Tag Archives: Double Fine

Costume Quest 2, sweet like candy to my soul

Costume Quest 2_20141029123759

I enjoyed that first Costume Quest game. It was cute, charming, bite-sized, rewarding, and perfect for warping you back to your childhood to remember those consequence-free times of running through your neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and asking strangers for candy. Surprise, surprise, being that the games are nearly identical to each other in terms of mechanics, pacing, and exploration from the eyes of children with larger-than-life imaginations, I also enjoyed Costume Quest 2. Probably more than the first adventure.

Here’s the four-one-one. Costume Quest 2 from Double Fine and Midnight City takes place once again on Halloween night. The fraternal twin siblings Wren and Reynold from the original game are back, as well as a bunch of their friends,  to save All Hallows’ Evening from the evil Dr. Orel White. This ultra-nefarious dentist has teamed up with a powerful time wizard, as one often does, releasing the Grubbins into the human world in hopes of ridding the candy-filled holiday entirely from history. Wren and Reynold’s friends open a mystical time portal from the future to explain that, where they are from, Halloween has been permanently outlawed, with Dr. Orel White ruling the world. Wren and Reynold go back to the future with their friends to stop this disillusioned dental surgeon for good.

If you’ve played the first Costume Quest, you’ll know how this game works because it is nearly identical. You move around an enclosed area full of things to punch for candy and on-screen enemies, like a suburban neighborhood or dental compound, talking to NPCs and solving simple navigation-blocking puzzles. Often, to get where you want to go, you need to use the right costume. For instance, the pterodactyl can use its wings to blow away big piles of leaves or garbage, and the wizard can illuminate dark areas the kids are too scared to explore without a light. There are main quests to follow, as well as small side ones that will earn you extra XP, upgrade your candy bag, and provide rarer Creepy Treat cards.

The main aspect gating progress in Costume Quest 2 is combat. It’s turn-based, focusing heavily on timed button presses, just like Paper Mario: Sticker Star. You select attack and then must time the button press with the indicator on-screen to hit maximum damage. You can also do this for blocking, to take less damage, as well as learning the ability to counter attacks later on. Each of the costumes the kids wear have different basic and special attacks, and I ended up relying on the Superhero, Clown, Wizard, and Jefferson costumes the most. I’ll talk about the Candy Corn costume in just a bit. All of the costumes have different strengths and weaknesses against specific enemy types, but I really never found myself worrying about that. You can run away from any fight, and even if you die, you respawn by the fountain of health to try again. This is not the Dark Souls of lite RPGs.

In fact, the hardest thing about Costume Quest 2 turned out to not even be terribly difficult, just a little more time-consuming. I’m talking about the “Hardcorn” Achievement, which requires you to keep a kid in the Candy Corn costume for the entire game. Basically, the Candy Corn costume does not attack enemies. You can still take less damage to it with a proper button timing when blocking, but otherwise it doesn’t do much other than make silly quips at the start of its turn, which, alas, I can confirm do repeat. Later, when Corvus teaches the kids how to perform counters, Candy Corn can at least occasionally deal some damage back, since everyone like to target it the most. This did make the boss battles go on a little longer than normal, but otherwise, I was able to do it, and I even shared this journey with all of you via Extra Life this past weekend. You can watch the videos on my YouTube channel (not all are up yet). Also, thanks to Microsoft’s latest dashboard update, I can now tell you that, on the Xbox One at least, this is a pretty rare accomplishment. Like 2% rare…

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Go me. Anyways, Costume Quest 2 is real cute. Super duper cute. The kind of cute fun that makes you feel safe again in a world that is undoubtedly growing more dangerous every day. For sure, I’ll play Costume Quest 3, if Double Fine decides to make more, but I’d love to see this evolve more mechanically. Granted, I think it was a surprise to everyone that this sequel alone got made. That said, I’m getting a copy of Costume Quest 2 this month on PlayStation 3 from PlayStation Plus and, for once, I will not even bother downloading it. I’ve done everything there is to do in this cartoonish Halloween-land. Until the next thwart on withholding candy from children, I guess.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #64 – Costume Quest 2

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Save your Halloween
Angry dentist, time travel
Candy corn not clutch

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The full Broken Age, now with trickier, disheartening puzzles

broken age gd final thoughts

At Tim Schafer’s urging, I restarted Broken Age entirely once “Act 2” was released last month. I hadn’t touched the game since I burned through “Act 1” in 2014, so it made sense to refresh myself on the minor story beats, seeing as Act 1’s doozy of a cliffhanger closing has stayed bouncing around in my mind all this time. Magically, I remembered the majority of solutions to puzzles and dialogue navigation, so the first chunk of the game didn’t take too long to get through once again. Plus, the full game now comes stocked with Achievements to pop, many of which are rewarded for exploring all options, something I do often in adventure games.

Look, here’s the thing. I’m a backer of Broken Age. I did not contribute much to the Kickstarter–in fact, I got in on the action after Double Fine already met its goal–but I was still one of many that helped bring this adventuring air bubble to the surface. I feel a closeness to it, a connection, certainly reinforced by watching the documentary as each unfiltered episode was released, seeing the problems and answers to game development unfold. It’s a special game, and while I loved the story from beginning to end, especially the vibrant, unique characters, I just found myself depressed over the spike in puzzle difficulty for the second half.

Because I hold the story in such high regards, I will spoil very little of it here. For those that don’t know what the four-one-one is, let me steal some words from Broken Age‘s official website:

Broken Age is a timeless coming-of-age story of barfing trees and talking spoons. Vella Tartine and Shay Volta are two teenagers in strangely similar situations, but radically different worlds. The player can freely switch between the characters and their individual stories, helping them take control of their own lives, and dealing with the unexpected adventures that follow.

Right. Let’s talk about puzzles. In the first half of Broken Age–and yes, it is hard to think of the game as a single entity after it was cut in half to get it out to the public even though now one can play it and never realize that there ever was a cliffhanger to hang on to for months–the majority of the puzzles involved using an item on something. Pretty typical point-and-click adventuring stuff, and occasionally you’d have to navigate through some specific dialogue lines or combine items with one another. The number of screens and people to interact with for both Shay and Vella were severely limited or doled out in small chunks to not overwhelm players.

Once Broken Half‘s second half starts, the puzzles raise the difficulty up to eleven. That’s a Spinal Tap reference, I think. I’m not even kidding when I reveal that I couldn’t get past Vella’s first screen, eventually having to look up an answer. It turns out that this puzzle required you clicking on a specific part of the rope, whereas all previous puzzles never asked for such specificity. I figured just highlighting the rope would’ve been enough, but nope. Later on, there’s another rope puzzle that I’ve seen many on the Interwebz complain about, but I actually got through it just fine, as well as found it amusing. The puzzles I really struggled with involved wiring Hexipals for various purposes, as well as tricking someone into believing Vella was somebody else. Both involved a lot of remembering numerous, highly specific details and backtracking. They are also randomized and tiresome, and it is extremely frustrating when you know what you need to do, but can’t do it because you can’t remember if the boy in that faded family picture is wearing red or green shoes.

That all said, I do think Broken Age is a good game, if not the most fun to play during the later parts. Go to it for the characters and dialogue and the jokes you get to tell a barfing tree. Don’t be afraid to try those chatty utensils are everything and everyone, as some of the best writing is hidden in their responses. I urge you to look up puzzle solutions for the later section of the game, if only to remain in the world and see how everything ends. I do have to wonder if this made any non-fans of point-and-click adventure games into fans or if it was just a one-off for them. Time will tell, and you never know…maybe in twenty years–y’know, after adventure games are claimed dead and done once again–we’ll get another crowd-funded game from Schafer & Company. I’ll play it, but no more wire-based puzzles please.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #33 – Broken Age

2015 games completed gd broken age full

Two young kids, destined
To shake their worlds up, those late
Game puzzles–not fun

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.

Broken Age’s first act clicks it big, but cliffhangs

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Many moons ago, I got in on the hot Kickstarter action that Double Fine snowballed with their plans to make an old-school point-and-click adventure game. Well, a modern one of those, I mean. And since then, I’ve been following along dutifully with the game’s progression–codenamed Reds, truly named Broken Age–via the roughly monthly 2 Player Productions documentary videos, which do a fantastic job of showing how all the pieces ultimately come together to be a final product. Some of it is more interesting than other aspects, but regardless, it’s a rare glimpse into a process generally kept to the shadows. Kudos to Double Fine for being so open, as honest as allowed.

Let’s see, let’s see. Broken Age is, more or less, about death. Some people want it, some won’t ever get it, and some are brought up believing it is their destiny to die. To be more specific, it is about two young teenagers “seeking to break the tradition with their lives.” Vella Tartine is one of the lucky girls to be chosen as a human sacrifice for Mog Chothra, a monstrous, tentacle-tossing beast that eats up people at celebrated events called Maiden’s Feasts. Smartly, she has decided this is not how her life should go. On the flip side, or more like the space side, we have Shay Volta, a young boy living a very cushioned and solitude existence on a spaceship. That is until he meets Marek the wolf, who is probably just a man in wolf’s clothing. With Marek’s prodding, Shay begins to shake things up on the spaceship, which leads to a number of problems. The connection between Vella and Shay, other than thematic, is still not known, though Act 2 will most likely delve into this area of interest.

And so Double Fine set out to create a modern point-and-click adventure game harkening back to the kind Tim Schafer worked on many years ago. Alas, I’ve never played any of those: Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, Maniac Mansion, Grim Fandango, and so on. I know, I know. They are all on my germinating to-do list. However, ever since I chipped in on the Kickstarter, I’ve begun playing a lot more adventure games, each of varying degrees of difficulty, and so I kind of know what they aiming for. That said, Broken Age is pretty easy. The puzzles are never overwhelming and obtuse–absolutely zero pixel hunting–and you only end up with a few items in your inventory and so many screens to explore at a single time. When you run out of ideas, just try every item on everything, and you’ll move forward. Also, ladders are vital. I got through Act 1 just fine, and that’s honestly okay, but I’d love to see more of a challenge in Act 2.

Obviously, Broken Age looks nothing like the games that came out twenty years ago. Though there is a way to unlock retro mode for the fuzzy-loving purists. It’s gorgeous, an absolute treat for the eyes, paintings come to life. The cute, colorful art style comes mainly from Nathan “Bagel” Stapley, and it really enforces the carrot-on-a-string trick of adventure games, where you often just want to see what the next area will look like. I enjoyed Vella’s locations more than Shay’s, but there’s a fantastic amount of detail here, and everything really does look like they exist in a singular world; the documentary vids reveal that, while Stapley did a majority of the art assets, others did work on repainting parts of some scenes, as well as probably other things. Don’t worry about any of that though, just lose yourself in the fluffy, floaty clouds.

Initially, I was put off with the announcement that Broken Age was being split into two separate acts, for financial and deadline-related reasons, all explained in the documentary vids. I mean, I think we can all agree that The Hobbit has suffered greatly from being sliced and diced, though it does work for episodic games like The Walking Dead, but only when it is clearly designed to be episodic. This was not the case, and for now, it’s a bit of a bummer that Broken Age‘s first act ends just as the plot comes together and really gets interesting. I’m sure once act two comes out and you can skip from one to the other in a single breath, it’ll be a much more solid experience. Until then, we’re left alone on a beach, jaws in the sand, waiting and wondering.

2014 Game Completed Comics, #14 – Broken Age (Act 1)

2014 games completed 14 - broken age act 1 facebook

Every videogame that I complete in 2014 will now get its very own wee comic here on Grinding Down. It’s about time I fused my art with my unprofessional games journalism. I can’t guarantee that these comics will be funny or even attempt to be funny. Or look the same from one to another. Some might even aim for thoughtfulness. Comics are a versatile form, so expect the unexpected.

Five things make a post, and I quit thee from my thoughts

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Well, it’s that time again. No, not filing your taxes, though that is coming up in a few months. Sneaky bastard, always creeping up on people like that. But I digress–it’s another roundup post so I can touch on a couple of things real fast without having to devote an entire post to each topic separately, especially since some are less than interesting to analyze. That might not seem like much to you, but for me, I can only string together words so many times in a week without my creativity and passion melting away, and this is the best solution I have.

All right, here we go. Five things.

No more Knytt

I tried. I really did. I probably put in around four to five hours for Knytt Underground‘s chapter three alone, which is, more or less, the main meat of the game, and I literally got nowhere. The point of the final third act is for Mi Sprocket to ring a number of bells–I think it’s five or six–to stop the apocalpyse from happening, and this time, the map is your ocean. You are no longer limited to where you can go, especially now that you also have the bouncy ball powers of Bob at your side. Except that’s not true at all. I constantly hit wall after wall, sometimes literally and other times in the form of locked doors or NPCs requesting specific items to let me pass. Look, I totally understand the point of a Metroidvania game, but for some reason, this one really irked me. It never felt rewarding, and I was never rewarded for anything I did. Quests fizzle out, and you can do a crazy series of bounces and magic power jumps only to pick up some description-less item for your hard work.

All of that said, dang. Dang, dang, dang. I really loved the look of the game, and getting to a new screen was a pure joy, until it just became one new frustrating roadblock after the other. According to the Trophies list, you can beat the game without ringing a single bell, but I’m sure that’s even more difficult than the mainline goal, and so my saved progress will remain underground for good, never to be seen again.

Gears of Insanity

I uninstalled Gears of War from my Xbox 360 this weekend. Before I did that, however, I completed its first act again on its most difficult of difficulty settings, the properly named Insanity difficulty. Usually, I never try the high-end difficulties, as the challenge always seems too brutal, too unfair, but I was curious what it’d be like and whether or not I could do it; turns out, I could, but at the cost of constantly reloading checkpoints, grumbling about useless AI-controlled comrades, and dying in flashes of uncontrolled chaos. Knowing what the remainder of the campaign looked like, I was not interested in finishing it a second time on a much more savage level. Oh well. At least now I made room for Sleeping Dogs and whatever else Gold members get for free this month.

The Fishiest Grind Yet

Some bugs and fish are simply better than others in the world of Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and a lot of that determination depends on what season we’re in. For summer, you want to catch emperor butterflies and all kinds of palm tree-clinging beetles. For the fall, um…I don’t know. Mushrooms, I guess. And for the winter, you want to keep your eyes glued to large shadows in the river at night, because if you’re lucky you can snag a stringfish, which sells at Re-Tail for a whopping 15,000 Bells. In the mighty words of George Takei, “Oh my.” Or should that be OH MY GOSH?!

So yeah, I wouldn’t say I’ve been actively trying to grind out stringfish, but I do walk the river-line back and forth a few times each night before I let the Sandman take over. Still upgrading my house, planning to upgrade town hall, and Bells come and go, but will always be desired.

The Purpose of Art

This is the year that art and my unprofessional game journalism come together, as y’all can probably already see with the comics I’m doing for all my completed games in 2014. I also plan to re-tinker the look of Grinding Down from top to bottom, so expect some new pieces of art to pop up periodically over the next few weeks, as well as some other elements to disappear. Did anyone notice that I got rid of my large list of Achievements? No, didn’t think so. Anyways, I’m still trying to figure out what I want here art-wise, as well as working on other comic projects, but I eventually want this blog to really stand out as something unique, even more than just silly words on images as post headers.

Broken Age Breaks Out

Here’s something crazy: Double Fine’s Kickstarter-funded Broken Age releases today. Well, Part 1 (of 2), that is. Double well, only for backers, which Tara and I are, meaning we will get to play what I can only describe as a visually astounding old-school point-and-click adventure game. I’m excited to finally see the thing in playable, watchable form, as I’ve been following the documentary videos closely now for two years, seeing its creators struggling to produce something both small and grand, something beautiful and instantly recognizable. Hopefully all my adventure game playing will aid me in solving puzzles high up in the sky, as well as in space. You never know what Tim Schafer will throw at you next.