Tuesday, November 4, 2014

[REVIEW] Costume Quest 2 (Wii U)

Costume Quest 2
Platform: Wii U (e-Shop)
Genre: RPG
Developer: Double Fine
Publisher: Midnight City

One of the things I miss the most about the golden age of the SNES is the abundance of great RPGs available for Nintendo players. With the absence of AAA titles in that genre for the Wii U, we turn our hopes to the system's increasingly excellent array of e-Shop offerings. And when it comes to bite-sized RPGs, Costume Quest 2 is at the top of the class.

Truth be told, the game isn't necessarily THAT bite-sized; I spent over 10 hours for a thorough playthrough. It's just that there are so many good ideas on display that I couldn't help but wish it'd last at least twice as much. It also helps that, like everything related to Tim Schafer and his Double Fine, Costume Quest 2 features superb writing and worldbuilding.

Those dumb adults!

Playing as twins Wren and Reynold, you'll find yourself on a quest to stop time-travelling dentist Orel White, who managed to outlaw Halloween and prohibit human children from eating candy and wearing costumes. It's a tale that evokes nostalgia even for people like me, who live in a part of the world where trick-or-treating isn't really a thing.

Of course, candy and costumes are ever-present in the game, with the former posing as currency (resulting in moments like when a shady salesman tells you to hurry up, because "time is candy"), and the latter being the game's main collectible. Your characters start with only two available costumes to wear, and you'll be tasked with hunting for various materials to put together new ones. Each new attire brings new options to the game's turn-based battles, with some of them also granting special abilities to solve puzzles outside combat.

The wizard, also known as the CSI.

Exploration is handled quite nicely, with atmospheric locales to visit and interesting characters to talk to. Similarly, combat is easy to grasp and well-implemented, with a set of collectibles known as "spooky treat cards" helping add more depth to the admittedly simple system. A nice touch is that whenever you enter combat, the kids will turn into real versions of whichever costume they're wearing at the moment. You're never sure whether the adventure is actually happening or if it's just the result of the kids' vivid imagination, which is a great touch.

The battle system is so simple one could say it's... ahem... CHILD'S PLAY.
Some flaws prevent Costume Quest 2 from reaching classic status, however. Most have to do with the fact that the game wasn't really optimized for the Wii U. There are noticeable frame rate drops, and the game's inventory menu is laggy. The biggest offender, however, is the lack of gamepad usage. The aforementioned menu would be a perfect fit for the second screen, making it much easier to check each area's map or manage treat cards before each battle.

That said, it's pretty hard to not have a smile on your face through Wren and Reynold's epic adventure. Costume Quest 2 should be an excellent option even to players with no previous RPG experience, and it's the kind of game that likely will lend itself to additional playthroughs whenever you're feeling in the mood for a Halloween treat.

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