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Last Halloween Double Fine Productions treated us to their first of a series of indie games in development, Costume Quest, which I promptly fell in love with after ten minutes of play time. It was imaginative, witty, and broke interesting new ground on the idea of video games themed around a particular holiday. Double Fine seems intent on testing the waters of settings beyond Halloween, and thus Grubbins on Ice was made available during the holiday season. It’s all the charm, humor, and cute gameplay for another three hours. Even if it does very little as far as expansion packs go there’s nothing wrong with a second helping.

Shortly after the events of Costume Quest, fraternal twins Reynold and Wren return along with friends Everett and Lucy. Lucy is determined to find evidence that the monsters of Repugia from the first game exist, but she gets more than she bargained for when she’s kidnapped through a portal by Repugian leader Araxia.  Reynold, Wren, and Everett set out on a rescue mission, joining the Grubbins in a revolutionary movement to overthrow the oppressive Araxia and prove that you can’t mess with kids in costume.

The setting is the biggest change in Grubbins on Ice. Rather than traversing everyday suburbia Reynold, Wren, and Everett enter Repugia, which is depicted only as Double Fine could envision it. Repugia appears as a warped bizarro-world in comparison to the shopping mall or Halloween fair the first game. Grubbins lounge relaxingly in a green pond while twisted bridges loom over green rivers, mushroom-like fauna and plants line the sides of roads, and Grubbins will even donate candy to help with the “revolutionary efforts” when you trick or treat at their doors. Repugia’s appearance is one so alien to us that we couldn’t imagine anybody inhabiting it despite the Grubbins doing so, and fully embracing this is what makes the new environment a success.

Wait, you’re probably wondering, “How could it possibly make sense to trick or treat with costumes when the game has more of a winter holiday theme?” Remember, this is Repugia we’re in, and we’re celebrating Yeti Fest instead of Halloween. Grubbins on Ice embraces its theme so well that transitioning the trick-or-treating element to a winter theme works well and continues to be fun. Writing and dialogue continue to be sharp and funny as Everett develops a crush on Lucy and your little heroes banter back and forth with Grubbins. “Viva Repugia!” is even used in lieu of “Trick or treat” now, keeping in theme with the Grubbins’ revolution.

In terms of gameplay it’s easier to look at my review of the original game, since very little has changed. You still wander around environments obtaining blueprints and design pieces for costumes, which are an essential part of both Costume Quest and its expansion pack. Costumes often have a unique abilities designed to aid in exploration or bypass obstacles, and when you get into combat with Repugians you still transform into a much more dramatic version of your costume. Combat is turn-based but features timed button presses and different costumes have different specializations and roles.

There are three new absurdly cute costumes in addition to the entire costume arsenal returning from the first game. The Pirate costume lets you slide across zip lines or ropes scattered throughout the world and it has a melee focus in combat. The Eyeball has a special Survey ability that lets you search for hidden clues or secrets by zooming out the world map, while the Yeti costume has no special ability but is immensely powerful in combat. There are also some new battle stamps. Grubbins on Ice basically keeps what works. Costume Quest was memorable because of its writing, charm, humor, and clever gameplay and they’ve all been preserved finely here.

That being said, the usual issues of turn-based combat still persist, like the same reliance on hoping a boss doesn’t use his most dangerous move, especially in later areas of the game when bosses hit harder. The combat also never evolved throughout the original game and the expansion hasn’t done much to refresh or diversify the basic formula. With the exception of more memorable boss battles, by now the fighting may start to seem a little monotonous towards the end of the game.

If you enjoyed Costume Quest enough to add about three hours to it, Grubbins on Ice is a real bargain for five dollars. It keeps everything that made the original game so endearing and winds up being an expansion pack that doesn’t necessarily raise the bar but provides a fun little encore for fans. The game ends with a massive indication that there will be further adventures, though whether this will be more DLC or an outright sequel is yet to be seen.

Rating Category
9.0 Presentation
The charming, whimsical art and punchy dialogue continue to be top notch in the expansion
How does our scoring system work?
7.5 Gameplay
The costumes are still fun for puzzles and combat, even if the turn-based combat is getting a little stale now
8.0 Sound
It's the exact same lighthearted music from the original game, and there's nothing wrong with that
7.0 Longevity
Grubbins on Ice is a lot of fun, but it clocks in at around three hours, although five bucks is a reasonable price
7.0 Overall
At the end of the day, Grubbins on Ice is three more hours of everything that made Costume Quest fun

  1. avatar The Dishwasher

    So, can someone please explain to me the actual purpose for this review? This dlc came out around in December and is obviously holiday themed. It’s now April – why bother? I’m sure there is not one reader out there that was on the fence about this purchase for months, just waiting for what Gamer Limit had to say about it before spending the money to buy it.

    This is honestly a common theme with this site. Weeks to months late reviews, when all of the other, more respected gaming sites/blogs have given their reviews for the new releases. Guys, if you want to actually be respected in the gaming community and not be some niche site that is laughed about and not taken seriously, try to publish reviews in a timely manner like everyone else. Because right now, I’m looking at a holiday/winter themed review in April, and I’m thinking – who cares? And truthfully, it’s not the first time I’ve thought that when viewing content on this site.

    • The fact that we’re always late with reviews is incorrect. I pushed out New Vegas’ Dead Money DLC review before IGN: I was the first person on Metacritic to drop that review. The same goes for Raskulls, and quite a few other titles.

      Honestly, we can’t be first for everything. We were knee-deep in tons of other reviews around the time this came out: recently, Michael said “can I do Grubbins on Ice?”, and we said “sure”.

      How does the review hurt you in any way? If you already bought Grubbins on Ice, you don’t have to read the review. If you haven’t bought the DLC, maybe you have some insight as to whether or not it’s worth the full asking price. The key ingredient here is that it’s listed on Metacritic and Gamerankings for all time’s sake – if anyone wants to make a purchase from this day forward (heck, maybe Christmas 2011), they have an extra tool to make a purchasing decision.

      From my perspective, it’s really hard to manage 5+ reviews a week, especially when 2-3 of them are lengthy, big budget affairs.

      But from your perspective, I can easily see that a lot of smaller downloadable titles would get lost in the mix, so I appreciate the input.

    • Nobody expressed interest in Grubbins on Ice when it was first released, and I decided to do a review because I enjoyed the original when I reviewed it. When you talk about reviews as if they’re some race to see who can publish their opinion first that raises unfortunate implications about what people want from the industry.

      I did a review for Lord of Arcana, which IGN has yet to do a review for. Have you complained to IGN about this?

  2. avatar Bolo

    Trolls unite!

  3. avatar The Dishwasher

    Mike,

    Please, do not compare you, or this site, to IGN in any way or fashion. That’s like comparing a McDonalds cheeseburger (Gamerlimit) to a $150 Kobe beef burger (IGN). Also, Bolo shouldn’t be talking about trolls uniting like it’s a bad thing. It actually gives this site traffic for once.

    • You might want to go back and read my comment because I never actually compared myself or Gamer Limit to IGN. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend your time calling out IGN for “late” reviews if you have such a problem with them, what with you holding IGN in such regard?

      That being said, for someone who seems to consider this a ‘niche’ site I appreciate your taking time to read my review.

  4. avatar The Dishwasher

    Mike,

    Thanks for your appreciation. I look forward to your review of LittleBigPlanet2 in the upcoming weeks.

  5. avatar Johnny Appleseed

    Just wanted to say thanks for the review. Ign didn’t have it on their site a d yours came right up. I got this free from PS plus last year Nd just got to it now and wanted to see if the dlc was any good. This review helped out a lot! Thanks!

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