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Costume Quest XBLA Review

03/01/2011 Thinking Story Gamer Review
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Costume Quest XBLA

Costume Quest




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Costume Quest 360 is a sweet and chewy role play game for kids and adults alike. Its streamlined gameplay casts you as a kid on Halloween, literally taking on different roles as you swap costumes to access special powers to battle candy-stealing monsters.

It's Halloween night in a leafy American suburb, and a brother and sister go out trick or treating. Depending on which of the two - sister Wren or brother Reynold - you've chosen to play as, the other gets mistaken for a big chunk of candy by a sweet-toothed monster, and you need to get them back before the night is over and your parents find out.

Costume Quest is a fantasy rooted in the transformative power of the childish imagination. Its young characters live in a place where shadows hide monsters, but a strong torch can dispel the beasts. There are amazing worlds just around the corner, and who knows what hides behind a suburban door?

Most importantly of all, wearing a simple cardboard costume transforms you into what you wear, so a robot or knight costume gives you awesome technological or magical powers.

Beneath the delightful cartoon graphics (the lead designer of Costume Quest is a Pixar veteran, and it shows), candy eating monsters and idyllically creepy Halloween setting, Costume Quest is a surprisingly robust RPG with experience points, perks, powers, a party to balance, and turn-based battles which take place outside the normal game environment.

Costume Quest is a fantasy rooted in the transformative power of the childish imagination.

Those turn-based fights, often a bane of role play games, are fast and fun as the costumed kids transform, anime style, into awesomed-up versions of whatever they're dressed as - giant pink-white unicorns, heavily armed robots or epically helmed knights. These superbly animated avatars battle monsters over a miniature version of each environment, tiny cars sweeping past in the background.

Whenever battling begins to get too much of a grind, the game throws in new costumes, and therefore new spectacular special attacks, or collectable battle stamps which act as modifying perks to change-up the flow of battle. Balancing your party with a good combination of battle stamps and costumes is essential to victory, especially over the tougher bosses.

Costume Quest isn't watered down or simplified, it's disciplined and streamlined, a console role-player that keeps all the fun and adventure of the genre but jettisons the longeurs and repetition in favour of focussed fun. It's charming, funny, and quite addictive in that obsessive-compulsive way that role play games play on, and I found myself obsessively searching every corner of game space for treats and costume parts.

Costume Quest isn't watered down or simplified, it's disciplined and streamlined.

Compared to the big budget role-play behemoths, Costume Quest is shorter, cheaper and laser-focussed on fun. It's an incredibly pure vision of role playing - a fantastic imaginary world in which you can have adventures and, yes, play various roles.

Not just a great game, then, but a shot in the arm for a genre that often seems unapproachably hardcore. Buy and enjoy.

Written by Mark Clapham

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Mark Clapham writes the Story Gamer column.

"I love a good story. Games tell many different stories: the stories told through cut scenes and dialogue, but also the stories that emerge through gameplay, the stories players make for themselves."

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