Tower defense games are a dime a dozen. On practically every casual gaming site, there’s a game where you have to build defenses and defend against waves of baddies, upgrading and improving your defenses when necessary. On the surface, Lock’s Quest is just another one of these games.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, Lock’s Quest tells the tale of Lock, a budding archineer, who are renowned for their skill at building defenses. When Lord Agony begins building an army out of clockworks, or evil machines, Lock is drawn into the fight and must help save the land, one wall at a time.
The developers of Lock’s Quest faced a unique challenge. Lock’s Quest seems to have the same problem that similar games like Puzzle Quest have. On the surface, Puzzle Quest was just Bejeweled with quests around it. Similarly, Lock’s Quest seems just like any other tower defense game, of which there are many. So what makes Lock’s Quest special? Is it worth getting only if you’re a fan of tower defense games, or is there more to it than that?
The DS has been home to a 2-D renaissance, and Lock’s Quest continues this trend with highly detailed sprites. Characters have personality, so much so that you can’t tell which are generic NPCs from main characters. This is a good thing, because so many games have piles of generic NPCs littering the game world. It makes it easier to care about the characters when they don’t look so homogenic.
However, it pains me to say this: Lock’s Quest might have been better in 3-D. There were many times where I wanted to rotate the screen to get a better view of the action. Sure, a lot of the items become transparent when necessary, but some don’t. Occasionally, I wasted valuable time trying to figure out if there was a gap in a wall, when I would have been able to sort it out in a second by rotating the map. Still, they were able to fit in a lot of detail, so I can’t really fault them for the decision.
The sound and music in Lock’s Quest is phenomenal. It’s suitably dramatic and adds a gravitas to the game that might have otherwise been missing. With any other music, Lock’s Quest might have been a cutesy little wall-building game, but instead it feels epic. Frankly, it feels far more epic than it had a right to be. Good job, 5th Cell.
The Achilles’ heel of Lock’s Quest has to be the controls. Placing fortifications is done with the stylus, and while walls do snap into place, you can still waste valuable time trying to place a wall just so. Sometimes, the wall will try to snap into place where you don’t want it, or the placement just feels a little awkward. It’s not bad, and they did what they could, but it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.
Lock’s movement can be handled either with the stylus or the D-pad, but the camera also uses similar controls. Sometimes, you’ll end up moving the camera instead of Lock, and then you have to snap the camera back into place above Lock in order to continue. Also, since walls and fortifications do not become transparent when you are behind them, you may think you’re repairing one wall and be repairing another. Once again, nothing horrible here, but still obnoxious.
Gameplay in Lock’s Quest is measure in days, and is divided into two sections. There is a build phase, where you place your fortifications, turrets, mines and drones in order to protect your objective. You are usually supplied with some friendly soldiers who man their positions, so that if there is a breach in your defenses, your objective will still have some protection.
Then, during the combat phase, you guard against the attack. Sometimes it’s for a set amount of time and sometimes you defend until you complete a certain goal. During the second phase, you can repair structures that have been damaged and attack opponents hand-to-hand. It’s when you go on the offensive that the game is at its weakest, but the rest is great. Then, the day ends and you start over with the next day’s work.
Whenever your repair a fortification or attack an enemy, at the bottom of the screen appears a little minigame. Sometimes it’s just turning a crank with the stylus, or tapping numbers in a sequence. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated, but it’s always a lot of fun.
During battle, enemies will sometimes drop scrap. If you collect enough pieces of scrap, you can make new fortifications, turrets or other things. These are made in a brief, non-timed minigame where you try and figure out which pieces of scrap go together to form your new weapon. Once again, 5th Cell went for fun and made this part non-threatening and enjoyable. You’re in no rush to do it, and you can’t fail.
My only real complaints have to do with how the controls work along with the gameplay. As mentioned before, if you can’t see what you’re repairing sometimes you can lose a valuable wall or turret, throwing your whole plan into chaos. On top of that, I’m not really very good at tower defense games in general, so I found myself quite frequently with my pants down and everybody pointing and laughing in a proverbial sense.
The good news is that 5th Cell knew this, so they gave Lock’s Quest some extra-forgiving features. If you realize a couple of days into a scenario that you’ve made a gigantic mistake from the outset, you can restart the whole scenario over again from the beginning with no penalty. It’s decisions like these that make sure you’ll never get too frustrated with Lock’s Quest.
Lock’s Quest is a rare find. There really aren’t a lot of games like it on the market, so there really isn’t a whole lot of comparison. It comes down to whether or not you like tower defense games. If you do, the value is through the roof. If you’re like me and find them appealing but not amazing, you’ll still enjoy the game nonetheless.