Review: Lock’s Quest (Game for Nintendo DS)

Summary: Surprised me…

Pros: Excellent music, great replay value, good game-play variety.

Cons: Can get monotonous, can’t skip lengthy title screens when starting the cartridge, a little frustrating at times.

 

Game Cover from Best Buy

Game Cover

This is one of those games I would never have thought to get for myself. It looked like just another run-of-the-mill RPG, but then the product description mentioned something about building fortresses and I wondered if I might like it.
You see, ever since I was a young child I have been obsessed with castles, fortresses and defensive architecture. If you’ve ever had an interest in any of those things, this game might be for you.
This game is an effective mix of some of the best elements of Desktop Tower Defense, Defend Your Castle and the Final Fantasy series. Ok, so maybe not the best elements of those games, but it’s a delightful blend of features borrowed from all of those games (or games like them).
If you’re familiar with Desktop Tower Defense, you’ll be used to ideas like building walls, slowing the advance of the enemy to give turrets more time to attack, strategically placing and strengthening offensive and defensive weapons, and using weapons that do a variety of attacks for ground or airborn enemies.
In Lock’s Quest you are an “archineer” – that’s the job title, though you’re really just a nobody from a small village – who is given the task of defending important things or people from the invading “clockwork” army. You build walls, turrets, gates, traps and many other defensive implements with the aim of defending a “source” well (source is what the people in this universe use to build things, among other nifty uses), some soldiers, or who knows what else. From there, Lock’s Quest departs from the Desktop Tower Defense model and adds some cool new features – like prototyping new weapons before being able to build them (a fun puzzle-like segment of the game), and ocasionally having to man a turret tower.
Battles are fought day by day (a system closely related to Defend Your Castle – you even see the sun travelling across the screen) and at the beginning of each day you must repair and add to your defenses. One of the best parts of the battle sequences is that you don’t have to just sit there and watch the little robot dudes tear your walls down and smash your turrets. Your character, Lock, can run around repairing damaged units and even engage in combat. Throughout the game you learn new moves for attacking (all of them simple to execute), but you must watch your health bar to avoid fainting.
There are other modes as well, such as wandering around talking to people, and a side view mode where you are manning a turret. You purchase upgrades for the turret at the end of each day, and blast enemies as they come toward the wall and attack. This portion of the game reminds me of Defend Your Castle, without being able to fling people into the air – you’re shooting at them instead.
Occasionally, navigating Lock around obstacles can be frustrating. Or sometimes I’ll tell him to repair a turret (something he usually does from inside the fortress) and he will run out through the gates instead, where he gets beat up a bit before I tell him to run back inside and try again. Otherwise, the controls are relatively natural and smooth.
Perhaps my biggest complaint comes from the title screen. Every time you start the game (as in, turn on the system and load the cartridge) you are forced to watch the opening splash screens for the companies involved in making the game. I don’t mind being shown the logos, I just like being able to rush through them so I can jump into the game. The titles don’t last all that long, but they seem to take forever when you just want to flip it on for a second to do a quick round.
I think my favorite part of the game is the music. The game-play is fun, the graphics are nice, and the controls are comfortable, and the story is ok, but I could say that about a lot of games. When was the last time you heard a video game score that really impressed you though? Zelda games usually have good music (Twilight Princess was awesome) and Final Fantasy games are usually pretty descent (Sid’s theme, anyone?) but the focus on games in the last few years has been on graphics, not music. Some big names have been called in to compose scores for a few games lately in an attempt to revitalize video game music. David Franco did the score for Lock’s Quest, and though I hadn’t really heard of him before, it looks like he’s done quite a few scores for television and has been involved with movie music for a while.
Most of the score is powerful and fun to listen to, but I feel that the music is a little hit and miss – with far more hits than misses. I think Franco lacks the polished experience of some composers, but the average game player will appreciate the work he put into Lock’s Quest. Overall, it is a pleasure to listen to, and it really adds to the experience of playing the game.
If you already know you love thinking defensively and you don’t mind fixing things that people break (sometimes over and over again), then Lock’s Quest is perfect for you. None of the battles I’ve fought so far have lasted more than five or six days, so you’ll never find yourself locked into the same old motions for more than forty five minutes, and so far I’ve won all of them. The wins don’t come too easily, but it’s not impossible – it’s just challenging. I haven’t tried the two player mode yet, so I can’t include that in my review, but overall I am glad I played this charming game for the Nintendo DS.
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