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Lock's Quest Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Even though I ran into some frustrating technical issues, that didn't stop me from wanting to play through the entire adventure. There's just something about the building and fighting loop that kept me engaged, and I love how the developers are constantly adding new ideas to the formula. While part of me wishes this was a proper sequel and not a port, I'm happy that a new audience will finally have a chance to discover one of the Nintendo DS's most delightful adventure games. Rating: 71%
Lock's Quest
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When THQ Nordic announced that they would be digging through the back catalog and re-releasing some of their older games, many figured they would focus on big franchises like Saints Row and Darksiders. And while that's largely what they've done so far, I'm excited to see that a nine year old Nintendo DS game called Lock's Quest has also been given the HD treatment. I suddenly can't wait to see what long-forgotten gem they pull out of their bag next.

Even if you've never heard of Lock's Quest, chances are you know the developer. This is from 5th Cell, the Washington-based studio that brought us quirky games like Drawn to Life and Scribblenauts. What this game lacks in gimmicks it more than makes up for with a clever battle system that feels like a cross between Final Fantasy Tactics, Rampart and tower defense. This is a winning combination that may actually be the best thing 5th Cell has ever created.


What we have here is the story of Lock, a spikey-haired kid that lives in a peaceful beach community. But this isn't all sun-bathing and sandcastles, because our hero's world is rocked when Lord Agony sends his Clockwork army to take revenge on a kingdom he once helped build. If that wasn't bad enough, Lock's little sister has gone missing and his hometown has been reduced to rubble. This has not been a good day.

With family on the mind, Lock sets out to find his sister and figure out how to stop an army made up entirely of robots. Of course, it doesn't take long for the little guy to get caught up in a war spreading across the entire continent. This is a chance for the beach bum to show off his wall building skills and become a proud member of the Archineers.

What does all this mean exactly? Well, it's simple. Lock's job is to construct a series of walls and weapons to keep the robots from destroying the base, killing the guards or taking all of our energy reserves. This is where the Rampart comparison comes in. You have two minutes to surround the thing you're protecting and get ready for the waves of enemies. Once the round starts, you'll run around the map punching bad guys and repairing damaged equipment. After time runs out, you're back to rebuilding the base and fighting some more. Once you've done this a few times, you'll watch a cinema and move on to the next challenge.

When you're not erecting walls, you'll be running around and going head-to-head with the robots. This is not a typical tower defense game where all you do is sit back and hope for the best, because this is a game about brawling. Instead of just mashing the attack button, Lock is able to perform a multi-hit combo by reacting to a series of quick-time events. If you can punch the required buttons in time, you'll do more damage and increase your power gauge. To help out, we're able to pull off a series of magic spells that will impact every enemy on the screen. The key is to find the balance between fighting enemies, using magic and relying on the gun turrets you constructed to do their job.

Lock's Quest (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

What I like about the combat is how it's constantly adding a new wrinkle. Every time I thought I had it completely figured out, they would change things up and force me to reconsider my strategy. You're creating new types of weapons, learning different spells and meeting unusual enemies. You'll go from fighting in small areas where you can use the bombed-out walls to your advantage to fighting in wide-open maps where the enemies are coming from all sides and there's no place to run. There are also missions where all you'll do is fight, no building required.

Despite being close to a decade old, Lock's Quest doesn't really show its age. Unfortunately, what it does show is the limitations of the original hardware. There are a number of times where it felt painfully obvious that this is a port of a Nintendo DS game. For one thing, you'll spend a lot of the time in only a handful of maps. 5th Cell gets the most out of these familiar backgrounds, but it would have been nice to see a little more variety in each battle. It's also short, especially compared to a lot of other strategy role-playing games of the era.

On that note, I wish there was a little more to the role-playing. You're never earning experience points or spending money on new equipment. All of the upgrades and weapons you get are part of the linear story, which isn't as much fun as scrolling through items at the store. This is the type of thing you would likely see in a proper sequel. But alas, this is just a port.

While some of the elements feel held back by the original hardware, that doesn't apply to the graphics. This game has a striking pixel art design that still looks great. The characters, backgrounds and enemies are all nice and crisp, making this one of the better Nintendo DS ports I've seen. There's a timeless quality to the presentation, and I'm not sure there's all that much I would want changed.

Lock's Quest (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

What I would change are the outrageous technical problems I ran into while playing through Lock's Quest on PC. While there's a chance the console versions are flawless ports, the version I played was kind of a train wreck. The game would freeze on me, crash and not let me exit with a controller. If that's not bad enough, there were times when losing a fight meant I had to control-alt-delete my way back to the desktop in order to close the game and restart from the checkpoint. And then there are the blank screens where nothing happens. I'm not sure what happened, but the PC version definitely needs a patch or two. Hopefully the console ports are more stable.

Even though I ran into some frustrating technical issues, that didn't stop me from wanting to play through the entire adventure. There's just something about the building and fighting loop that kept me engaged, and I love how the developers are constantly adding new ideas to the formula. While part of me wishes this was a proper sequel and not a port, I'm happy that a new audience will finally have a chance to discover one of the Nintendo DS's most delightful adventure games.
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