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North America

Lock's Quest

by Jonathan Metts - September 21, 2008, 11:28 am EDT
Total comments: 9


Unusual gameplay and impressive presentation drive this original game, but some pacing and control problems keep it from greatness.

Lock's Quest is something you don't see every day on the Nintendo DS: a non-licensed, non-sequel game with polish. It takes place in a world where a mysterious substance called "Source" is used by a talented guild of "Archineers" to build structures and weapons. Lord Agony is an evil archineer, hell-bent on conquering the kingdom. Lock is a young archineer with a mysterious past who joins the fight against Lord Agony, but he gradually learns that the war is more nuanced than it seems. The original story is told through standard dialogue scenes (which cannot be skipped) and attractive movies that look similar to the opening cinema for Wind Waker.

There's nothing quite like the gameplay in Lock's Quest, but it draws inspiration from the tower defense genre as well as classic strategy games like Rampart. There's also quite a lot of action, albeit the indirect kind. A typical round of gameplay is divided into build and battle phases. In building mode, your character disappears, leaving an empty battle field and a grid on which to place structures. The goal is usually to defend some key item or character, but you only have a couple of minutes to get everything in place. Walls, turrets, and traps are placed onto the grid with the stylus, and there are tools for rotating and removing structures. Turrets become stronger if placed next to walls, and there are also helper units that can increase range, automatically repair, etc. There are a few broad strategies possible, but you'll probably find an effective plan and stick with it through the entire game, since enemy patterns are so predictable. There’s a time limit that’s unnecessary and occasionally troublesome, since the finicky "snap-to" controls don't always make it easy to set up your defensive perimeter.

In the battle phase, you move Lock around the map by tapping on the spot where he should go. He doesn't have a weapon, but Lock can still attack enemies as you tap on them. Special attacks allow him to inflict status effects on enemies if you correctly solve a mini-game on the touch screen. Lock can also repair structures during the battle phase, but if a turret or wall is completely destroyed, it can't be rebuilt until the next build phase. As Lock attacks and repairs, the super attack meter fills up, and these powerful abilities can turn the tide of battle once unleashed.

Since most of the game takes place during the battle phase, the problematic touch screen controls are worth further analysis. The path-finding works well… until enemies show up. A somewhat more direct method is to hold the stylus in the direction you want Lock to move; he'll get stuck on obstacles, but at least you can move around them more quickly. It's too bad the developers didn't include some option for direct control, as neither stylus input method works perfectly. Combat itself can also be frustrating, as Lock will sometimes just walk up next to an enemy rather than start attacking it. Enemy sprites stack on top of each other when they crowd together, so it's impossible to tell which one Lock will actually attack. Even repairing walls could use some improvement, because there's no obvious visual cue to show whether Lock is repairing the correct structure, and sometimes he just walks behind a turret instead of fixing it.

The game makes a strong first impression with its wonderful sprite graphics. The characters and environments are detailed and expressive, with great animation and a clean, colorful look. The music is also very nice, particularly during story scenes, but the battle song grows tiresome over the course of the game.

Unfortunately, the gameplay suffers the same decline. Lock's Quest has some of the worst pacing I've seen in a long time. The story takes forever to build momentum, and I found myself forgetting characters by the time they re-entered the plot. It's a real shame, because the characters are compelling, and the story becomes truly fascinating around its half-way point. It just takes way too long to get there. By the time the story grabbed me, I was already sick of building and battling. That is largely due to the fact that each map hosts four or five consecutive rounds of build/battle. It makes sense that enemies would attack in waves, and that Lock would want to shore up the defenses between those waves. My complaint is the lack of variation in these waves; it feels like you have to fight each battle over and over. I don't know if this pattern is an honest attempt at adjusting the strategy gameplay, or a cynical attempt to stretch out the adventure with repetitive filler content, but either way, it's a tempo disaster.

The truly sad part is that Lock's Quest is just a few design tweaks away from being a fantastic game. All the ingredients are here, but the overzealous chefs at 5th Cell screwed up the recipe. Yields: about five hours of play before all but the most patient gamers will get bored. (Reviewer's note: I played for much longer than that, against my better judgment.) There's a cool story to be revealed if you can force yourself to keep going. Lock's Quest is certainly not a bad game, but it’s definitely disappointing in light of all its great assets and originality.


Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
8 8 6 6 7 7

Fantastic artwork and animation make this one fine-looking game. The isometric view causes some minor perspective problems, as you might expect, particularly since you can't rotate the camera.


High-quality music is an unexpected but welcome element. The main battle song is just as good as the others, but you hear it way too often. Useful sound effects let you know when a goon has gotten past your defenses or when a turret is being auto-repaired by another unit.


The D-pad is used to pan around during build mode, but otherwise, this is a stylus-only game. That's fine, but character movement is too unpredictable. It's often hard to select the right wall or enemy in a crowded battle, and Lock has a nasty habit of getting stuck on objects that he should be able to walk around.


Both the strategy and action components are fundamentally sound and even satisfying, but the repetitive levels and sluggish pacing make playing the game feel like a chore. It's best experienced in very short bursts.


The game is definitely long, but that's largely because it is padded with so many repeated battles. There is a harder difficulty level for true fans, and a two-player mode is available if a friend also owns the game. Multiplayer adds the twist of not only building your defenses but also sending an army of clockwork soldiers to attack the opponent.


Lock's Quest is an attractive, interesting, but significantly flawed game. I would love to see a sequel with more variety and better pacing.


  • Great visuals and music
  • Interesting strategy/action hybrid
  • Original setting and compelling story
  • Every level must be replayed five times in a row
  • Serious control flaws in battle mode
  • Story develops too slowly; hard to stay interested
Review Page 2: Conclusion


KDR_11kSeptember 22, 2008

Eh, guess I'll avoid it then. Still got enough to play anyway.

WabbitySeptember 23, 2008

Or you could check the other reviews on Gamerankings and wonder if this review is for the same game...  I came to check this review out purely because it was an outlier to the others.

Tap accuracy and feedback in battle could be better, but its not enough for me to call it a problem.  The gameplay overall is very engaging and with the variable difficulty settings can be set to be very challenging (or moderate, or easy as your preference requires).

The story takes a little while to get moving, but it's worth the wait.  I was immersed in the gameplay for the early part, which I was comfortable with as it is quite an innovative game and while getting used to it I was happy to have my attention focused there.  If the story had hotted up earlier I think it would have distracted me from the gameplay too much while I was still getting used to it.

The game is a big thumbs up from me.  Best purchase I've made in a while.

KDR_11kSeptember 24, 2008

Or I could suspect that some reviewers just shrug bugs off under the assumption that they'll get fixed before release since they get a pre-release build...

vuduSeptember 24, 2008

Out of sheer curiosity, can someone on staff check the IP address for Wabbity?  I'm curious to see if he hails from either Bellevue, WA (5th Cell) or Agoura Hills, CA (THQ).

Nick DiMolaNick DiMola, Staff AlumnusSeptember 24, 2008


vuduSeptember 24, 2008

Must be outsourced.

KDR_11kSeptember 25, 2008

Hm, the Nintendo Channel has a demo... it starts with the painfulls slow tutorial... Bah.

EDIT: Meh, it stayed pretty lame, I quit on day 6 or so.

Quote from: vudu

Must be outsourced.

That's unfair and unfunny.  Although I didn't think it was amazing, Lock's Quest has gotten a lot of great reviews and a lot of great word of mouth from people who own and love it.  Be more polite to our new users, especially one like Wabbity who comes in here to register his or her dissent in such a polite and reasonable manner.

There is now a demo for Lock's Quest in the Nintendo Channel, so try it out for yourself!

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Genre Strategy
Developer 5th Cell

Worldwide Releases

na: Lock's Quest
Release Sep 09, 2008
jpn: Lock's Quest
Release Feb 19, 2009
eu: Lock's Quest
Release Sep 26, 2008

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