Video Game Review: Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

Costume Quest
System: Playstation 3 (also on Xbox 360 and Steam)
Genre: RPG, Adventure
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine Productions
Release Date: October 19, 2010

So, it’s fall, folks. The leaves have changed color and are falling off the trees, the smell of pumpkin pie is in the air (if you’re lucky), and everyone is trying to figure out what they want to be for Halloween. Considering the season, Sony couldn’t have picked a better time to offer Costume Quest for free to Playstation Plus users.

This Halloween-themed RPG adventure places you in the role of either Reynold or Wren, a young brother/sister tandem who are sent out by their parents to trick-or-treat and make new friends in their suburban neighborhood. Unfortunately for them, as soon as they leave their house, one of the siblings is kidnapped by a monster. It is your goal to go forth and retrieve your sibling from the evildoers, as your parents wouldn’t exactly be keen on just one child returning home.

It’s a simple plot, but perfectly appropriate for what is ultimately a nostalgia-tinged “lite” RPG. Double Fine have taken a basic adventure and stripped it down to its core elements. In place of character classes, you collect costumes that can be worn for different abilities. Some, such as the knight and robot, are simply for attacking, while others like the Statue of Liberty can be used for healing purposes. The turn-based combat is about as bare-bones as you can get: when you choose to attack (either standard or special, the latter of which must be built up over turns) you are then given a button to press at an exact moment, which will yield an added boost if timed correctly. After your characters finish their attacks, the enemies do the same, and it’s lather-rinse-repeat. Outside of choosing different costumes pre-battle, little strategy is required.

Costume Quest [PS3, 2010]

There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the game, which some may find disappointing. However, even though the game is a brief 5-6 hours in length, it is highly enjoyable throughout. Double Fine’s trademark sense of humor — rife with amusing pop culture references — is always present, and the dialogue (all text-based) is often clever. It helps that the game uses a charming, easy-to-love cartoonish visual style, as well.

Costume Quest succeeds in creating a lite RPG that can appeal to all ages, kid to adult. Kids will love the game’s Halloween setting and easy-to-understand combat mechanics, whereas adults will be more into the nostalgia side of things and the sly writing style. There are some issues with combat getting a tad too repetitive near the end, and of course the game’s short length is a bit disconcerting for the $15 price tag, but overall Costume Quest is still a fun adventure that is perfect for the month of October. If you’re looking for a bite-sized adventure to play in between some of this season’s big guns, you can’t do much better than this.

7.5/10

Video Game Review: Homefront [Xbox 360, 2011]

Homefront [Xbox 360, 2011]

Homefront
System: Xbox 360
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Kaos Studios
Release Date: March 15, 2011

The year is 2027. North Korea has a new leader, Kim Jong-un (Kim Jong-il’s son), and he is hellbent on world domination. After uniting both North and South Korea together, the Republic has taken over Japan and has now begun a devastating assault on the United States. The US military has been incapacitated by an EMP strike, and the entire West Coast is in disarray. Small pockets of resistance forces have popped up to fight the Republic, and Homefront places you in the middle of one these renegade groups. This is a pretty interesting concept since most first person shooters are based on foreign soil, and ultimately it was this premise that inspired me to look into Homefront. Unfortunately, this great idea is poorly utilized.

The first thing I noticed about Homefront is that it looks like every other FPS on the Xbox 360. The character models and environments remind me of the Battlefield: Bad Company games, and many of the levels have similar thematic elements to Call of Duty. In essence, Homefront comes off as a poor man’s version of both.

Homefront [Xbox 360, 2011]

The single player campaign is short. Painfully short, actually. At just 4-5 hours in length, you can complete it in one evening of play, if you so desire. I can deal with short campaigns if they are well thought-out enough, but Homefront’s killer concept quickly deteriorates into a generic formulaic design. Every level is basically urban warfare where you shoot a bunch of Koreans, run to the next location, shoot some more, and then continue repeating this process. There is little in the way of variance, outside of one mission where you get to fly a helicopter. I had no attachment to any of the characters, and I found that the scenes where emotions were meant to be evoked were rather dull and lifeless. Throw in some idiotic and slow-moving AI characters (who you have to follow through the *entire* game), some ridiculous product placement (I can’t even tell you how many NOS/Full Throttle vending machines were “randomly” in the way) and just general lack of excitement, and you have a very underwhelming campaign.

Homefront’s multiplayer mode, on the other hand, is clearly where the game redeems itself. While fairly light on modes/options, the multiplayer is significantly better than its single player brethren. Online games can host as many as 32 players, which can create some crazy and chaotic experiences. Leveling up is the ultimate goal online, and the game uses a fun Battle Points system that allows for the purchase of vehicles and weapon upgrades. While the multiplayer isn’t anything groundbreaking, it is a refreshing change of pace from Call of Duty, and it has a good-sized community at the moment.

Homefront [Xbox 360, 2011]

It should be noted, however, that online play is severely limited if you buy Homefront used or if you rent the game. Without an online code found in new copies of the game, you can only build your character up to level 5, which means you will miss out on many of the great perks available at later levels. You can buy an online pass for $10, but this extra fee will surely infuriate many gamers.

In short, Homefront is a tale of two games. The single player campaign could have been great, but it didn’t even come close to living up to its full potential. The multiplayer experience is much better, and gamers who play exclusively online will get a lot more out of this. I would recommend renting Homefront if you are curious about the game, but there’s no way in hell I would advise paying its normal $60 price tag.

6/10