Costume Quest 2 Review
Dev. Double Fine Productions
Pub. Midnight City, Majesco
How in the hell did we make friends as kids?
From what I remember, I sort of wondered up to people and went, “bogies and bums!” and was then accepted within the group as the thrillingly dangerous one.
Costume Quest 2 is the story of a group of children who have to save the best bits of Halloween from the dismal Doctor White, who is determined to screw up the party for everyone. He has his reasons of course, and is slightly more than just a generic git-villain. Still, whatever it is that motivates him, you are forced into some time travelling shenanigans in order to save the day and return the right to wear costumes and eat sweeties to everybody.
CQ2 is an RPG where you guide a small party of children around a set of environments on the hunt for candy to grab and monsters to bash. Little children obviously make for puny fighters, but fortunately by donning various costumes that you find throughout the game they are able to transform into the character represented by the costume for the purposes of fighting. Dress up as a superhero and you become one at rumble-time, able to punch the holy hell out of robots and monsters and also hurl buses at them. Dress up as a clown and you end up as a freakish oversized buffoon who uses his girth to great effect in the fight. Apart from normal attacks, each costume type has its own special ability; the Clown’s is called ‘Laughter is the best Medicine’ and is a party heal. This basically causes the costumes to become character classes, so you can have a tank, healer and damage-guy in your party – or whatever you feel most appropriate to the stage you’re on.
Using the delightful cartoon style that will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s played the first Costume Quest game, you once again return to your home-town to find it pumpkin-bestrewn and seasonal. Things soon go wrong however when Dr. White shows up and, engaging the help of a Time Wizard, kicks off this second foray into costume questing. What changes things up a little this time is the environments; future cities, the bayou, even a reform school for naughty candy-eaters staffed by Grubbins, all make an appearance in the new game. It’s a little darker in style graphically, but just a fraction and still retains the humour and light-hearted sense of fun from the original game. The friendly people you find around the place are still just the right side of silly, without becoming obnoxious, and your interactions with everyone keep you smiling throughout the modest 6 hour play time.
If you’ve never experienced the Costume Quest game previously, you should prepare yourself for something of a charm offensive. Nearly every character dialogue, name of attack, place and interactive element in the game is gently funny and cute, leading to the sense of almost overbearing pleasantness in the game. It ought to be something that sits naturally, people just being generally polite to one another, but it actually almost is slightly unnerving for a while until you realise that the game is simply ‘nice’. It’s almost so alien to get a proper game that doesn’t trade on gore, pain or other forms of human misery that it can be awkward to adjust.
Some decisions have been made to change up the game this time, that have had mixed results. On the positive side, battles are a little more active now, featuring timed button presses as part of the turn-based combat for every character. This forms part of both the attack and defence portions of combat, so once all the mechanics are introduced, you’re never just sitting back and watching the action unfold. There’s also a risk/reward element to the combat in the form of a new counter system whereby you can choose to begin blocking with a defender before the enemy declares who it’s attacking. Guess correctly and you’ll deal counter attack damage, guess incorrectly and the character actually hit comes off a little worse. It’s a nice idea that adds a little level of strategy to things – purposely having a character feint raises your chances with the other two to 50/50 and a lone character always counters.
On the other hand, one major bugbear of many forum users and reviewers is the decision to change from auto-healing at the end of a battle to forcing you to return to a drinking fountain in a level in order to heal your party. It’s just pointless back-tracking since there are no random encounters in the game, there’s no risk to returning to these save points, it simply artificially elongates the time you spend in the level due to all the back and forth. A shame, because otherwise all the time you spend in CQ2 is otherwise fun, unless you find yourself stumped by a puzzle.
Yes, Costume Quest 2 does have puzzles, but they are pretty straightforward (with one notable exception). Nothing in it should seriously trouble you too far, battles included. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of its niceness, length and at-best-moderate challenge results in the game feeling a little too lightweight overall. Whilst it is a solid recommendation if you played and enjoyed the first Costume Quest game, newcomers to the series might do better to visit the more robust original. Familiarity with the characters from the first game will help with your enjoyment of the second in any case.
Now, GET INSIDE READERS… IT’S TIME TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH AGAIN.
Costume Quest 2 is out now for PC (Reviewed), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and XBoner.