Sad to say, but I’m not really super familiar with Tim Shafer’s work. I know I should be, and eventually I’ll get around to rectifying this. Regardless, the one game of Shafer’s that I’ve played to completion, Costume Quest, is a fun little throwback to a more innocent era–both in gaming, and life more generally.
As a game per se, Costume Quest doesn’t offer any real innovation. If anything, it’s several steps back toward old-school turn-based RPGs (especially Super Mario RPG). But gameplay is really not the reason to play a game like Costume Quest. This is about nostalgia in its most positive, unproblematic form: nostalgia both for an earlier generation of games, as well as for the time in our own lives when trick-or-treating was not only an option (alas that ’tis not so still!) but an obligation. The game is about two kids who go out trick-or-treating one Halloween, only to discover that actual monsters are invading their town and stealing all the candy. They discover, too, that their costumes actually grant them magical powers with which they can fight the encroaching goblins. That’s about the size of it.
The game drips with delightful, candy-corn-colored imagery: haystacks and scarecrows and jack-o’-lanterns abound, as do bats and black cats and witches and all the other staples of Halloween as many of us (in the US, at least) remember it from our youths. Trick-or-treating itself is actually an important part of gameplay, as you gain currency primarily by knocking on doors and gathering candy.
The game’s a bit overpriced over on Steam at the moment ($14.95 at writing), but it periodically goes on sale and is worth grabbing when it does.