Sunday, February 15, 2015

Crushing Candy: Costume Quest 2 Review

History: The game is a follow up to Costume Quest, originally released in 2010. Developed by Double Fine Productions, this sequel, that picks up right where the last one left off, was released in October 2014. It incorporated similar but improved gameplay, and you can transfer over old costumes from the previous game if you have a save file from the first game on your console/computer. It is available only as a download title. No disc based release was done for this or the last game.

Personal History: I played through and loved the first game dearly. So much so I made sure to download the short expansion pack for additional quests, and when I did my Top 100 Favorite Video Games list it made #75. So not terribly high on the list but when you think about how many games I've played in my life that's definitely saying something about the quality of the original.

Availability: Initially released for PC, Mac, and Linux, it was eventually ported to dang near every modern console available. Including PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii-U.

Version I Played: PS3 version.

Review: I have been waiting a long time for this sequel to come around. The first game ended with the story wrapped up but an open ended element that suggested further adventure. Since it took quite a while to come around I actually forgot about it. Then seeing it come up out of what felt like nowhere was very exciting! Regardless of excitement I didn't get the game until recently despite the October release but I rarely get games day one anyhow so that doesn't mean anything. Anyway, Costume Quest 2...

Costume Quest 2 is an excellent sequel to an already excellent game. Even though it picks up exactly where the last game left off it doesn't require knowledge of the previous game to enjoy. It just enhances experience playing through the first. And while I have played the original it has been a long time since then so having a fresh yet familiar approach to this game was very much appreciated.
That's the best way to describe this sequel, fresh yet familiar. All the things that made number one great have been brought back and made better. The style, the writing, the flow and comedy of the story, but most importantly the RPG elements. This nor the last game ever tries to be a hardcore RPG by any stretch of the imagination but it can and is still recognized as one. So while the last game had RPG elements like turn based combat, experience points, and the like I never felt it was much of an RPG experience. Something greatly improved here because those elements were expanded on and improved.

The biggest RPG improvements were in the combat. The combat always has been very simplistic. Depending on the costume you wear you have certain abilities, are strong or weak against different enemy types, the usually stuff. Once in combat there's a basic attack and a special attack after a special gauge is filled from fighting, much like before. However the game now features forty-five different cards you can collect and utilize for special tactics like increased attack, healing, extra experience points, blah-de-blah-de-blah.
You can only have three cards in hand in each battle, and after they're used they can't be used again until you fight anywhere from one to three battles after that battle to use them again. This provides an extra element of challenge and tactic simply not present in the last game.
The other added element is timed attacks and timed blocking. Whenever you attack it'll give you a button prompt and a window of time to hit it. Depending when in that window you hit the button you can have a stronger attack, or a quick added attack on top of the one you just hit. Similar with blocking. When an enemy attacks, you hit a button, and you know the rest.
It's this expansion of the battle system, many more costumes. more abilities, and special cards that actually made this feel like an RPG instead of an adventure game with RPG elements.

The other thing that was vastly improved was the story.
I don't remember the story of the original that well to be honest. Probably because when I went back to see what it was it wasn't that memorable. Meaning the original gave was made memorable by overall execution with the gameplay elements and fun tone.
This time around I'll definitely remember the story because it was so much better in it's whimsy, character, and humor. The story of Costume Quest 2 is about an evil dentist that wants to ban candy and Halloween so the world can live in a world without cavities and other dental hygiene problems. Part of the game is spent in a dystopian future where you're hauled away for wearing costume and eating candy, and the other part of the game in the past trying to stop that future by means of time travel.
It's all goofy and charming, especially in the future portions when you're captured and are forced to attend Tooth Academy where you learn the evils of candy and Halloween. It's all really tongue in cheek and a lot of fun. In a way it makes you appreciate Halloween more and candy in general.

So much of the good transferred over from the first game with a lot of the bad improved on and in so many ways. It makes for a bigger adventure with even more humor. Not all of it was improved. While I'd say this game was better than the last overall there were somethings not improved on for one reason or another.

My biggest complaint is the game is just a tad too easy and not fleshed out enough.
Overall I'd say I spent about seven or eight hours completing the game. I knew it wouldn't be long so I was okay with that. However getting to that spot wasn't simply powering through it. That included doing optional things for the sake of increasing stats or trophy hunting for my Playstation profile.
The biggest crime of this simplicity is in the combat. Despite being expanded it still doesn't provide a lot of a challenge. Once you get a few good abilities you can pretty much stick with those the rest of the game and you'll be fine. Meaning all the cards and costumes you collect come down to a matter of personal preference over actual need. Heck, you don't even need a healer in your party because you can eat the candy you collect as currency, or stop at one of the many fountains for a free recharge of health while avoiding the easy to avoid bad guys.
Actually, I was only defeated a few times in battle but it was mostly because of numbers of enemies over the power of enemies. Since everyone takes one turn at a time, with most attacks only affecting one person at a time as opposed to full party attacks (which are rare here) it's easy to survive against one or two enemy battles, with three enemy battles being the biggest challenge. With that said, of those few times I lost in battle none of them were in boss fights, which is saying something about the overall challenge.

One other thing I should point out is I went through this game with the intention of getting the 'Hardcorn Mode' trophy on my first playthough. This means playing through the game with a character always in the candy corn costume. A joke costume that does literally nothing in battle beside stand there and take hits. It doesn't attack, it can't do anything.
So technically I played through this game with a two person party, and got through the end without even getting all the possible upgrades I could have.
This was my biggest disappointment in this game. I was hoping with expanded RPG mechanics it could have provided a stronger challenge. Not too challenging because the sheer concept of the game should appeal to all ages, but it doesn't mean the game has to be as absurdly easy as it was most parts of the game.

FYI the trophies are super easy to unlock... but sadly no platinum.

That may seem like a big complaint that would heavily affect my experience... but it didn't too much. I had so much fun playing through this world again. Wren and Reynold are just so much fun to play as, and with the improved comedy overall it made for a very positive experience despite the lesser gamey elements. It's charming and goofy in all the best ways possible while maintaining a cute and fun cartoon style that's not too overdone.
While I said you don't have to play the first game before this I would suggest you do. That was a diamond in the rough that had it's problems but didn't kill the experience as a whole. Plus it makes you appreciate some parts of part two more, knowing what wasn't there before. A lot like the experience you get from playing Assassin's Creed II after pumping many hours into the poorly execute first game.

Only downside left to mention is how this game ends more definite than the last, giving little to no obvious clues towards sequels or even DLC. But that might be for the best. A great franchise doesn't have to drive itself into the ground. I would have been happy with just the first game but knowing now what the second game became I'm glad it exists. I would just hate to see a third game come out and it turns out to be garbage.

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