A fun surprise release a couple years ago in October, Double Fine developed a Halloween themed title involving trick-or-treating, making new friends and kidnapping goblin-like monsters. Wren and Reynold provided an enjoyable dynamic, depending on the your choice of character, yet the simplistic combat system overpowered the charming dialogue and witty humor. For the sequel, Double Fine has made some key improvements to the formula, ensuring to make the combat as enjoyable as the rest of the adventure.
Costume Quest 2 follows both Wren and Reynold and their maniac neighbor Dr. Orel White, as he carries out his plan to end the sweetest holiday of the year; Halloween. Traveling through different timelines, you must stop White’s evil plan before time catches up to you. Having two licensed dentists in the family, I would have thought that he would be overjoyed at the prospect of many new customers, as kids that develop a sweet tooth tend to go to the dentists more often. Maybe Orel White isn’t looking at the bigger picture, but regardless of his motive, you’ll be traveling to the past where Halloween is alive and well, as well as the future with Orel White as absolute dictator.
As it was in the first game, you’ll be equipping various costumes, collecting tons of candy, and defeating foes in turn-based combat. The costumes generally look like kid-made outfits using tape, fabric, paper and glue to design rudimentary clowns, wizards, pharaohs and more. There’s also the candy corn costume that you can use throughout the entire game, but as you’ll be gimping one of your characters, you’ll most likely be swapping it out as soon as possible. When battles occur, the characters transform into classic Saturday morning cartoon-like versions of what they represent. The clown for example is a massive blob, complete with squeaky shoes and an adorable horn. Instead of walking or running, he rolls and bounces on his enemies.
Depending on the costume you are using in the original game, your method of completing actions would vary, whereas the combat has been streamlined by providing the same timing mechanic across all costumes. If you have played the popular Mario & Luigi series, you would know exactly what you should expect. The timing mechanic will determine the amount of damage you will dish out, as well as give you additional attacks, once unlocked. Adding variation, the different costumes have both a strength and a weakness, so you will have to pay attention to the enemy types. Battles vary feature three different types of enemies, making it that much harder to prepare. Use the wrong costumes and you will find bonus damage being added to all enemy attacks, and your attacks won’t hit as hard. Blocking and countering works in similar fashion, as hitting the corresponding button before being attacked will hopefully reduce the damage and bounce it back to the attacker.
Super moves can turn the tides against a strong group of creatures, granted you know what the super will do for that costume. Using the clown as the example once again, he/she proves that laughter is the best medicine by slipping on a banana peel and healing the entire party as an unseen audience laughs in the background. Others are able to attack multiple targets at once or cause status effects such as damage over time or poison damage. You’ll want to locate Shady, who you may remember from the Grubbins on Ice DLC, as he will sell you upgrades for existing costumes. If you find your party being defeated frequently, as I did in the first couple hours of the game, you may want to purchase the upgrades for your costumes before moving on. He also sells maps for each region, and more importantly collectible cards that can be used (in battles). You can waste some candy in order to heal after battles or visit the nearest water fountain, which also serves as the game’s save system.
The new card system supplements the combat, allowing you to equip three cards at once. Each of the cards has a cool down, so you’ll only be using each card once per battle. You can also forget about using negative status effects on bosses, as you are restricted from using the cards on them. These cards have various effects, such as having enemies hurt themselves, or causing them to not use magic attacks for a set number of turns. The cards will also sometimes appear as loot from random battles, giving a second way to procure them.
With parties maxed out at three characters, you’ll have to balance between the different costumes that you’ll be finding. Instead of using all offensive minded costumes, I used a balanced team for the five and a half hours it took to play through the game. Wearing the candy corn costume for every fight in the game will earn you an achievement/trophy, but I’d rather use that third character slot as a healer or additional offensive power. Depending on the outfit you are wearing, you are able to interact with the environment. For example, the Pterodactyl can blow piles of leaves out of the way and the Wizard can light up dark areas.
Costume Quest 2 makes key changes to the way battles unfold, removing the unique play style of each costume. The streamlined mechanics work to the game’s advantage, especially when you are trying to focus on bonus attacks, as well as blocking and countering. The dialogue is well-written, but the last hour or so of the game falls short of expectations. Parts of the narrative aren’t explained as well as they should be, and the last battle in the game occurs rather abruptly.Note: Costume Quest 2 was reviewed on PC. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.