Costume QuestWhat gives a video game the pedigree to be called the literal embodiment of all things Halloween? Is that even possible to confer upon an interactive experience? If we agree that this is within the realm of possibility, for which of it's qualities did I decided to go in this direction? The sum total of all it's qualities, of course.
Costume Quest was released last Halloween season by developer Double Fine, in a bite sized downloadable format and at a reasonable price ($15). Double Fine is a studio known for their immense wit and eclectic, charming games. In Costume Quest they manage to distill down the childhood wonder of everyone's (who counts) favorite holiday into an interactive journey that anyone could enjoy. By no stretch of the imagination is the combat gameplay overly difficult- it isn't supposed to be- it is engaging though. The narrative and the nostalgia are the main draws here.
The story has you taking on the role of one of two twins, Reynold (a boy) and Wren (a girl). New to the neighborhood, whichever of the siblings you choose is tasked with walking their twin around to trick or treat. You are costumed as a blue cardboard box robot and your sibling is adorned as a giant piece of candy corn. As fate would have it, a group of marauding monsters called "Grubbins" are ransacking homes and stealing all the candy to bring back to their own world. Your brother or sister is mistaken for the biggest piece of candy ever and kidnapped. It's then your mission to save them any way you can (or mom and dad will totally kill you!). In your quest you'll gather a party of likewise costumed children and battle an assortment of villainous monsters across several landscapes.
How can a few kids in rudimentary costumes fight these grubbins? Through the magic of Halloween! When combat commences the costumes transform from crummy arts and crafts to the embodiment of the imaginative creature they represent. So the default cardboard robot costume becomes a 50 foot tall robot warrior, replete with missiles and a rocket powered punch. Each costume has it's own special attack and role in combat, which is turn based and very reminiscent of older (read: better) Final Fantasy games. And there are plenty of monsters/animals/heroes to choose from. In your travels you'll come across costume patterns and must collect the pieces that make them up to unlock them for use.
The overworld which you'll be exploring is a rich tapestry woven with equal parts snark and nostalgia. There are items to collect, kids playing hide and seek to find, houses to trick or treat at (the in game currency is candy) and Halloween festivities to explore. Bobbing for apples is one way to earn experience (xp) and unique items. You can barter your collected candy for battle stamps, which confer special holiday themed benefits in combat. There are also special, Garbage Pail-esk cards which you can collect and trade with other kids.
There's a lot of content here, all of it a loving glance back at the Halloween experiences of your childhood. This game is so excellent that all fans of Halloween need apply. Lucky for you, it's become available on the PC via Steam, so you can experiences it even if you don't have an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. It's not overly long, clocking in between 5-10 hours. You've never played a game that's celebrated the holiday this much. It's a love letter to Halloween and you are missing out if you've never experienced it.