In the modern era of annualized video game franchises, there's been a somewhat small and halfhearted plea from gamers for these franchises to take a break; to rejuvenate their creative juices, you can say. Costume Quest 2 proves that such a waiting period between entries in a franchise doesn't always work out as well as people believe that they would.
It's been 4 years since the first Costume Quest, a quirky little RPG which -- while mechanically shallow -- had a hell of a lot of heart. With such a long time between it and its recently released sequel, you would think that developer Double Fine would have had a long time to reflect upon the shortcomings of the first Costume Quest. But that's not the case here. Costume Quest 2 is not only a remarkably unimproved sequel to the original title, but also loses what made the first game so special: it has no soul or imagination.
Costume Quest 2 continues the adventures of siblings Wren and Reynold directly after the conclusion of the Grubbins on Ice DLC from the first game. Believing that their quest to save Halloween is over, they return home triumphant. As soon as they arrive home however, they discover that their dentist, Dr. White, is using time travel to erase Halloween from existence and to take over the world. Throwing their battle costumes back on, Wren and Reynold follow Dr. White through time to save Halloween one more time.
While a promising and interesting premise, it's a fairly predictable time travel narrative that has barely anything to do with Halloween. The original Costume Quest had a huge heart that perfectly captured the youthful spirit of Halloween, even going as far as including some really specific mini games that invoked common American Halloween rituals. Costume Quest 2 is primarily a generic time travel narrative with Halloween window dressing.
To add insult to injury, Costume Quest 2 might be Double Fine's weakest game from a writing standpoint yet. I frequently found my eyes glazing over the dialogue exchanges, rapidly just skipping through most of it. To compare, I went back to the first Costume Quest to verify my remembered experience with it 4 years ago. Almost immediately I found myself chuckling at its clever humor, something I never, ever did during my time with Costume Quest 2.
Costume Quest 2 continues to feel like a step back from the first game when we transition into the gameplay side of things. Fundamentally, Costume Quest 2 is the exact same kind of game like Costume Quest 1: traditional and uninspired turn-based combat. But there are some distinct negative differences, lost health during battle does not automatically recovering after the end of the battle, all of the costumes have disappointingly similar abilities and all all of the combat customization options have been stripped out. These changes feel like massive steps back from the original game, and made me increasingly frustrated with my time with Costume Quest 2.
Costume Quest 2 does add some timing based inputs to enable you to deal additional damage with your attacks or to counter enemy attacks if you succeed the quick-time event, but such systems are already incredibly prevalent in other turn-based games like Paper Mario, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Mario & Luigi RPGs, Lost Odyssey, and many others. So while these are new to the Costume Quest franchise, they already feel like very well-trodden concepts and failed to engage me at all.
From the production side of things, Costume Quest 2 is decent yet incredibly unremarkable. The charming, quirky art style of the first game carries through, but never feels evolved or pushed forward in any way despite its new context of the game moving through time. The past and future environments are fairly uninspired looking, and the game is surprisingly demanding from a hardware perspective even though it doesn't look particularly amazing.
At every way I look at it, Costume Quest 2 is a great disappointment. But it's important to note that the first Costume Quest wasn't even that fantastic of a game to begin with. It was a fairly shallow gameplay experience that made up from it with an immense sense of charm and clever writing, carrying the spirit of Halloween cheerfully in its little pumpkin pail. Not only does Costume Quest 2 fail to add anything significant mechanically within this long 4 year span of time between titles -- indeed even taking away some of the complexity way from the original game -- but has almost none of the heart or soul that the first game had going for it.
With all of this taken into consideration, I barely understand why anyone felt the need to make Costume Quest 2. It's easily one of the most unimproved sequels I've played in a long time. As someone who enjoyed the original game for what it was and desperately wanted a sequel that improved where the first game failed, I now wish that Costume Quest 2 remained an idea in the hearts of fans instead of the reality that it is now present this Halloween season.
TWO OUT OF FIVE
(A bad game with an abundance of flaws which outweigh its positive aspects)