Double Fine Productions has brought its Halloween-centric role-playing adventure game, Costume Quest, to the App Store. Costume Quest aptly arrives right before the holiday from which it takes its theme, but does this port prove to be as saccharinely sweet as the original? Or is it just a trick in disguise?
Costume Quest's story is simple. In fact, it is almost charmingly so. At its heart, Costume Quest is the tale of fraternal twins named Reynold and Wren. They're all set for their night of trick-or-treating and head out into the neighborhood. You get to choose which twin you'll control and will dress up in a fantastic robot suit made out of cardboard. The other twin, however, will get stuck wearing a "lame" candy corn costume.
Understandably, your character is ashamed of the other twin's costume and sends them to get candy at a house by themselves while you wait near the sidewalk. Surprisingly, a monster answers the door and mistakes the other twin for an actual large, piece of candy corn and whisks them away behind an eerie gate in the neighborhood. It is then up to you to save your sibling and avoid getting grounded in the process.
In order to progress through the story, you need to collect enough candy to open up the gate. The disembodied voice behind the gate informs you that the doors will only open if all the houses in the neighborhood have been tapped of their candy supply. This is why you encounter more monsters, called Grubbins, rooting through people's houses, stealing candy. And this is also why when you knock on doors to trick-or-treat, a Grubbin might appear to do battle with you.
Luckily, your costumes have magical powers and let you embody them. For example, as the robot you can shoot rocket fists and let loose a barrage of missiles. If you dress up as a knight, you'll be able to wield a sword and shield in battle, with the ability to boost your party members' defenses. Every time you defeat a Grubbin, you get experience points and candy, which can be used as currency around the neighborhood.
Candy can be used to buy things like battle stamps, which can be equipped on your character one at a time. These stamps can provide passive buffs like extra attack power or the ability to recover health during a battle. Some stamps can even give skills to use in fights, such as "Scare," which might force one of your opponents to run away. Finding the right stamps to combine with the right costumes can augment your fighting prowess greatly.
You can also use your costumes outside of battle with special effects. The knight costume lets you use the shield to block things that rain down on you, like rocks or water. The robot costume allows you to skate around and jump off ramps, which opens up new areas for you to explore. Almost each costume has some kind of utility skill, which are needed to progress, most of the time.
As you run around and trick-or-treat, you'll run into many characters who can provide side quests for you to complete. Successful completion of these side quests usually results in a pretty cool reward or more candy. You might find yourself growing tired of the old trick-or-treat mechanic, but at least you can keep track of which houses you've already hit by checking whether or not their lights are on or off. If they're still on, they're ripe for the taking.
You'll also notice that a lot of the houses look the same, as do many of the kids and even some adult characters. While the graphics in Costume Quest are very colorful and charming, it would have helped to have more distinction between a lot of the characters and environments. But most of the flashy visuals are saved for the battles, which is a definite positive mark for Costume Quest.
The biggest complaint I can offer about Costume Quest is the fact that a lot of the gameplay is recycled and seems really redundant. You'll go to a location, trick-or-treat, find six hiding kids, gain access to a blocked-off area, find parts for new costumes, move to the next location and do it all over again.
Another mark against it is that sometimes battles can feel imbalanced. You'll complete an area and gain enough experience points to level up to an appropriate level for the next stage, but then you'll still get trucked by enemies, even with the help of battle stamps. It's a minor point that can be fixed with adequate grinding, but I don't want to have to grind to get through a game like this.
With that said, it doesn't stop Costume Quest from being an addictive experience that oozes with humor and good-hearted fun. The $4.99 asking price might seem a little steep, but you're getting a console-quality game with the "Grubbins on Ice" downloadable content. This should ensure that you'll have a sugar rush for a long time.