Dear Double Fine: Thank You For Costume Quest

There’s a certain magic to finding a game you love. Whether it’s the story, the art style, the gameplay, or a host of other conventions, when it all just fits together perfectly, there’s a satisfaction to that experience that resonates within us and makes us realize exactly what it is we love about gaming.

Strangely enough, one of the games I’ve experienced this with recently is a simple downloadable title that has quickly become one of my favorites: Double Fine’s Costume Quest.

First released back in 2010, Costume Quest is an action/adventure game with RPG elements in the form of quests,  exploration, and character building with levels and skills. Within the game, players take control of Wren or Reynold, one of the fraternal twin protagonists. They’re new in town, it’s Halloween night, and Mom wants you to take your brother (or sister) trick-or-treating with you.

But of course, they’re wearing a ridiculous candy corn costume embarrassing enough for you to declare that you wouldn’t be caught dead with them in public.

After a handful of amusing bickering that reminded me a bit too much of the arguments I’ve had with my own brothers, your twin is suddenly carried off by candy-stealing monsters who mistake them for a giant, juicy piece of candy. And so begins your quest to find your twin and bring them back.

From there, players are tasked with exploring the neighborhood, finding candy collectibles and random objects used for building additional costumes. Each costume has its own power that helps access new areas of levels that might not have been open to you before.

And it wouldn’t be Halloween without Trick-or-Treating. With a knock on every door, players will either encounter an adult making a comment on your costume or one of the monsters wanting to steal your candy.

After encountering monsters, your character suddenly transforms into a more realistic version of their costume, engaging the enemies in a simple quicktime event and turn-based combat segment. Basic attacks unlock special attacks that vary with each costume.

Of course, the game isn’t perfect. There’s not a lot of variation with side quests, exploration can sometimes seem tedious, and much of the dialogue loses its charm when it is repeated several times over.

But there’s something uniquely special about it that makes Costume Quest stand out to me. It’s not violent, it’s not gory, it doesn’t feature an epic story arc, and it doesn’t try to outdo itself with insane set pieces or “wow” moments.

Instead, it relies on clever dialogue, well-placed and timed comedic moments, and gameplay that features the most important trait of all: fun. It’s fun, plain and simple. It’s easy to figure out, just challenging enough to keep you engaged, and although it doesn’t require a ton of deep strategy, the combat is satisfying and brilliant.

It’s fun in a way that takes me back to the days when I was a kid playing games simply for the fun of them, when I wasn’t waiting to be totally blown away by something spectacular.

No, it’s much simpler than that. Being clever, imaginative, and whimsical, it soothes my cynical adult self and reminds me of how awesome a simple, yet fun game can really be.

So thank you for Costume Quest, Double Fine. It’s taken me back and reminded me of why I love video games in the first place.