You never want a game to be bad. But some games you really, really want to be good. The team at Double Fine are specialists in soul-warming scripts and great characters.
And they proved with Pyschonauts that when they write about children, they don't patronise, underestimate or misrepresent them. Double Fine kids are clever, rude and amoral - just as they should be.
So when we say that Costume Quest simply isn't very good, we're not talking about the script. It's a funny, warm game. Monsters are stealing the candy, and only three children in cheap costumes - costumes that become 50ft tall and combat-ready during a fight - can stop them. But for a game that builds itself around that turn-based combat, it's lacking any challenge. It's rewardlessly simple.
The enemies differ in ways that rarely require a shift in tactics, and even if they did, there's precious little scope to actually employ anything as sophisticated as 'tactics'.
Dressed to kill
In combat, each costume can do three things. First, is the basic attack. This triggers a quick-time event that, if you manage to press the right button, will score you a critical hit. The second option is your costume-specific special attack.
This charges as the fight progresses, becoming available in the third or fourth round. This can cause extra damage (the robot and the spaceman), heal your team (Statue of Liberty), or protect your players (the knight's shield and ninja shroud). Picking the right set of costumes is just about as tactical as it gets, but really, your first three costumes will see you through the game.
Finally, there's your equipped ability, which can be a passive bonus, such as higher damage - or a new attack, such as the toilet paper, which paralyses an opponent, removing any last vestige of a challenge. It's rare that you get a chance to describe a combat system so completely, especially in a page review, but that's exactly how simple it is for the duration of the entire, four-hour game.
It's not all fighting. There's apple-bobbing, a talent show, and lots of things to Trick or Treat.
But... it's all shallow busy-work. Bobbing for apples nine times. Finding 18 kids playing Hide and Seek. Knocking on around 50 doors. If Costume Quest is a success, it's because it looks cute, it's instantly appealing, and it's very funny. But it's not a very good game.
A nice but ungrown sapling of a game
- Great script and characters
- It looks lovely
- You're kept meaninglessly busy
- Combat is the weakest of sauces
- It's Penny Arcade all over again