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Lock's Quest (DS) artwork

Lock's Quest (DS) review


"One normally would not equate being an engineer or an architech with having a 'fun, eventful career'. While both certainly make lots of money and still do field work, they also tend to be fairly droll overall, consisting mostly of long-term projects in which technical detail has to be redone/redrawn and refined over and over again and adjustments need to be made over the course of a project in progress. I should know: my sister is an engineer. "



One normally would not equate being an engineer or an architech with having a 'fun, eventful career'. While both certainly make lots of money and still do field work, they also tend to be fairly droll overall, consisting mostly of long-term projects in which technical detail has to be redone/redrawn and refined over and over again and adjustments need to be made over the course of a project in progress. I should know: my sister is an engineer.

Lock, the titular hero of Lock's Quest, only wishes he could have such a dull life. Thrust into the middle of a war between humanity and 'Clockworks', mechanical beings fueled by an energy called Source, Lock is an archineer: part-architect, part-engineer. Whereas the regular knights and soldiers of the Kingdom Defense Force that Lock becomes a part of can only maneuver and fight off the Clockworks, Lock earns his fame by building towers and turrets to repulse the enemies, and fighting at the same time.The game can be perhaps best described as an action game with slight RTS elements and the feel of the classic tower defense (the game even goes so far as to push a classic tower defense mini-game to advance through certain sections of your playthrough), played from the isometric perspective.

It is not quite as complicated as it first is made out to be. A battle is usually split into two separate parts: in the first, the 'Building Phase', the player is given the current battlefield map. A part of the map will have a grid overlayed on top of it, and these are the squares where the player can drag and release walls to block Clockworks, turrets to attack them, and a dozen other helpers and traps that have assorted effects. When entering the 'Battle Phase', Clockworks will spawn at set points throughout the map by their lonesome, in pairs, and often in larger groups, with their points indicated on a map on the top screen. The player can guide Lock around by tapping and holding down on a point on the touch screen, and Lock will run over there. The archineer can then be guided to actually attack a Clockwork, and then back off, regenerating his health at a steady rate.

You will need it, because the Clockworks are a truly militant force, bent on only one goal: capturing Source Wells, the same target that Lock must protect in most missions. The Clockworks need to capture it to use as an energy supply, while destroying a Clockwork causes them to release Source, which Lock can use to repair buildings during the Battle Phase and to add onto his defenses during the next Building Phase.

Source will become a valuable resource later on in the 100-Day War, with each day representing a single battle. As the war drags on, new Clockworks will be introduced: long-range Archers, ramming-like Brutes, the annoying Healers, invisible Phantoms, and Burrowers who can go underground and skip through your walls and towers. Eventually, each Clockwork type gets two stat upgrades, becoming more powerful and resilient to damage. Conversely, Lock can also build his towers, walls and helpers with stronger materials, progresing from wood to stone to metal and finally spiked wood. Each upgrade in the material costs more and more Source, forcing the player to keep a conservative hand on his resource use.

The incrementalism of the game works incredibly well, too, with introducing new things that Lock can build. Turrets shoot out bullets at enemies: while the most basic one causes damage, another causes radius damage, while yet another spits out acid that. Helpers are other buildings that give or boost a quality to nearby turrets: one can increase the range of turrets, one can increase the damage caused, and another will reveal the aforementioned invisible Clockwork Phantoms, allowing them to be hit by turrets. Traps are one battle usage items that can be devastating when combined effectively, such as overlaying the field of effects of an Acidwire Trap, which slowly damages a Clockwork, and a Freeze Snare, which freezes them for a few seconds.

Lock himself also gets stronger, as well. When Lock fights a Clockwork, he slowly does damage to the opposition: however, he can cause more damage by performing one of several touch-screen techniques. The first is easy: all the player merely need do is tap three to five on-screen numbers in order from least to greatest. Eventually, he can spin a wheel to spit acid at a Clockwork, pull sliders back and forth to drain their HP away, or pull up or down on icons to freeze them in their tracks. As the archineer player-character deals and takes hits, a metre bar also fills up. When it is halfway full, he can execute a Special Attack that can injure all enemies on the map, repair any structures on the map, or cause Clockworks to drop more Source when destroyed.

That said, Lock's Quest is not without its flaws. The most pervasive one is the path-finding system when a Clockwork horde converges in on a target, or when the player directs Lock somewhere. Should the character get caught on an obstacle such as a tree or a wall, it or he will be stuck there, in the latter case until the player directs Lock elsewhere. Overlaying Traps together in front of walls to slow down Clockworks before they can attack anything else also severely unbalances the game: only the fact that they are a one-time use before disappearing after the battle keeps them from completely breaking gameplay.

Perhaps the most damning is the touch screen. While I usually had no problems, there were often times where I would tap something, and it would not register. This particularly is a nuisance when fighting Clockworks: for Lock to 'lock on' (pardon the pun) to a Clockwork, you must first tap the foe you intend to fight, which can be difficult at times.

Also, a large majority of the missions in any given area tend to be repeats of each other, sometimes being the exact same, sometimes with slight variation. I did enjoy the Days that were unique in their machination, however: for example, on several days there were 'Boss' Clockworks that were heavily beefed-up versions of regular Clockworks that needed to be destroyed. Another mission involves chasing down a runaway spy Clockwork before it got away. While these were few and usually far in between, they were fairly enjoyable.

One thing that may be a bit of a hit-or-miss is the art style employed by Lock's Quest. Areas are usually bright and colourful, with a few darker spots, giving the feel of a kid's game. However, with the exception of the ugly portraits, Lock's Quest is an overall pretty game with good aesthetics for those who do not mind the liberal use of colour. The sound works fairly well in conjunction with the moment, with the battle music being well-done, a couple of steps above tolerable.

All said and done, Lock's Quest is an excellent title that takes advantage of the Nintendo DS's touchscreen. While it does have its flaws, most of these could be corrected with slightly more powerful hardware, tinkering around, and the general feedback that 5th Cell has inevitably gotten since its release. With Scribblenauts 2 on its way, who knows? All in all, it definitely is a solid game, and is a good pick for anybody who prefers games that play out like action RPGs with some strategy elements.

7/10


Rating: 7/10

darkstarripclaw's avatar
Community review by darkstarripclaw (April 08, 2010)

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