In my everyday life I do the normal work-home-work-home-weekend thing. I spend a lot of time during the ‘home’ periods playing various video and board games in true lazy nerd fashion. Lately, however, we have been doing the whole Christmas thing-attending holiday parties, visiting family, baking cookies, crafting, etc. during our free time. Last year we decided to make gifts instead of purchase them, and although our masterpieces slightly resembled sixth grade art projects (only without the glitter and macaroni), we were quite satisfied with the results and our friends & families were happy, so this year we are crafting again. So in between all of the festivities I have only been able to play a few games here and there and I won’t lie, it’s mostly Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood multiplayer. But before you groan and turn back to your game of Bejeweled 3, let me assure you that unlike the last few weeks, this post has nothing to do with ACB. It’s about Costume Quest! The greatest holiday game ever! Okay, so maybe that holiday is Halloween, but don’t fret, the newest DLC, Grubbins on Ice, is sort of Christmas themed. Well…there’s snow and um, festive string lights…
Choosing my favorite downloadable for 2010 has been tough. On one hand, Limbo was the most beautiful and eerie platformer I have ever played-and incredibly poignant to boot, even though the narrative was painted in suggestion alone. And Deathspank made me laugh and fight for underpants, creating a great experience even if there were no real investment factors beyond the usual RPG XP and weaponry climb. But after a lot of contemplation, I would have to say that Costume Quest comes out high and above all of the other small titles I played in 2010. I wrote all about it last October, so I won’t reiterate all of the reasons I loved it so much, but let me just say that if Double Fine wants to release a chapter for all of the upcoming holidays and still have the main characters carry little pumpkin pails to collect the relevant candy I would be perfectly satisfied.
The newest DLC, Grubbins on Ice, takes our little heroes to Repugnia, the land where the monstrous villains escaped from in the original game, via an ominous portal that has popped up on a snowy playground in Auburn Heights. Instead of fighting the monsters from the first game, however, the kids are fighting a new breed of bad that has kidnapped their friend, Lucy. A revolution is brewing amongst the Grubbins, and Wren, Reynold & Everett use their trick-or-treating skills to help recruit new members to the cause. Although I am currently having some difficulties finding the right combination of costumes and battle stamps to beat the Big Boss, I am no less enamored of the DLC than I was with the original. And even though the intensity of the Halloween theme has been appropriately dimmed, the collecting and exploring fun remains the same. Three new costumes are acquired, the pirate, the Yeti and the eyeball-I am QUITE fond of the pirate and his special move, “Dead Men Tell No Tales”, where the cut scene animation shows pieces of gold, parrots, crowns and cannons all within a five second time period. What’s not to like? The Yeti builds a mighty shield and the eyeball…well, it was gross so I never wore it during battle. Um…I will try it tonight, I swear.
So was it very Christmasy? Nah. And I don't believe it was intended to be. But it does create a winter atmosphere that is just as pervasive as the autumn one in the original, with blankets of snow covering everything and icy caves to explore. Snow…dinosaurs (?) line some of the paths and give up candy after a swift smack from a pumpkin pail. Some of the Grubbin homes have blue and white twinkly lights draped over their doorways and wide Santa belts around their middles. Turning on the incredibly bright blue and white LED string lights in my dining room prior to starting certainly added some solstice/winter ambiance as well. A systematic and repetitive quest pattern is still very evident in Grubbins, with three different tiers of land divided by doorways that only open once a series of tasks has been completed. It warms my completionist heart to fully explore every corner of a landscape and be rewarded for it. For a game that was designed around a specific holiday, it could have faltered under the weight of its niche, but I thought they balanced the innocent, childlike spirit of the game in a new environment quite successfully. Grubbins on Ice is a couple of hours long, which is roughly half of the time I spent playing Costume Quest, so a 50% increase in game via an inexpensive DLC ($5) is definitely worth it in my book.
On a side note, the gentlemen over at Silicon Sasquatch have performed an incredible feat and bound the first year (or so) of their fantastic blog in book form over at Blurb.com with all proceeds going to Child’s Play Charity. While it may be too late to give the book to your favorite gamer as a Christmas gift, it’s never too late to support community blogging and Child’s Play!