The World of Costume Quest: A Love Letter to Halloween
Halloween is my favorite holiday, and sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect words to express exactly why that is. Lucky for me, a video game called Costume Quest came out in 2010 and it explains it all better than I ever could. Costume Quest is the ultimate love letter to Halloween. It is the embodiment of why Halloween is my favorite Holiday.
Because Costume Quest so perfectly captures the essence of what makes Halloween so magical, it should come as no surprise that its creator, Tasha Sounart, can very eloquently describe her inspiration:
“As a child, I always thought the setting of Halloween would make a very cool game. There were just so many things I loved about it - the exploration of the darkened neighborhood with a pack of friends, the brightly lit pumpkins on all the doorsteps, the slight smell of smoke coming from the chimneys, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot. Oh, and there was always the intense candy trading session that followed.”
Talk about putting Halloween in good hands right? Sounart also pointed out that it was important to her to “emphasize the contrast between the kids’ more mundane, “normal” suburban lives, and the epic, powerful world of their imaginations.” Double Fine absolutely nailed this goal in their design of the game, because the power of the child’s imagination is on full display in the world of Costume Quest.
One of my steadfast beliefs is that it is a parent’s sacred duty to stoke the fires of a child’s imagination for as long as possible. Nothing embodies childhood innocence like imagination, and Halloween is the undisputed king of the imagination. All of the various entries in the world of Costume Quest do a remarkable job putting those beliefs into action up to this point, and there’s even more to come.
The Video Game (2010)
Designed by Double Fine and Published by THQ
This is where it all started. When I first played Costume Quest it filled my heart to the brim with beautiful Halloween nostalgia. The neighborhood you live in was clearly crafted with a lot of care, and it feels like Sounart was able to put all of those detailed Halloween memories she described right into the screen.
You start out by choosing to play as the brother or the sister, and then you immediately set off trick-or-treating in your neighborhood. You actually get to trick-or-treat in this game, which is awesome, but the bad news is that some of the houses have monsters inside. Sometimes you get candy, but sometimes a monster opens the door and you have to battle. What sets off the big adventure is that your brother or sister is dressed up as a giant candy corn, and one of the monsters mistakes your sibling for an actual piece of giant candy. The monster runs off with him or her and it’s up to you to bring them back safely.
The way that Sounart and the team at Double Fine accomplished their mission to highlight the powerful imagination of children is through the game’s costume system. Throughout the game you collect new costumes to wear. When you enter into a battle you actually transform into a real-life version of whatever costume you are wearing - complete with special attacks and super powers. Different costumes also unlock new abilities that help you progress past various roadblocks and puzzles scattered throughout the world.
The combination of the perfect Halloween atmosphere and this ingenious focus on costumes and imagination makes Costume Quest a very special experience for fans of Halloween. Just like Halloween itself, it’s hard to name all of the things that make me love it so much. It feels like a Halloween TV special brought to life. It reminds me of trick-or-treating as a kid. It masterfully captures the atmosphere of a fall Halloween night. It’s made to be a very family-friendly game that parents and children would both want to play, and it’s a game my son thinks about and asks to play quite often.
After the success of the original video game, Costume Quest went on to have a sequel made - Costume Quest 2. While Sounart was no longer involved because of her new job with Pixar, the game had her blessing. I’m more partial to the original, but my son actually often asks specifically for Costume Quest 2.
Check out the original trailer for Costume Quest below and you’ll get a good idea of how special this game is.
The Graphic Novel (2014)
Written & Illustrated by Zac Gorman
Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers came soon after and expanded the world of Costume Quest. The cartoonist Zac Gorman did a wonderful job bringing the look and feel of the Costume Quest world to print.
There is a candy shortage in Repugia and three monsters travel to the human world through a portal on Halloween night to collect candy to bring home.
The interesting twist on the formula here is that these three Grubbins are actually the protagonists of the book. Not all monsters are bad guys. Both worlds have their fair share of good guys and bullies. And it’s really fun to see the innocent love and excitement for Halloween through the eyes of these monsters experiencing it for the first time.
Gorman took the veil of childhood innocence and imagination that covered Costume Quest, and he placed it over the eyes of these three monsters. In essence it’s like they’re children trick-or-treating for the first time and having their minds blown. In many ways the graphic novel celebrates all of the same magical things about Halloween from that fun new perspective.
But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my favorite part of this book by far is the very last page before the endpapers. Gorman shows that he totally gets this special world, and he absolutely nails the beauty of Costume Quest and Halloween with a 1-page comic.
“On Halloween, we take our costumes off and you can see us as we see ourselves.”
What an incredible, subtle, heartfelt comic - just tucked away at the very back of the book. I absolutely love it. Kids get to be kids - that’s what it’s all about. What a great holiday and a job well done by Zac Gorman. The love for Halloween in Invasion of the Candy Snatchers is so overwhelming we had to put this graphic novel on our list of the best Halloween picture books.
The TV Show (2019)
Produced by Frederator Studios and Amazon Studios
Here’s truly the most exciting part. Costume Quest is being turned into a new show on Amazon Prime! Partnering up to produce this very exciting project are Amazon Studios and Frederator Studios - perhaps most famous for the legendary Adventure Time. We can barely contain ourselves!
According to Frederator, here’s what you have to look forward to:
“Legions of supernatural monsters are planning to invade Auburn Pines on Halloween night, and it’s down to a group of twelve year old friends—along with an ever-changing line-up of magical costumes—to save their hometown.”
Currently at the helm is Will McRobb, most famous for co-creating The Adventures of Pete and Pete, as well as working on Doug and The Ren & Stimpy Show. Not that I needed any more reason to be extremely excited about Costume Quest on TV, but, sure, we might as well let the guy who worked on three of my favorite childhood shows make it. Pete and Pete earns and deserves a lot of praise for capturing the feelings of being young, and that’s a skill that will come in handy in the magical world of Costume Quest.
Be on the lookout because the show is slated to debut on Amazon Prime in 2019. I for one can’t wait to go back to Auburn Pines, and have high hopes for this return to the magical world of Costume Quest.
Have you ever played Costume Quest or read the graphic novel? Are you looking forward to the new show as much as we are? Let your Halloween excitement spill out into the comment section.