"Costume Quest has a special power," Double Fine founder Tim Schafer told Joystiq at PAX Prime last weekend. "Everybody thinks about it every year around Halloween. That's why we made a sequel."
Schafer explained that there's a cultish mystique about Halloween that made Costume Quest so memorable and impactful, driving seasonal sales years after its initial release. Double Fine expands on the original game's success with Costume Quest 2, a sequel that overhauls its combat mechanics and puts Halloween itself at stake in a gloriously silly time-hopping storyline.
Costume Quest 2 begins with twin heroes Reynold and Wren witnessing a dystopian future in which Halloween is banned, candy is forbidden, and children are sent to re-education camps where they learn to worship dental hygiene above all else. Evil orthodontist Orel White has sent his minions to past eras to subvert the beloved holiday and build his twisted future, and Reynold and Wren are the only ones who can put a stop to his plans.
One narrative aspect of the original Costume Quest that I found particularly interesting was how the adults within its world were oblivious to the twins' quest. This provided an element of ambiguity, making the player wonder how much of the story was actually happening, or whether it was all a figment of a child's active imagination. By introducing an adult antagonist, Costume Quest 2 allows for new narrative angles, and could end up being a very different experience compared to its predecessor.
Costume Quest 2 abandons the original game's self-contained combat encounters, making player stats persist between battles. This means that character health will no longer refill after a successful battle, forcing players to conserve their resources and seek out healing stations scattered throughout the game's world. Special attack meters will also carry over between battles, however, letting players charge up and save their most powerful moves for tough encounters.
Basic attacks also work differently in Costume Quest 2. Whereas Costume Quest had players mashing buttons or completing other QTE-styled challenges in order to stack extra damage on top of their attacks, Costume Quest 2 takes a simpler approach inspired by Nintendo's Mario & Luigi RPG series. Timed hits work the same way for all party members, and require only a single button press in response to an on-screen prompt. Players can block enemy attacks for reduced damage in the same way. Each party member is mapped to a different button on the controller, however, making it important to identify which of your team members is targeted before blocking.
New abilities and upgrades supplement Costume Quest 2's expanded combat. Players can build a deck of Creepy Treat cards that can be summoned in battle for powerful attacks, but require a lengthy recharge in between uses. Costumes can also be upgraded by finding rare materials scattered throughout the adventure. Collect three necessary materials, for instance, and you can construct a Wizard costume, enabling magic attacks in battle. Add a hidden fourth material – bleach, in this case – and you'll unlock the White Wizard, adding further stat boosts and abilities.
The team at Double Fine focuses on many of Costume Quest's core strengths for the sequel. Costume Quest 2's era-specific worlds are between two and four times the size of the playable areas in the original Costume Quest. Project Lead Miller additionally noted that the apple-bobbing minigame from the original Costume Quest will not return, as the studio has ditched minigames in favor of greater depth for its quests and narrative content.
Acting on a friend's joking suggestion at the end of our session, I asked Schafer how many cat butts players can expect to see in Costume Quest 2. You might remember a cat's backside being one of the first things you see in the original Costume Quest – an unexpected visual gag that still draws laughs on repeat playthroughs.
"There are currently no cat buttholes in Costume Quest 2," Schafer said. "We can always add them, though – they're not exactly hard to draw."
Costume Quest 2 hits Steam on October 7. Console versions will launch in time for Halloween.