Game review: Double Fine’s ‘Costume Quest 2’

Screenshot of "Costume Quest 2."
Screenshot of “Costume Quest 2.”

“Costume Quest 2” is a sequel to the adventure RPG game developed in 2010 by Double Fine. The studio is known for “Psychonauts,” a phenomenal game, but financial disaster, and their more recent release titled “Broken Age.”

The first “Costume Quest” was lacking in many ways, but it became memorable because of the specific for Double Fine type of humor. It is a story of two siblings, Reynold and Wren, who were trying to collect candy during Halloween. At some point Wren gets kidnapped by a monster, and thus begins Reynold’s quest to save his sister.

The exploration parts were enjoyable. Players walked around trick-or-treating and collecting stuff. Unfortunately, the combat ruined everything. It is built on QTE (quick time event) gameplay, in which players must push one button at the right time over and over again. Players have two attacks: basic ‒ which is useless, but required ‒ and special, which is usable only every three turns. Though special attacks could yield decent results depending on the costume, using only two attacks quickly becomes tedious.

“Costume Quest 2” begins where the last game ended. After everything Reynold, Wren and their friends have gone through, they go through the portal which transports them back home. They celebrate, when suddenly a dentist known as Dr. White opens the time portal and uses it to completely remove Halloween from the history. Reynold and Wren lose all of their costumes and abilities, and are transported to the future where Dr. White is an evil overlord, Halloween is nonexistent, and possession of candy or costumes is illegal.

Screenshot of "Costume Quest 2."
Screenshot of “Costume Quest 2.”

The game tries to fix some of the old issues, but at the same time it adds a bucket of new ones. The fights had been redesigned to offer more ways of dealing with the enemies. In place is the standard rock-paper-scissors system, in which characters are either strong or weak against certain enemies.

The “Creepy Treats” cards that players could collect and trade in the previous game became a major part of fights. Though these can be used during battle for a various effects like healing one party member or increased damage, unfortunately the stamps from the previous game are gone. This is a major progression flaw. The stamps could give you some passive effects, and unlike cards, players didn’t have to activate them. This made all the fights shorter and in effect, more enjoyable. Characters can also now counterattack and double attack, both of which are not effective.

All of those issues make the combat a tedious, painful, unbalanced mess, which completely kills the enjoyment. The only parts where combat can be somewhat enjoyable are the boss fights, as each boss has his own gimmick which adds a bit of strategy to the fights. Unfortunately, that’s maybe one percent of all fights and it doesn’t make up for the rest.

The new design choice for health is also infuriating. Previously players were fully healed when the fight ended, but now, players have to heal after almost every fight, otherwise characters will keep reminding you about it. The healing fountains are all over the place, but going from them to fights gets boring as fast as the actual combat.

The story is the only reason to play the game. Though the dialogues are hilarious, the new iteration unfortunately recycles many characters from the first game. Indeed the entire game has a feeling of déjà vu: the hide-and-seek games and costumes are familiar, and even the 3D models and animations of bystanders feel like they are just copy-pasted. The list goes on.

It’s painful to see all those problems because I love what little “Costume Quest 2” has left to offer. Though the characters are one-dimensional caricatures of kids, at least they are not pretending to be anything more. The humor – even the terribly campy candy puns – are hilarious. The story has depth, and the costumes’ abilities are cool looking and used in creative ways.

The game lacks the soul that was previously so prominent. The first game had a one touching moment. When the credits rolled you saw the pictures of developers as kids during Halloween. It was nice to see that some of the costumes from the game were actually made by developers when they were kids. The sequel has none of that.

But if you can stomach the terrible RPG system you should try it out. Otherwise stay out of it. It’s certainly going to make you laugh, but  also annoy and bore you.