This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org. They are a site with similar goals to our own, but with a specific focus on teenagers and the challenges involved in being a part of their gaming lives.
By: Courtney Holmes
Costume Quest 2 the sequel to Double Fine’s 2010 Halloween RPG Costume Quest, made me laugh out loud, many times. It’s a kid-centric Halloween romp through time and space, and while aspects of it were far from perfect, overall I had a really fun experience. The game is rated E10+ for fantasy violence, and it’s available for PC, Mac, and Linux (and soon, for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and Wii U). It was developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Midnight City.
Wren and Reynold are just two ordinary twins who love costumes and candy. One Halloween, they spot the dentist Orel White cavorting with a time wizard. With the wizard’s help, White uses time travel to steal a magical talisman and eventually become supreme dental overlord of the world, outlawing candy and costumes. The twins must use time travel (and magical Halloween costumes that transform them into awesome fighters) to take down White and rescue Halloween.
Like its predecessor, Costume Quest 2 is a very kid-centric story, and the enemies tend to be adults. But it’s not just another kids-versus-adults storyline. Many of the grownups in the game are allies to the kids. Costume Quest 2 is full of adults who treat children with respect, and not condescension, which I love. The children are confident and smart, and generally behave in ways that are very emotionally mature. Overall, this strikes a really good tone. And the humor, for the most part, is spot on. I regularly found myself retelling jokes out loud to my coworkers, which I’m sure got annoying fast. But they were just so funny!
There are two things in the story, though, that make me uncomfortable. The first is that the game champions candy, but makes no mention of health or oral hygiene in a positive light. The game doesn’t make all dentists into the enemy—Orel White, specifically, has a developed character and some solid motivations for hating Halloween. However, I would really have appreciated a couple of positive notes about dental care in the game. Going to the dentist is a scary enough process, even for some adults, that it really doesn’t need to be vilified any more for kids.
The second thing that bothers me are the rare yet undeniable fat jokes, thrown in throughout the course of the story. Specifically, the people being made fun of are tourists and the very wealthy (see photos), but I found these jokes totally unnecessary. Considering that candy is an enormous part of the game, and that healthy methods of moderation are not mentioned at all, this makes me feel like Costume Quest 2 is sending some mixed signals.
These aspects of the game are a huge bummer, because there are so many other things about it that I just love. Positive messages about teamwork and friendship and creativity are rife. I love Halloween costumes, I love what they can do for kids’ imagination and mental health, and Costume Quest 2 clearly gets it.
Overall, Costume Quest 2 does a really good job of crafting self-confident young people who know what they want and how to get it. They are respected and trusted by adults and by each other, and they are savvy about the world around them. Plus, there is a ton of great race and gender representation. This game features multiple interracial couples, and zero aspects of the story hinge on gender or race. You can choose to play as either Wren or Reynold at the beginning of the game, but the actual effect this has on your gameplay is nonexistent.
There are two main aspects to Costume Quest 2’s gameplay: exploration and turn-based fighting. The game is broken up into numerous areas to explore, and in each you are tasked with going door-to-door collecting candy. At some doors, bad guys are waiting to attack you, which will launch a fight scene. Each area also has secret chests, clever missions, and hidden caches of candy to discover. The goodies were enough to keep me invested in each map and mission, and I really enjoyed looking for all of the hidden tidbits and talking to all of the people in each area, in case one of them had something special to offer me.
The fight scenes were also pretty entertaining, if somewhat tedious. When a fight starts, the kids are transformed into whatever they’re dressed up as at the time, and each costume has associated attacks that are delightfully humorous to watch. Thomas Jefferson’s special attack is particularly awesome, but they were all entertaining in their own right.
Plus, because the experience points are tied to the kids and not the costumes, you can feel free to try fighting with lots of different costumes, without having to put yourself at a major disadvantage.
In an attempt to make each fight have a meaningful impact, Costume Quest 2 initially made it so that you did not heal automatically after fights. Therefore, if you entered two fights back-to-back without going to a water fountain to heal up, you would be put at an enormous disadvantage. The creators have announced that they’re updating this with a patch after receiving complaints from players who were tired of constantly backtracking to find a fountain. I agree, it got annoying, though I appreciate them attempting to make the fights meaningful in a wider context. Hopefully the patch will be able to strike a balance.
A final note: if you can, play this game with a controller, instead of your keyboard. It will make moving around much easier.
Costume Quest 2 is hilarious, satisfying, and refreshing. It’s got jokes and a plot that is entertaining for kids at multiple ages, and it’s a great way to get excited about Halloween. I loved playing as a confident, sassy kid with awesome abilities and a kind heart. That said, the story did not always stick the landing (some jokes were questionable and some opportunities for positive messages were missed). A family discussion about this game’s content could be a good idea.
I’d still recommend giving this game a shot, whether or not you’ve played the original Costume Quest. If you’ve played the game, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments.