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Review Costume Quest (PS3)
More like bitterness-filled rant
#1
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Costume Quest gives me such mixed feelings...

Upon getting it installed on my PS3, this game by Double Fine Studios honestly looked and felt like something I'd love passionately. Truly one of the greatest finds I had made for the console.

I was immediately charmed by the game's concept and had a blast looking at the environments as those were presented to me, trying my hardest to think outside of the box in order to unlock new areas to explore. This was all immensely fun and allowed me to get lost into the game world in a way (and with such an ease) that very few other titles have managed to accomplish. I was impressed.

All of that was great, but the true selling point --for me, at least-- were the characters that inhabited Costume Quest's world. Not only are the title characters very fun and expressive, but so are all of the NPCs that I have found. Nearly every person on the map was full of personality and had something interesting to say, which made all the backtracking and trial-and-error far more enjoyable than it had any right to be.

Now, I'm sure that all of that sounds great (and you are probably wondering how something I seem to regard so highly could have given me "mixed feelings") but that's simply because we haven't talked about the gameplay proper, and this is where things really start breaking apart.

For reasons that I'm not entirely sure of, Double Fine did a pretty lousy job with this game's optimization... it runs acceptably on the overworld, but once you are actually in a battle screen, the slowdowns and lag make this completely unplayable. And did I mention that this is an RPG? Whoops.

At first I was willing to blame this on my aging PS3 (even though that makes no sense, since everything else --including games newer than CQ-- runs so smoothly, it might as well be wrapped in butter) but a quick Google search informed me that this was a problem across the board and across all the platforms the game was released for. It is almost unbelievable that such a glaring mistake could have made it past testing, since this is a turn-based RPG that also happens to have a built-in, time-based mechanic that rewards you for hitting the enemy within a very precise time window, the result of which determines how effective your hit was. The inclusion of such perk is almost a joke under these circumstances.

But the thing that blows up my mind the most is that Double Fine released a patch that fixes slowdown... on the overworld. Yeah, this was apparently an issue while walking around the map, outside of battles, too! I didn't know this, since I had the patch installed before I had even had a chance to fire up the game for the first time, but Good Lord! And the kicker is that, no matter how hard I have looked, a patch that fixes slowdown in battle doesn't seem to exist (at least for PS3).

This all breaks the game so much, it is not even worth discussing it as a videogame proper anymore, but rather as an interactive artistic expression. Costume Quest has a lot of artistic value to it, and it'd be wise to separate those merits from the tragic performance issues that drag it down.

I read someone saying that this game was an "instant regret purchase" for them, which would be an incredibly unfair thing to say... if the gameplay itself wasn't essentially broken. As it is, though, it is completely relatable... and how sucky is that?

I'm honestly amazed by the fact that I made it to the second stage with the game behaving like that, but it soon became obvious that things just weren't going to work out. Adding insult to injury was the fact that, at that point, I was really starting to experiment with different costumes and card combinations to try and give myself an edge, or just to solve puzzles on the overworld.

All of that overshadows every other aspect of the game and distracts from what is otherwise a lovely-made world, but I refuse to let that be what I'm taking from the experience (even though I have been talking about that for the last few paragraphs) because...
 
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This game is truly, unapologetically in love with its concept... and it shows.

The whole thing takes place during Halloween and the developers have cranked that to the eleventh. It is all incredibly charming.

During the first stage, you enter random battles not by walking into patches of grass, but by doing some trick-or-treating around the neighborhood; whether a person willing to give you candy or a monster trying to ruin your day (and bash your face in) is at the other side of the frame is completely random. And it works.

I also like how you are supposed to go and find different materials around the maps to craft new costumes (hence the term, "Costume Quest"), all of which can be worn by all of your party members and include different in-battle and overworld abilities to help you survive and solve puzzles.

Furthermore, you can buy and trade appropiatally-themed trading cards that act as in-battle power ups. There's a ton of flavor to this game and I kind of wish they had gone overboard with this sort of thing. A collect-a-ton would have made for a much better game, in my opinion, since the whole thing seems handcuffed to the RPG side of things and it doesn't really work (technical implosion aside).

I honestly thought that dissecting my experience with the game like this was gonna help me figure out where exactly I stood when it came to it... and it truly didn't. Now I know what kinds of things I seem to have liked and hated the most, but the overall feeling I'm getting (as I reread this) is that this game is such a mixed bag in every way possible. That's not far from where I was before writing this... and it is kind of infuriating.

But I guess that your candy bag is never completely full of goodies during actual Halloween, ether.... which might make this game the most accurate representation of that holiday. Huh.
~~I had Arizona in my mind when coming up with my account name~~.

Die poster! You don't belong in this board!

What is a signature? A miserable little pile of secrets! Enough talk! Scroll down already!


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[-] The following 1 user Likes Dust Bowl 's post:
  • Kyng
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#2
Wow, that's a real pity :( . It sounds as though the game had great ideas and ambition, but it required hardware that was a bit beyond what was available at the time.

Hopefully, someone will figure out how to get it to run smoothly on a more modern console - or come up with a new game along the same lines (because, the concept is just too nice to be wasted like this...)
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