Review: Costume Quest

Hello, all! This week, I figured I would write a short review of a short game as I desperately attempt to work through the Steam backlog alluded to in my post from last week. In the middle of October 2010, THQ produced a Double Fine productions-designed game, the Halloween-themed Costume Quest, for PSN and XBLA. A year later, Costume Quest received a Steam port, which is the version this review will cover.

The robot costume is easily my favorite, both for how it looks and how it functions in battles.
This picture sums up almost everything one needs to know about Costume Quest.

Costume Quest is the story of Reynold and Wren, two young siblings on Halloween night. Shortly into their planned festivities, one of the two siblings is kidnapped by monsters, and the other sibling (chosen by the player at the beginning of the game) must head out to save them from the candy-hungry invaders. The main villain, a witch named Dorsilla, is not hugely threatening; she and her minions have but one goal: they are trying to obtain candy. The setting, characters, and story of Costume Quest are clearly meant to be simple and fun, and to those ends they clearly accomplish their goal. Furthering the simple fun aspect of Costume Quest is its gameplay. Non-combat situations have Wren or Reynold exploring the suburbs of Auburn Pines and surrounding areas and knocking on houses to trick-or-treat. Depending on who opens the door, the player’s party winds up either receiving candy (the in-game currency) or a battle for the troubles. Costume Quest‘s combat is an extremely simple turn-based affair with Mario RPG-inspired action timing for both offense and defense. The best part about Costume Quest is easily the costumes the party members wear. Depending on which costume one of the children is in, their abilities will be different. For example, the robot costume gives a ranged special attack, while a unicorn costume later on grants a healing ability. The introduction to every combat is shown through a (thankfully skippable) short cutscene wherein the player’s chosen character transforms from their cheap-looking child’s Halloween costume into a large version of whatever it is he or she is dressed as. Battles then play out in large-scale Sentai-style action, with both players and enemies dwarfing the scenery around them. The gameplay, like the story, is both simple and fun; battles in Costume Quest are typically extremely short and fairly easy and the areas are not particularly large or difficult to navigate.

The transformation sequences are pretty cool to see.
Short and simple, the battles never really overstay their welcome.

From a technical standpoint, Costume Quest is about where a budget title should be. The cel-shaded cartoony graphics are perfect for the world and characters depicted, but the game as a whole is not graphically mind-blowing. The graphics, though simple, do work extremely well for the game, and the battle sequences really do feel and look like something out of a children’s cartoon. The music and sound effects, admittedly, are rather forgettable. The music, seemingly inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas, is atmospheric at first but does begin to grate on the ears after a few hours. Unfortunately, there is not much variety in the soundtrack; the player will hear the same three or four tracks extremely frequently throughout the game. For something as short as Costume Quest, though, a mediocre soundtrack is somewhat forgivable.

Costume Quest is the kind of game one would play through with a young son or daughter. It is not a game for the crotchety gamer or for one seeking a serious or emotional experience. For someone looking for a short and fun little game, though, Costume Quest is definitely worth taking a look at. This is definitely a good contender for “babby’s first RPG”; the simple story and easy-to-grasp game mechanics are useful as teaching tools for one looking to add newcomers to the gaming fandom. The five-hour or so length of Costume Quest is perfect, as the game manages not to outstay its welcome but also does not feel too short or rushed. The game also comes with a free DLC campaign, “Grubbins on Ice”, which adds another hour or two of Winter-themed antics to the experience. Unfortunately, Costume Quest is not quite worth the $15 price tag for the Steam version. Thankfully, the game goes on sale fairly frequently and is almost guaranteed to receive a significant discount when the fall Steam sale insanity begins. Any gamer looking for a moving and deep experience should look somewhere else, but for someone seeking a short and amusing little adventure, Costume Quest is a perfect choice that reminds its player of a simpler time, when kids were kids and candy was the number one source of currency among friends.


  1. I think you sum it up really well at the end–this is not a $15 experience, in the same way that a bag of candy is not a $15 experience. However, once on sale, the fun factor may be sufficient to entice people to plunk down $5-7 for it.

    It’s a Mystic Quest for a NEW ERA OF GAMING.

    (Or, just play Mystic quest.)

  2. I believe I got it for around $5 or so; I forget, since I bought it alongside Psychonauts in a bundle. It is definitely worth picking up when it’s in the $5 range, though.

    (Don’t play Mystic Quest, just listen to the soundtrack instead)

  3. I have played this game for a short while on a friend’s PS3, and I would definitely say that it’s pretty good if you’re just looking for a quick timesink. The costumes are adorable, too. Do you think it’s better on PC?

  4. I haven’t played any other version to judge, so I couldn’t say. I feel like this is a game that would work well with a controller or with mouse/keyboard, since the controls aren’t really complicated and are fairly tight.

  5. I actually think it IS a $15 experience. At least in terms of fun had and hours to dollars ratio when compared to the rest of the industry. Of course, games tend to be too expensive in general, but that’s another article for another time.
    Good review!

  6. @Ethos: Your second point is why I think I feel this way. I generally feel that most games do not present a value equal to their price point full stop, but I don’t usually judge them against each other, as that would be problematic. i.e. How much is Portal worth to me, or TF2? And they cost me virtually nothing. Yet I paid $50 for Dirge of Cerberus on release. Is it ten times better than Portal?

    This is why I used to buy a bunch of games in the past, and why I buy very few games in the present. I now ask myself, “Is this clearly worth the investment that is being asked of me?” Sadly, the answer is usually no.

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