Halloween kind of sucks when you’re an adult. You can’t just dress up with your friends and go door-to-door begging for candy without looking like a bunch of jerks. But with Costume Quest 2, you can revisit your sugar-filled childhood memories while you beat up monsters and collect new outfits.
Nearly four years after the first game came out, developer Double Fine Productions is getting ready to release Costume Quest 2 this Halloween for PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360. The role-playing game picks up where the downloadable expansion Grubbins on Ice left off, with players reuniting with Wren and Reynold in their new time-traveling adventure. When I sat down to play a demo a few weeks ago, the siblings were exploring the past in a New Orleans-like level called the Bayou.
“The first [Costume Quest] felt like it was ‘My First RPG.’ A lot of people were talking about playing it with their kids,” Double Fine publishing manager Greg Rice told GamesBeat. “It’s very Paper Mario-y. So we didn’t want to lose that. We wanted to make the systems a little richer and more interesting and [give players] a little bit more to think about.”
The most dramatic change in the sequel, other than it looking noticeably prettier, is its combat system. The original Costume Quest used timing-based attacks that slowed down the battle long enough for you to react. Now it feels a bit more fluid: The slo-mo is gone, a huge button prompt is no longer interrupting you, and characters just go in for the kill. You want to press the button as soon as their attack connects. If you do it just right, you’ll trigger a combo, giving them another chance to hit.
The demo introduced three new costumes, and they react to the combo system in different ways. The clown bounces like a rubber ball before body-slamming his foes, and hitting the prompt at the right time gives him another bounce attack. The superhero, meanwhile, follows up his aerial move with a second wallop.
Special moves also return, and they’re a little more humorous this time around. The clown takes the old saying of “laughter is the best medicine” and makes it literal when he heals the entire party by eating a banana and then slipping on the peel he threw away. The superhero is a bit more blunt: He tosses a bus full of candy at his enemies.
The candy corn is the third costume, but it doesn’t actually do anything — and that’s the joke. Unlike the fantasy versions of the clown and superhero you see in battle, the costume shows up as a giant piece of candy corn. It doesn’t attack, instead giving you a message saying something like, “Candy Corn passes,” before skipping to your next character. According to Rice, the candy corn says over 100 different lines, and the dev team is still writing more.
I thought the candy corn was funny at first, but I quickly became frustrated during some of the tougher fights since you essentially have just two characters to work with. But if you do manage to get through the game with that costume in your party, you’ll earn the awesome sounding “Hardcorn Mode” achievement.
The setup is familiar, but that’s OK
Zipping around the Bayou in my roller shoes (all costumes have them now, not just the robot) felt a lot like exploring the kids’ hometown in the first game. With the lingering fog, surprisingly peaceful alligators, and leafless willow trees, the Bayou had a creepy atmosphere to it but not enough to make the level feel too unsettling — it suited the Halloween theme perfectly. Up north is a vibrant downtown area filled with all sorts of people to talk to. One person wanted me to recruit audience members for her band’s performance by honking my clown horn at random people. If you’re successful, the band will ask you to play with them.
The rest of my time involved collecting costume pieces, trick-or-treating through a few houses, and smacking around garbage cans to find more candy (Costume Quest’s version of currency). You can use candy to buy Battle Cards, which are like a mix of the Creepy Treat cards and Battle Stamps from the first game. I didn’t find any of them in the demo, though.
I also saw a few winks and nods to other Double Fine games. The superhero costume — “Sweet Justice” — is actually from the mobile game Middle Manager of Justice. And while I was exploring, I ran into someone dressed up like Curtis, the lovable but paranoid lumberjack from Broken Age: Act 1.
Unless development goes horribly wrong between now and Halloween, Costume Quest 2 looks like it’ll at least deliver on the first game’s strengths. The humor’s there, the combat is more interesting, and it hasn’t lost any of its charm. The small slice of gameplay reminded me that not all RPGs need to have huge open worlds or life-and-death choices attached to them. Sometimes, you just want to put on a cool costume and have fun for a night.