Review: Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice

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Costume Quest is one of my favorite downloadable games, not just from calendar year 2010, but out of all the PSN and XBLA games currently available. So, obviously, the prospect of Double Fine’s trick-or-treat RPG expanding through DLC was something I was initially excited by. After playing the first DLC add-on, Grubbins on Ice, I’m not so sure about that any more.

Don’t take that to mean Grubbins on Ice isn’t a competent piece of DLC. On the contrary, it’s every bit the wholesome JRPG romp that the main quest is, and it’s a reasonable value for the amount of extra content it presents. But altogether, it just didn’t click for me like the full game did.

At $5 (400 MS Points), Grubbins on Ice is a third of the price of the full deal – and in terms of content it provides basically a third as much of everything. Costume Quest itself is around six to eight hours tops, has a level cap of 10, consists of roughly 25 quests spread across three main areas, and comes with 11 costumes, 20+ Battle Stamps and ~50 Creepy Treat cards. Comparatively, Grubbins on Ice takes no more than two to three hours to finish, bumps the level cap up to 14, offers 10 new quests in a single hub environment with 20 additional houses to trick or treat, gives you three new costumes to play with, and comes with even more Battles Stamps and Creepy Treat cards to collect. See, that’s not too shabby for the spend – there’s plenty to keep you busy for a bored afternoon.

Beyond the extras, the core game is the same. Halloween now past and the snowy doldrums of winter set in, Grubbins on Ice picks up shortly after the close of original, with Wren, Reynold and their fellowship of merry trick-or-treaters called back into action after Lucy gets sucked into a portal transporting her to the tumultuous monster kingdom of Repugia. To get her back, you must explore Rupugia, complete quests and slay monsters in accessible, briskly paced turn-based battles, going door to door around town with candy bags in hand and costumes at the ready.

The QTE-heavy combat system remains quick and enjoyable, and, on the back of Double Fine’s witty writing skills, the story is another whimsical excursion through childhood fantasy. So those are definite pluses, as are a few other things, such as a new manual save feature, improved technical performance, and the way the game continues off of what you accomplished in the main game.

But amidst these high points, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. The DLC doesn’t really up the easy-going difficulty level from before and the all-too-familiar quests feel more like busy work a second time around. The three new costumes don’t seem particularly useful or necessary either. The Pirate is great, with its adventure ability to zip-line with a hook and its devastating combat ability which unleashes volley of cannon fire that strikes all enemies. But the other two – an Eyeball and a Yeti – don’t bring anything new or interesting to the table and quickly drop out of thought when planning costume combinations to take into battle.

Grubbins on Ice is basically everything I expected and wanted in a Costume Quest DLC extension, so you’d think I’d gobble it up like candy and ask for more. But strangely, now that I’ve completed it, I’ve almost immediately forgotten about it, and except for the closing teaser hinting at further possibilities for expansion, I can’t point to a single meaningful thing that I’d feel bad about missing out on. And now the more I think about it, maybe Costume Quest is a one-hit wonder; a game that deserves to be savored on its own like a tasty piece of candy but isn’t complex or substantial enough to satisfy for multiple tastings.

I can see a heftier Easter-themed add-on possibly winning me back over (egg hunts and bunny costumes for the win!), but after this I’d much prefer to see Double Fine ditch the DLC route and go all out with a full-fledged sequel.

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Pros:
+ Good chunk of new content at a cheap price
+ More fun trick-or-treat RPG-ing
+ Same great Double Fine humor

Cons:
– New costumes really don’t add much overall
– No increase in difficulty
– Cut-and-paste quests

Game Info:
Platform: Downloadable content for Costume Quest on PSN/XBLA (reviewed on XBLA)
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Double Fine
Release Date: 12/8/2010
Genre: RPG
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!