear
snugglebear

Do want! This looks like it'll be a really fun game. Who doesn't like Halloween?