Let’s start with the good news. There’s a lot to love about this re-release of 2008’s Nintendo DS real-time strategy title from US-based developers 5th Cell. For the most part, it’s a lovely hybrid of tower-defence, real-time strategy, intermixed with a few light RPG elements. This time around, however, the port has been handled by Digital Continue, and it’s a shame that a lot of what worked well in the Nintendo DS original, has come undone in this newly-fangled console version. The most prominent issue is that the controls just haven’t translated very well to traditional controllers, which unfortunately hamstrings the overall experience significantly.
The kingdom has been set upon by a clockwork army created and led by a cantankerous antagonist dubbed Lord Agony. Caught in the middle of the action is Lock and his family, who reside in an idyllic seaside fishing town, eking out a humble, stress-free existence. That’s only until (cue ominous music), the clockwork army invades Lock’s village in their bid to extinguish the life of a royal Archineer named Isaiah. These Archineers take on an important role within the game — essentially, they’re special builders who use a mysterious energy called Source to erect constructions, defensive turrets and traps. In the hullabaloo, Lock loses his sister Emi, and as a result of this, Lock enlists as an Archineer to find his sister and protect the kingdom from the growing threat of the clockwork army.
The gameplay revolves around two phases — a build phase and a real-time action phase. The build phase plays out like a traditional tower-defence game, only with a time-limit. The timer varies from stage-to-stage, but players usually have around a couple of minutes to set up their automated defences before the clockwork onslaught assault your base. The game drip-feeds you with a plethora of defensive weaponry; basic gun turrets, flak cannons, acid bombs, poison traps, to name but a few. Building walls adjacent to the turrets upgrade their defensive capabilities, which comes in handy when the clockwork army are coming thick and fast, laying waste to all that stands in their way. Building defences costs Source, which is also accrued from defeating enemies.
In the second real-time action phase, you play as Lock, running around like a blue-arsed fly repairing your weaponry, attacking the clockwork foes and defending a specific, important position of the map from being overrun. Combat boils down to quick-time events, which often feels a little clunky, but gets the job done. As you progress, Lock gains access to some neat, special abilities that help him protect the base from the nasties the game throws at you.
It’d be remiss of me not to mention the gorgeous pixel-art that the developers have crafted here. Each sprite is beautifully realised, wonderfully detailed and really jumps off the screen. If you have a penchant for old-school 2D art - like me - you’ll be in for a treat with this title. On the other hand, the game’s music is made up of some fairly decent bombastic electronica, but is nothing to particularly write home about.
All in all, Lock’s Quest is a pretty fun time. You unlock new structures and towers at a fairly steady clip, and new monsters and bosses are thrown into the mix to further spice things up, too. However, the first phase’s building mechanics are wonky, at best. I can imagine that placing defences using Nintendo DS’ stylus to drag and drop would be much smoother, though, as it stands, this port’s console controls feel incredibly unwieldy and clunky in comparison. These control quirks take the shine off a neat and sweet gameplay experience, which is a mighty shame.
Lock's Quest (Reviewed on Xbox One)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
There’s definitely fun to be had in Lock’s Quest, it’s just unfortunately locked behind a wall of frustrating control issues.