Costume Quest is a rudimentary, turn-based role-playing game. There aren't any multitiered tactical options; there aren't layers of leveling systems or branching skill trees; and there aren't lists of equipment with granular attributes. There isn't even a map to guide your party of tots on the most admirable of journeys to rid the land of monsters, recover a kidnapped sibling, and feast upon a bounty of delicious treats. Yet, for all the things it lacks, writing Costume Quest off as nothing more than a simple RPG does it a great disservice. The game reimagines the familiar festivities of Halloween night, creating a clever and engrossing foundation upon which all the other facets of the game are built. It's the nostalgic glee that drives you to go on an adventure through three separate locations and knock on every last door. It's the excitement of assembling a new costume and seeing what it can do and how an imagination can transform it. It's the realization that the battle system offers more depth than it seems, thanks to the different costume abilities. All told, it's a game that offers more than the sum of its parts.
6282312What can't Abraham Lincoln do?
Still, Costume Quest's undeniable charm is also the reason it stumbles early on, particularly in regards to trick-or-treating. Marching from house to house and knocking on doors is how you earn the majority of your candy, which you can then spend on stamps that serve as special in-battle abilities for each character. It's also a major component of the progression system. You can't go to a new area until every resident has been prompted to fill your bag to the brim with tooth-decaying goodies. Of course, there isn't always a friendly neighbor behind those doors. Sometimes grubbins--monsters sent by the evil witch Dorsilla to steal candy--will leap from the shadows, forcing you into battle. This all makes perfect sense for a game about Halloween, and as such, it's one of the more endearing characteristics of Costume Quest. That is, until the irritations of a forced battle system creep to the forefront and trick-or-treating suddenly becomes a chore.
To its credit, Costume Quest successfully confronts traditional problems associated with such a battle system in some simple ways. For example, your health always resets after a battle, so you don't have to worry about making sure your party is adequately prepared for an unforeseen fight. Likewise, if you get locked into a fight and don't have the proper costume or stamps equipped, it's easy enough to run away from the battle and regroup because the game doesn't penalize you. What's left is simply the repetitive nature of being forced to battle in rapid succession if you do most of your trick or treating in one go. This is something Costume Quest can't confront without expressly telling you to sprinkle other quests in between your trick or treating visits to vary things up a little, but these fights account for the bulk of your adventure, regardless.
Battles pick up steam when you secure more costumes.