Friday, November 2, 2012

Playing games with Lily: Costume Quest

I really enjoyed Costume Quest.

First, a plug! I enjoy Phil's work over at Adventurous Endeavors, so I decided to see which other blogs he was following. One of them looked especially appealing. It was Life in 16-Bit. I like video games, particularly of that era, so I signed up to follow.

Part of his series for October was scary games and one of them was Costume Quest. It was on the strength of that review that I decided to check out the  game. My thoughts about the game were almost exactly the same as his, which turns out to be rather unfortunate, because it means that someone already wrote this review before I even started the game. Rather than retreading the same territory, I think I'll focus on my experience playing the game with a little kid.

My daughter Lily is in kindergarten. She reads extremely well for her age, but as that age is barely six years old, so I wasn't sure if she'd be capable of following it. Still, the full game (Costume Quest plus Grubbins on Ice) was available for $7.50 and I thought it would be nice to spend some of the money in my Playstation wallet on stuff other than more Little Big Planet Costumes. It combines two of Lily's favorite things, dressing up and scary things.  Also, it doesn't hurt that we're really into Gravity Falls, and the main characters in costume Quest, Wren and Reynold are also twins in a new town.

The game starts with the twins bickering until Mom puts one of them in charge, which is how you pick which character you're going to play. We think "Girls Rule!" around this house, so we played Wren, and I'll be referring the main character as Wren in this review, though of course, you can pick either.

Wren has her awesome robot costume and Reynold has his stupid candy corn costume. They knock on the first door, but instead of getting a massive haul, the guy gives them some LOSER CANDY. At the next house Reynold knocks on the door, but Wren hides behind a mailbox, too embarrassed to be seen with him. When the door opens, a monster emerges, and, thinking Reynold is a giant piece of candy, makes off with him!

And then the adventure proper begins. Wren discovers that she transforms into whatever costume she's wearing whenever she gets in a fight with the monsters, which is such a little kid wish fulfillment fantasy. This is the core mechanism of the game, and it was extremely well done.

A giant robot, a ninja and the Statue of Liberty walk into a bar...

Different costumes have different abilities. The ninja can sneak around (and it's weird hearing a six-year-old telling me that she's going to "enter stealth mode"), the robot moves around on roller skates (and wound up being my default, because movement is kind of slow without it), the knight shields you, etc.

Every review I've read about the game mentions Tasha Harris, the team's lead animator and a former Pixar artist, and for good reason. The graphics have an extremely distinctive style and they mesh very well with mood and the gameplay.

The dialogue is both funny and natural. The best of it has to be between Wren and Reynold, who have that mix of affection and animosity that all real siblings share. You recruit a gamer named Everett and a science geek named Lucy and they each have their own fun personality quirks too.

Since it was produced on a somewhat lower budget than most modern games, it harkens back to an earlier time, where the player actually had to read the dialogue. This is a plus for me, because whenever Lily asked me what it said, I would always reply "You tell me," and with a very few exceptions, she was able to read everything. (We had previously used Little Big Planet to practice reading until we got into the the user generated levels which are all like: "If u like teh lvl, plz heart it. kthxbai!" and are thus suboptimal for our purposes. As the other review mentioned, the only problem is that dialogue flows by without prompting in the cut scenes and I wound up having to read it for her there because it went by just a little too quickly.

I think she was a little young for the game, because the battles were tough for her too, and I wound up taking the controller for a lot of those. They have a quick time element to them and she's just not fast enough to do it, and they're surprisingly unforgiving for a game aimed at a younger demographic. I think battles were my least favorite part of the game, anyway. They were certainly Lily's. She enjoyed running around, exploring and collecting new costumes. She was a little disappointed that we never got the princess costumes we saw on NPCs, but the magical rainbow unicorn made up for that. She was also partial the vampire and the flaming pumpkin head.

In the third act, we ran into the dreaded French Fry bug. (Not to be confused with the horrifying crab-spider nightmare monster you become when you wear the French Fry costume into a fight).

 If you'll excuse me, I need to go clean off my chair, seeing as I have shit myself in terror.

Apparently if you apply the update after you've started the game, the mandatory quest where you have to lure customers to a french fry stand becomes uncompletable. We couldn't figure out what we were doing wrong and I finally resorted to going online to figure it out and that's where I learned about the bug.

And I was prompted for the update as soon as we finished downloading the game, but we wanted to get playing right away. Lily was understandably distraught. She's a drama queen anyway, but I think I would have been pretty upset too. I believe her exact quote was "All of our hard work for NOTHING!" I promised her that I would get her back to where we were, and I did, but I'll admit, I was a little nervous approaching that part, in case the bug did trigger again. It didn't though, and we progressed through the game.

We beat it last night.  With some games, the ending seems tacked on or unnecessary, but this one ended exactly as it should have.  Indeed, I'll go so far as to say that it ended the only way it could. We're looking forward to the sequel, Grubbins on Ice, and you can count on reading the review here.

Though we may not get to it right away. Lily was so excited about the game that as soon as we finished it, she exclaimed, "Let's play it again, but with Reynold this time!!!"

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the plug :) Glad you both enjoyed it!