Costume Quest 2 Review (Xbox One)
What was your favorite thing about Halloween as a child? The copious amounts of sugary goodness being handed out for free? The chance to be something you’re not, just for one day? The pumpkins, the spooky décor, watching scary movies? Whatever traditions you treasure most, Halloween was likely something really special to you once, like it is for many children now. Even if it’s been years—or decades—since you’ve gone trick-or-treating, you’ll appreciate how well Double Fine manages to capture that elusive Halloween magic in Costume Quest 2.
The follow-up to the candy-snatching 2010 RPG is not only Double Fine’s first sequel, it’s the developer’s most requested outside of Psychonauts, which gives it quite a legacy to live up to. Costume Quest 2 thrusts players directly into the story with very little hand-holding. There’s no time wasted recapping the events of the previous game; instead, sister-and-brother team Wren and Reynold jump into a portal on the menu screen and kick off another adventurous Halloween night.
Like the first game, you can choose either Wren or Reynold as your protagonist, with the other appearing as a member of your party; though it doesn’t really change the gameplay at all, it’s a nice touch to have the option to play as a female character. Though they’ve already saved Halloween from evil monsters once, the hallowed holiday is in danger once again: an evil dentist, frustrated by the effects of candy on children’s teeth, is working to create a dystopian future where costumes are outlawed. You’ll explore the future—and the past—in Costume Quest 2’s time-hopping storyline, which means you’ll have more areas to explore than the familiar Auburn Pines neighborhood of the first game.
As a role-playing game, Costume Quest 2 has a fairly simple battle mechanic; each character’s attacks are mapped to a particular button, with well-timed hits opening opportunities for more damage and follow-up blows. What makes the basic mechanics shine, however, is how each character is literally transformed by the costume he or she is wearing. You might be a claw-swiping werewolf with strong physical attacks, an Egyptian with the power to resurrect fallen friends, or a clown whose gift is laughter (and healing). You can even keep one team member in a useless candy corn costume for the entire game for an added challenge (and an achievement). Instead of taking a turn, Candy Corn offers a clever quip; this is pretty funny until the comments start repeating about halfway through the game, at which point it just messes up the flow of the more intense battles. We get it, Candy Corn, you taste better than circus peanuts, but do you have to slow down the fight to remind us?
Combat isn’t the only place where the writing is sharp and funny. Costume Quest 2’s dialogue absolutely shines: it’s smart, snappy, and humorous throughout the entire storyline. “Charming” and “delightful” were two words that repeatedly popped into my head as I was playing, with other stellar details like the music, costume and level design, and even load screens enhancing that magical Halloween vibe.
It’s also easy to see where Double Fine made improvements from the first Costume Quest. Heelies are now part of every costume, so you can switch around to your heart’s content and still get from place to place quickly. Health no longer replenishes automatically, adding an ever-so-slight level of challenge to the game (which is bolstered by the aforementioned candy corn)—this should please those who felt Costume Quest was too easy. While I didn’t exactly find the sequel overly challenging, it was consistently engaging; I’m totally on board with making a game like this more accessible to gamers, since everyone should get to relive their Halloween glory days regardless of gaming skill.
On top of turn-based battles, Costume Quest 2 is chock full of another RPG staple: side quests, which add a bit of time to the 4-5 hours of story. These might be as simple as getting a battle upgrade or helping someone find a collectable card, or as complex as performing an action in the past to find a benefit in the future. It would have been easy to breeze through CQ2’s campaign, but I found myself wanting to explore every nook and cranny, and check every quest off my list. Again, this speaks to Double Fine’s world-building, and the worlds they created—past, present, and future—only made the game better.
Costume Quest 2 isn’t the deepest RPG, or the hardest, or the longest. It’s a quick trip to a time when Halloween was king, and you can probably complete all of its quests in the time it takes to watch three or four scary movies. It’s also thoroughly enjoyable, bursting with adorable charm, and overall a great game. Halloween may be over, but you should take the chance to go trick-or-treating once again with Costume Quest 2.
This review was completed with a digital download of Costume Quest 2 provided by the publisher for Xbox One.