Even though it’s been almost a week since it ended, Halloween still remains one of my favorite holidays, and not just because I’m a horror junkie. Like Christmas, Halloween is full of wonder and gives kids a chance to let their imaginations run wild. So as much as I love to delve back into my favorite horror titles around the holiday, in recent years, I’ve added Costume Quest to my list of seasonal favorites.
Thankfully, Double Fine has decided to give us another dose of the series with Costume Quest 2, which picks up right where the Grubbins On Ice DLC left off, as the twins discover that their dentist, the insidiously hilarious Dr. Orel White, DDS, has used time travel to create a future in which Halloween, candy and costumes have all been made illegal. They find that the world has become obsessed with dental hygiene, with only a few small factions holding out against White and continuing to peddle candy beneath the city. It’s a silly concept, especially once the kids start using time travel to go back and forth in time to change the future, but it’s just ludicrous enough to work perfectly for Costume Quest 2.
One of the many improvements over the original is the story, which introduces a villain that is much more enjoyable and humorous than the candy-stealing monsters from the first. Dr. Orel White, DDS (he hates it when you forget the DDS), is a riot most of the time, especially once you discover his true motivations for ridding the world of sugary goodness. Without wishing to spoil anything, he actually becomes quite sympathetic towards the end.
White is a fantastic example of the humor that permeates Costume Quest 2, a Double Fine staple that has yet to wane. Just like the first, the game is full of quirky characters and funny bits of dialogue, never falling into tired pop-culture references or weak jokes targeting younger audiences. In fact, there are a ton of winks and nods found throughout the game that are aimed squarely at adults. For example, you have to move a creature named Mongo out of your way by telling him that there’s a “candygram for Mongo” on the other side of town. There are also a few jabs at fat tourists, business practices and urban legends found throughout the game, and while it’s not always riotously funny, Costume Quest 2 often keeps a smile on your face.
This humor carries over to the combat as well, with each character’s costume growing to gigantic proportions once battles begin. In typical RPG fashion, turn-based combat is the name of the game, leading to numerous situations where a pharaoh, a hot dog and a clown can be battling huge monsters on top of a futuristic city. Each costume has its own combat specialty, such as healing, dealing splash damage or serving as a tank, and each one manages to look hilarious when blown up to huge proportions. Every battle looks like the result of a sugared-up kid telling you about an idea he had with his friends, and that childlike imagination keeps combat from getting stale too quickly.
The major improvements made to the combat system do the same, adding a few tweaks and an overhaul of the stamp system from the original to stave off repetition. Rather than using stamps, there are 45 Creepy Treat Cards to collect, and each card has its own combat bonus to offer. Only three can be equipped, though, and each card has a cooldown that lasts for a few battles, creating tons of options for dispatching foes. Other combat fixes added for the sequel will look insanely familiar to anybody who enjoyed this year’s South Park: The Stick of Truth. Rather than give or take a beating with little-to-no agency, carefully timed button presses have been added to either deal more damage, mitigate damage taken or even charge up a counter attack.
In the beginning, battles are glorious spectacles to behold, especially if the candy corn costume is used. While not too useful in combat, the text accompanying candy corn’s turns hilariously riffs on old school RPGs, and if you can make it through the entire game using candy corn in every battle, you’ll find a nice achievement waiting for you. However, battles become tiresome in the middle section, as unavoidable encounters become more common and no variety is introduced. Each one is still a spectacle, of course, but since enemies level up parallel to your progress, it’s hard to feel challenged when the difficulty is so consistent.
Adding to the easiness is the “improved” health system, which makes it entirely too easy to enter each battle with full health. While costumes such as the clown and the pharaoh specialize in healing, there are water fountains scattered throughout levels that fully heal your party at no cost. The ability to heal by eating a bit of your hard-earned candy has also been added, but it only requires an incredibly small amount of candy to heal your entire party, rendering a few costumes and Creepy Treat Cards useless. The new healing system adds to the overall problem Costume Quest 2 faces: it’s just too easy. Throughout the 6-7 hour campaign, I ran away from one fight and never lost a single battle. And let me be frank: I suck at RPGs.
The flawed combat becomes much more noticeable towards the middle of the game, which features an incredibly padded section where you’re forced to “trick-r-treat” for candy deliveries multiple times in uninteresting cities from the future. While it’s hardly enough to ruin the game itself, its repetitive nature makes the game’s flaws stand out a bit more than usual. Trick-r-treating isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be, as in the first title it took place in locales that were more easily recognizable from childhood. Wandering through a metallic city with flying cars just doesn’t bring the same feeling of nostalgia with it.
That being said, the visual style that made the original such a treat is maintained throughout the sequel, creating a cute aesthetic that’s never too sweet that it’ll rot your teeth. Kids run around town in silly and homemade costumes, jack-o-lanterns litter most locales and silly scenarios are abound, including a few sections that get a lot of humor out of a clown horn. In fact, the game gets a ton of mileage out of being family-friendly. It appeals to all ages without pandering to any one demographic, making it that much more respectable and enjoyable.
Despite the simple combat, padded midsection and slightly uninspired locales, Costume Quest 2 is still a delightful little title that’s easy to recommend. Fans of the original can look forward to improved combat, more costumes and much more of the humor that made the first entry so charming. Even if you’ve never played the series, there’s something to love. The novelty of watching a ragtag group of kids turn into a superhero, a ghost and Thomas Jefferson and beat on some baddies doesn’t wear off fast if you’re new to the game.
For only $14.99, Costume Quest 2 is a fantastic value, offering a quirky campaign that’s full of secrets, costumes and candy to find. Sure, it can be repetitive and shallow, but since the game is much shorter than the average RPG, you won’t be left with a bitter taste in your mouth. It’s the perfect game to revisit on Halloween, despite its flaws, and one that’s worth experiencing again and again.
This review was based on a copy of the game given to us for review purposes on the PlayStation 4.
Double Fine has brought back Wren and Reynolds in another adventure to save Halloween in Costume Quest 2, a sequel that manages to improve on almost every weak aspect of the first outing while pushing the story further in a way that's not incredibly ridiculous.