I loved Costume Quest. I loved its Earthbound-influenced gameplay mixed with its appealing art style and enhanced by its trademark Double Fine humor. Consequently, I was escatic about the availability of Grubbins on Ice, a DLC add-on that is essentially a new level for the game at a price that's proportionate.
This time around, the season is not autumn but winter, and the setting is not in and around the neighborhood of Auburn Heights. In fact, Wren and Reynold, along with their newly acquired friends Lucy and Everett, pass through a portal at the game's start to enter the world of Repugnia, where Lucy is summarily kidnapped. In their efforts to save her, the three playable heroes support a revolution being plotted by the (surprisingly politically active) Grubbins, dress up as a Yeti, and encounter a self-promotion for Stacking nearly as shameless as the "Ask Me About LOOM" SCUMM Bar patron. Also, they battle monsters. Gameplay-wise, Grubbins is identical to Costume Quest, and the costumes collected in the first game are carried over for the turn-based battles. It would be tempting to dub this "Level 4" if not for the fact that it's more or less self contained. The continued prominence of trick-or-treating and related activities when Halloween isn't in season is, of course, not something Double Fine fails to address in a comical way, and it's amusing to witness the bad guys from Costume Quest depicted as the allies here. Gamers are accustomed to the re-use and re-purposing of characters models and environments and are conditioned to accept the stretching of one game worth of assets into two games worth of content. Grubbins on Ice represents Double Fine's culpability in this practice, and they make their awareness known through that "I know you know" humor that tends to elevate their games from good to, you know, good and funny.
Costume Quest and its welcome extension is a strangely nostalgic experience in some ways, because it harkens back to a time of 16-bit console goodness where gameplay was measured by how fun it was rather than its complexity. Knock off a dimension, and Costume Quest could very well have been that Super NES or Genesis title on which you gambled the cost of a game rental one weekend and which turned out to be a huge winner. As I collect battle stamps, bob for apples eyeballs and play hide and seek, I'm reminded somewhat of LEC's Zombies Ate My Neighbors. True, Costume Quest is an adventure/RPG as opposed to a punishingly difficult two player shoot-em-up, but both games, with their addictive, arcade-like gameplay and self-parodying style, seem fueled by a similar spirit, one that makes you go, "Remember when games were like this?"
Grubbins on Ice ends on more than a suggestion that there could be more adventures ahead. As someone who will shamelessly admit to not being able to get enough of this stuff, I would have no qualms about seeing my game menu populated with more selections. With how busy Double Fine looks to be in the near future, I don't know how long a wait to expect before additional installments in this series are dispersed, but for now Costume Quest and Grubbins on Ice account for a couple of worthwhile hours of pure quality. I don't know what holiday/season should play host next, but hopefully the powers-that-be realize that there is no time of year that candy doesn't go with.
Jason researched this game by dressing up in costume and asking strangers for candy. Unfortunately, the 'costume' he chose was 'Somali Pirate,' and he was soon arrested.