Written by Matt Cabral
A love letter to All Hallows Eve, 2010's Costume Quest became a cult-favorite among adventure-RPG players and Halloween enthusiasts. My recent look at its sequel shows that developer Double Fine is giving fans more of what they want—an inspired mix of turn-based battling and trick-or-treating—while also addressing some of the original's gameplay-rooted problems.
The first thing that struck me while sibling protagonists Wren and Reynold trick-or-treated door-to-door was Costume Quest 2's new setting. The sequel trades the first game's suburban neighborhoods for a New Orleans-like city, complete with gator-filled swamps, Mardi Gras-inspired street festivals and a bayou vibe. Its cartoony art style is near-identical to its predecessor's, but the southern flavor, coupled with slick effects, like reflective puddles and glowing lanterns, give the game a fresh feel.
While I adored the first Costume Quest's whimsy, charm, and humor, its pacing issues sometimes left me sadder than a tyke with a treat bag full of apples. Thankfully, Costume Quest 2 seems to be addressing this by adding more variety to its side missions. When the costumed crew was tasked with finding an audience for a group of street performers, the optional quest didn't require much more than chatting with NPC's around town, but it cleverly played into the sequel's fresh setting and offered a welcome alternative to collecting more candy. I found traversing the first game's suburbs a bit of a chore, so I was also thrilled to discover the follow-up is making wheelies standard on all costumes. Everyone can now zip around town on the roller skate/sneaker hybrids regardless of costume.
Double Fine's also tweaking the original's too-easy combat with what they're calling “hard-corn” mode. Those who felt the first game lacked a proper challenge will want to wear the Candy Corn costume on the battlefield; the party member donning the outfit is useless, essentially cutting the player's party from three to two and therefore upping the difficulty.
The highlight of my demo, however, wasn't the costume's inability to deliver damage, but its battle captions; while standing there, doing absolutely nothing, the kernel-covered character was accompanied by text messages like “Candy Corn watches intently,” “Candy Corn has better things to do,” and “Candy Corn doesn't want the responsibility.”
My hands-off demo didn't allow me to take Costume Quest 2's turn-based battles for a test drive, but I got to see the new Clown costume in action. It looks like a cute get-up outside of combat, but things turn just a little creepy when the gloves come off. The clown flashes a gaping maw full of teeth and packs plenty of menace beneath his rainbow-colored afro. Of course, there's still some levity—the clown wields a banana, which he intentionally slips on to somehow heal the party.
Double Fine's refining and improving the franchise's gameplay, but what I'm most looking forward to is the return of the series' signature age-spanning, Pixar-like appeal. The gameplay tweaks—especially the pace-quickening wheelies—are certainly welcome additions, but it's the wise-cracking candy corn, nightmare-conjuring clown, and cool bayou-flavored setting that'll see me returning to the trick-or-treat trenches when Costume Quest 2 arrives this fall.