Costume Quest 2 Review

Costume Quest 2 is a great example of a sequel that improves on its predecessor in virtually every way. That’s not to say that it’s entirely flaw-free, but the problems from the first game have been largely minimized in such a way that it’s a much more fulfilling experience than the already-worthwhile original. That said, much of the game will be instantly familiar to those who have played the first game: a large part of gameplay still consists of going house to house trick-or-treating for candy to progress, the combat is still jRPG-inspired, and the overall game still has a distinct sense of humor that you won’t find anywhere else.

About that humor, though…

Where the first game’s humor largely revolved around children making remarkably adult comments with deadpan deliveries while adults were shown to be the childish ones, Costume Quest 2’s humor instead relies on miscellaneous weirdness and the awkwardness of seeing old friends and enemies once they’ve grown up. This is, after all, a game where time travel factors heavily into the plot, so it’s only natural that your characters occasionally run into familiar characters from the first game while traipsing around in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed the humor in the game overall, but I was a bit disappointed by how few kids made weirdly insightful comments like in the first game. Even the brilliant Lucy begins the game explaining time travel by referring to what they did as “some quantum… stuff,” and that really sets the tone for the rest of the game. Apart from that one quibble, however, the humor in Costume Quest 2 is wonderful and bound to keep you chuckling at its constant stream of weirdness.

A Dentist to the Past

The story of Costume Quest 2 revolves around the kids’ dentist Orel White and his evil plan to travel back in time with the help of a “time wizard” in order to eliminate Halloween. He succeeds, of course, and the kids travel to and from the past and (dystopian, candy-less) future in order to thwart his diabolical plans. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t expect anything out of this game’s story going in because of how lighthearted the first game’s story was, but it legitimately surprised me in terms of how enjoyable it ended up being. It’s every bit as lighthearted as the first game, of course, but the dentist is a much more enjoyable and believable villain than Big Bones or Dorsilla (who, like many characters from the first game, has a cameo that fleshes out her character a little more), and the story is more interesting than the largely predictable sequence of events in the first game.

Apart from health not restoring after battle and some minor pacing/combat improvements, everything should be familiar to fans of the last game.

It’s still a jRPG-lite

Combat is where most of Costume Quest 2’s improvements lie, but it’s also where some new problems have been introduced. First, it’s worth mentioning that the game is more like Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario than ever, with the twitch-based “press X button when the prompt shows up on the screen” element of combat removed entirely. In its place is a timing-based system reminiscent of Legend of Dragoon where each character is assigned a button (when using a gamepad, the first character is Y, the second is X, and the third is A) and you use that button when your character attacks to time it so that two on-screen circles overlap. That’s difficult to explain in words, but you can see it in action in the above video (skip to 1:13). This timing element dictates the amount of damage you do, with the perfect “amazing” timing doing the most damage.

Combat becomes more and more involved

As you level up, an enigmatic character named Corvus trains you in more advanced combat techniques. Where you begin the game able to attack and use special moves like in the first game, you’ll eventually be able to block, counter, and chain together multiple hits when you attack. This ensures that the game’s combat doesn’t become as stale as it does in the original game.

However, it’s not all perfect

Unlike the first game which refilled your health whenever you finished a battle, Costume Quest 2 tracks your health loss and forces you to run to a healing fountain (which are also the save points; telephones have been removed entirely) whenever you take too much damage in a fight. Your characters let you know when they’ve taken a lot of damage by telling you that they’re thirsty, and while this does reflect the way most jRPG games handle combat and health, I have to say that I preferred the first game’s approach. You’re forced to run to fountains for healing too much in this game, avoiding enemies on the way lest you enter combat close to defeat, and it feels like this was added as unnecessary filler.

The difficulty is a bit front-heavy, too

You start the game with Wren and Reynold (again, you can choose which to play as), and the beginning of the game sees you taking on villains with the two. Problem is, one of you is stuck with the notorious “candy-corn” costume, and this costume doesn’t actually attack. Instead, it throws out jokes and wastes that character’s turn. This means that there’s a tedious beginning section of the game where you’re effectively limited to one character, and I don’t think it’s an understatement to call this the most frustrating, difficult section of the game. Even once you recruit another character, you still have to look around for all the pieces necessary to craft a new costume in order to avoid lugging around whoever’s wearing the candy corn costume as dead weight.

After that, though, it’s smooth sailing. I didn’t die a single time, and the difficulty of the bosses was much more forgiving than in the first game (where a few bosses toward the end massacred me until I changed my strategy). This lack of challenge may be a negative for some, of course, but I also felt like the regular encounters were slightly more challenging than the first game, evening out the overall difficulty somewhat. Still, this isn’t a game for those who like their games to be hard.

Special attacks seem more meaningful now

Where in the first game you were given special attacks every three or so turns, Costume Quest 2’s special attack bar fills up as you damage enemies and are damaged by them, making it fill up slower. That’s not all, though—the bar carries over between fights, so you can save a special attack until a boss fight if you’re so inclined. All of this makes special attacks more rare and, well, special.

Creepy treat cards

While the first game allowed you to equip stamps that granted you bonuses and special attacks, the sequel does away with this altogether. Instead, you’re dealing with Creepy Treat cards, and these function differently than stamps in several ways. First, you don’t equip them on individual characters. Instead, you equip three cards that you carry into battle as a shared inventory. Cards aren’t expendable, but they have a cooldown timer measured in battles, so using a good card can mean having to wait ~3 battles before being able to use it again (less powerful cards have shorter cooldown periods). This also means that you have to switch out cards after every battle where you use them, which can become a bit tedious, but they make up for this somewhat by being incredibly powerful. There are cards that weaken enemies, double a character’s inflicted damage, nullifies an entire turn of received damage, and even one that destroys all enemies automatically. All in all, these cards can be a pain to continually equip/unequip, but they add a lot to the strategy of battle and allow you to approach situations in a variety of different ways.

Characters getting stuck in the environment was annoying, but this was the only kind of bugginess I encountered while playing.

Miscellaneous stuff

Normally I’d use this section to talk about the bugs I faced, but the only bug-type thing I had to deal with while playing was characters temporarily getting stuck in the environment. Instead, I guess I’ll list some random things about the game that didn’t warrant a paragraph of their own. First, there’s a section where you perform with a jazz musician’s band using the clown horn. Anyone who doesn’t laugh at this section of the game clearly has no soul.

Second, locations are much more memorable and well-designed compared to the first game. Instead of going around one neighborhood after another and only trick-or-treating, you’re adventuring around a futuristic Tooth Academy, visiting an alligator-filled bayou in the past, and sneaking around a future city (including its roofs) to collect secret candy deliveries in a world where candy is suddenly outlawed. The actual size of these areas is probably comparable to the first game, of course, and the “go door to door” gameplay is still largely present, but the new areas prove to be much more interesting and dynamic places to explore.

Third, while Lucy and Everett play a fairly significant role in the story, they’re not actually playable characters in this game. Instead, you get stuck with some other characters who aren’t as memorable or charming. It’s a little disappointing, but Wren and Reynold are great enough characters to carry the story without help.

Lastly, the credits are interactive in the sense that you get to walk around and talk to people as the credits play on the screen. This reminds me a lot of Chrono Trigger’s special “developer” ending, and it was a nice touch that was much appreciated. Whoever’s idea this was should get a raise.

Graphics

Graphically speaking, Costume Quest and Costume Quest 2 are nearly identical. However, I did notice that many of the people answering doors were lighted better so as to avoid some of the ugly cel-shading that the first game suffered from, and the lighting effects seem better overall. There are also no foreground elements like trees blocking your line of sight, which is nice. The biggest and most welcome change in the graphics department, however, is the disappearance of the white border during combat. While this still shows up during special attacks, the rest of combat is full-screen, making it more visually appealing than in the first game.

I actually liked the music a lot

One of my bigger criticisms of the original Costume Quest was its music, which was largely focused on style over melody, ultimately failing to be memorable. While some of Costume Quest 2’s tracks fall into this same trap, there are also several standout tracks that simultaneously focus on melody while building atmosphere:

This track is unique, stylistic, understated enough to work as background, but melodic enough to be catchy. That’s the kind of thing I love to hear in a game, and the presence of stuff like that makes the game’s music recommendable.

Here’s what you should do:

Costume Quest 2

Costume Quest 2 Screenshots: Page 1

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Costume Quest 2 Screenshots: Page 2

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