Sometimes I realize that there's more to life than shooters. Blowing things up is cool, watching bloody body parts go flying can be wicked, but sometimes you just want something a bit more...peaceful. Something fun, of course. But something cute that's still a blast to lay.

Leave it to Tim Schafer and the fine folks at Double Fine to come up with something that meets that need. And then some.

Costume Quest has all of that: a great story and dialogue, some RPG elements, and cuteness that will just make you smile.

You play as either Wren or Reynold, twin brother and sister (Wren's 10 minutes older than her brother) who are new to the neighbourhood. Your mom insists that you go out trick-or-treating to meet some kids and make some new friends. (I love Wren's response to this. Paraphrased, it's "Halloween isn't about making friends. It's about TERROR!") Nevertheless, the two kids go out into the neighbourhood, only to discover that there are monsters out there! Monsters with an insane desire for candy! And they kidnap one of the siblings, who is dressed as a candy corn, to take them back to their realm and add to their candy pile! It's up to you to stop this insidious, monstrous Halloween Horror.

The reason I can't be clearer about who you play is that you get a choice right at the beginning: you can be either Reynold or Wren. Whichever one you choose gets to dress up like a robot; the other is the candy corn. And that sibling is the one that's kidnapped. It really makes no difference who you choose, though. You have the same abilities whichever one you pick. Considering how family-friendly this game is, I assume that's so young girls can play as Wren and young boys can play as Reynold, without feeling too icky either way. (I admit that I played as Wren, because I played as Reynold in the demo and wanted to see if there was any difference once I bought the whole game...there isn't).

The object of the game is to wander the neighbourhood, collecting candy and fighting monsters as well as fulfilling a few little quests that are given to you as you go along. You obtain costume patterns that, once you have found all of the pieces, give you another full costume to don with different powers and combat abilities. The ultimate goal is to get the gate opened for each of the three levels, which can't be done until all of the houses have been visited. Along the way, you'll find two companions, Everett & Lucy (one each in the first two levels) who will wear your additional costumes and help you in battle.

Sometimes when you knock on the door of a house, you get a friendly grown-up who says something cute and gives you candy. Other times, a monster is already looting the house, and combat begins!

Combat is both cute and simplistic as well. It also can become tedious very quickly.

The sequence opens with you becoming a real version of whatever costume you're wearing. You're then shown what monsters you're facing, usually two or three of whichever ones inhabit the level you're on. Combat is turn-based, with first you and your companions going, and then the monsters that are left returning fire. You can defend against them to have them do less damage to you.

Each costume has a unique combat effect that can be utilized in different ways. The Knight, for example, you just have to press a button at the right time. It will tell you which one to press, and it will vary each time.  On the other hand, for the Robot, you have to time your press of the button perfectly to match the "sweet spot." This same mechanic is used for defending as well.

This same mechanic is used for all combat, and the hit points of the monsters goes up as you level up (you can go up to Level 10 through earning Experience Points for both combat and finishing quests). They always end up being slightly less than you, though, unless you just can't time your button-presses correctly.

Thus, combat quickly becomes tedious and easy. I never lost a battle until the finale of the game. That being said, kids who might be charmed by it may not have it so easy, and that's probably the intended audience.

The graphics are very cartoonish, which fits perfectly into the theme of the game. The character models of you and your companions are wide-eyed, and the monsters are a lot more laugh-inducing than scary, even for the younger kids who might want to play.

The music and sound is very offbeat and funny as well. When you're traipsing through the swamps in the final level, you can hear the squish of your boots. Every time you knock on a door, there's a drumroll, heightening the tension of whether you meet a grown-up or a monster.

There is a lot of great dialogue, but it's all text. There is no voice-acting at all. Still, the dialogue is great. You can tell that Schafer hasn't lost his touch since the old Curse of Monkey Island days.

Tedious combat and a very short duration (I finished it on Sunday night after playing it all day, so say about 6-8 hours or so) mar what is otherwise an awesome game. Even with that, though, I think it's well worth buying, especially on sale (I bought it during the current 600 MS Point sale).

If you've got kids you'd like to introduce to gaming? You can't go wrong with this one. The charming graphics will attract you. The engaging story will keep you.


(This is cross-posted from my new Video Game Review blog that I started, using our very own "Game Over...Continue" as my inspiration! Check out the "Welcome" post for why I did it, as well as some old reviews that I posted so it would have some content)