Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. And really, what's not to love? The costumes, the candy, the scares ... it encompasses everything a kid could want.
I have plenty of wonderful memories about my own childhood Halloween experiences, and now as a parent, I'm getting to relive all of those great times with my own children. Now thanks to "Costume Quest," the first downloadable title from developer Tim Schafer's Double Fine Productions, I can continue to share my fondness for the season with my kids without having to leave the house.
In "Costume Quest," players control either Reynold or his sister, Wren, twin siblings about to partake in the yearly Halloween ritual that is trick-or-treat. But not long after leaving their house, the pair encounters a band of troll-like monsters that have been stealing all the candy from the neighborhood for an evil witch. When your sibling, who happens to be dressed like a piece of candy, gets mistaken for a sweet treat and is kidnapped by the ghouls, it's up to you to defeat the creatures and rescue your family.
The gameplay in "Costume Quest" is three-fold -- you'll trick-or-treat your way through the game's three levels to gather candy, explore your surroundings to collect the parts needed to create new costumes, and battle monsters in turn-based encounters reminiscent of old-school "Final Fantasy" titles.
Trick-or-treating is pretty self-explanatory -- you go door-to-door in pursuit of candy, though not every house contains a grown-up ready to reward you with sugary goodness. Some houses and shops are occupied by monsters, and visiting those triggers a fight.
Combat is relatively simple, too. Characters can either attack, defend or execute a special move during their turn, and the last team standing wins. Players can flee from a fight if they choose, but I didn't notice any penalty for losing a battle. The combat system is simple enough that gamers of all ages and skill levels should have no trouble picking it up, though the addition of Battle Stamps adds a layer of strategy.
Battle Stamps, which can be purchased using your accumulated candy at Sadie's Stamp Stand, provide character bonuses like increased hit points, more powerful attacks or the ability to damage multiple enemies at once. Each member of your party can equip one Battle Stamp at a time, and finding the right combination of boosts can really make a difference in combat.
What really makes battles fun, however, is the costumes each member of your party can wear and the powers they gain from wearing them. As each battle starts, the members of your party morph into whatever costume they happen to be wearing, be it a robot, space man, ninja, unicorn or any of the other options available. Every costume has a special offensive or defensive ability that can be activated during a fight. Like Battle Stamps, finding the right balance between offensive and defensive costumes is key to surviving. Costumes also have practical uses while exploring as certain outfits allow you to reach otherwise inaccessible parts of the map. For example, the knight can block falling water or debris with his shield, and the space man can light up dark corridors with his glowing sword.
Visually, "Costume Quest" looks great. The cartoon-like art style fits the theme perfectly and the characters are just too cute. But read some of the dialogue and you'll quickly realize that this isn't your average kids game. Schafer's games have always had a certain warped sense of humor about them and "Costume Quest" is no different.