need to know
What is it? A kid-friendly Halloween RPG with turn-based combat and a few puzzles
Play it on: Windows Vista/7, Intel Core 2 Duo/AMD Athlon 64 at 2.2 GHz, 4GB RAM, 512 MB GeForce 220/Radeon 4550
Reviewed on: Windows 7, Intel i7 2.8 GhZ, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 660Ti
Copy protection: Steam
Release date: Out Now
Publisher: Midnight City, Majesco
Developer: Double Fine
Link: Official site
A megalomaniacal dentist with an anti-candy agenda is leapfrogging through the space-time continuum, leading to a grim future where Halloween has been outlawed. It's up to siblings Wren and Reynold, and a few of their friends, to battle the minions of Dr. Orel White, D.D.S., and save the holiday! Along the way, they'll explore a variety of neighborhoods, meet loads of cute characters, solve a few mild puzzles, and collect new costumes (along with truckloads of candy). Unfortunately, Costume Quest 2’s main activity, turn-based combat, wears out its welcome long before the end.
As you fight to restore the rights of children to rot their teeth on Halloween, you'll explore several diverse and attractive environments, from the tourist-filled French Quarter of New Orleans to a futuristic robot-patrolled dystopian cityscape to Dr. White's heavily guarded dental compound. These areas are heavily populated with NPCs, most with cute or funny bits of dialogue, and some providing enjoyable side-quests or puzzles. You'll go trick-or-treating for candy, search for hidden locations and secrets, and piece together new costumes to wear. Some costumes have special abilities you can use while exploring: the wizard's wand can light up gloomy areas, the ghost lets you comically tip-toe unseen past enemy patrols and through laser fencing, and the pterodactyl can flap its wings to blow away piles of leaves, revealing hidden items or opening blocked paths. The costumes, the kids, and even the evil (or is he misunderstood?) Dr. White, are all adorable, fun, and amusingly animated.
The real purpose of the costumes arrives during combat, where they transform the kids into powerful warriors to take on Dr. White's dental bots, clockwork automatons, thuggish goblins, and a few boss monsters like a giant snail and an angry mole. Combat is turn-based, and with the exception of a couple of boss fights, you always go first. When attacking, you choose a target, press a key or controller button to launch the attack, then press it again to land it, making it an exercise in timing. You'll later learn another move which lets you launch a secondary attack that requires another timed hit. Blocking an enemy's attack requires a similarly timed button-press, and a charged blocking move can be learned late in the game. Each costume also has a unique auto-hit attack or healing power that can be used when a meter is filled.
Landing perfect shots is quite difficult: each costumes' timing is a little different and there's only the slimmest margin of error. At the same time, even without landing a lot of perfect shots, the combat is never especially challenging: baddies, even bosses, just aren't that hard to beat. The difficulty of the timing might be too hard for tykes, but at the same time, the relative ease of winning doesn't feel challenging enough for older kids or adults.
There's an attempt to provide options for strategy, as certain costumes work better than others against different types of enemies. The Pharaoh costume, for instance, receives a bonus against magical opponents but takes more damage from mechanical ones. Thing is, I rarely ever considered which costumes I was wearing when approaching foes: I just stuck with whatever I had on when I blundered into a fight, and it never stopped me from winning, even if a hero or two got knocked out. This may be disappointing for those who are looking for a bit of strategy, though I was happy I could just wear whichever costumes I liked best. Note: I liked the clown best. This is because the clown is the best.
There are also collectible cards, almost four dozen of them in all, and you can equip three at a time to use during a fight in place of an attack. Some cards you find while exploring, others you can buy from the card dealer, Shady, along with maps of the game's locations and costume upgrades. Despite their numbers, combat cards aren't terribly crucial: half the time I forgot to even use them, though there are some fun combinations to make the fights go quicker, such as playing a card that doubles the damage of an attack along with one that provides a the same hero with two attacks per round.
Even with all the cards and special attacks, there's just really not that much to the combat itself other than a few repeated button-taps, and due to the sheer number of fights the game requires, it quickly began to feel repetitive. There are a number of different enemies, but ultimately not much difference between them aside from their looks: they attack and do damage, and sometimes heal or use buffs, but they're essentially all the same apart from having different hit point totals. Ultimately, it's an exercise in repetition without a lot of variation.
Saving combat from turning into a genuine slog is the presentation. The animation is all wonderfully done: I never got tired of watching the rotund clown (he's the best) bounce his way across the arena to deliver a powerful belly-flop upon an enemy, and the superhero's flying uppercut felt dramatic and devastating every time it landed. The music is exciting, the sound-effects bring a satisfying smash to the combat, and landing perfect blows for an "AMAZING" attack never stopped feeling great. With costume choices including a werewolf, a wizard, and a ghost that vomits smaller ghosts onto enemies, the fights are highly entertaining to watch even when playing them has become routine.
The game's locations are mostly fun to explore, though the layouts of a few are confusing and a little too labyrinthine, and I had to spend more time than I wanted wandering repeatedly through them. Occasionally, secrets lie inside or behind buildings where your characters are completely obscured by the architecture, and there's a lot of backtracking to hunt for secrets when new costumes provide access to previously unreachable locations. Another minor irritation is having to heal after combat, which requires walking to the nearest water fountain to recharge. It's usually not far, and most maps have several fountains, but it's still a dull chore, especially on a couple of the more confusingly laid-out maps. Auto-healing after a fight, or at least letting you carry a fillable water bottle to save you a few trips, would have been a much better idea.
Expect about six hours of gametime, longer if you try to find all the secrets on every map, collect all the cards, and engage in all the side-quests (including an enjoyable hunt for a monster by tracking his glowing footprints through darkened city streets). The story is presented in text bubbles rather than voiced performances, and is kid-friendly with occasional references for adults. It's also downright silly and charming, even for a creaky old kid like me.