Lock’s Quest returns in fine form.
So then, ye olde tower defence games. A genre which has been a staple of the industry for as long as it’s been around and a genre which I’ve meddled in somewhat infrequently over the years. I’ve always considered games like Command and Conquer my introduction into the defending of towers, though I’m aware it’s not strictly considered a apart of the genre my retro professors (read: NeoGaf users).
However, I had myself one of those 1st gen Nintendo DS systems, and whilst I was filling up my days playing Mario 64 DS, Animal Crossing and Project Rub (highly underrated, oh the days I lost to that game), a certain tower defense game caught my eye and in a sale in my local indie games store (s/o Pink Planet) in 2008, I picked it up. That game was Lock’s Quest.
Lock’s Quest is one heck of an engaging game. I have fond memories of building up walls, running out of source (the currency) and watching as my defenses failed over and over again, and yet I had no qualms with picking it back up and trying all over again. I found myself almost certain that if I just put enough time and focus into actually using my source correctly I could overcome those pesky clockwork knights which stormed my village. Lock’s Quest was hard ass work and yet was fully immersive, to the point that I was almost certain the game was unbeatable, and yet I get powering through because the aesthetic and characters made it interesting. When I got bored of choosing wallpaper for my houses in Animal Crossing I would stick Lock’s Quest into my DS and try all over again to save the day.
Ergo, the struggles continued. Eventually my DS was sold, Lock’s Quest with it. But now it’s back, somewhat surprisingly on PS4, Xbox One and PC and well, those memories are flooding back.
It’s really quite nice to have Lock’s Quest back in my life. As I said above, tower defence/strategy games aren’t really games I’ve invested all that much of my time in and yet, there was something about Lock’s Quest that kept my attention and made me want to see what was next for me to do. It’s retropixel art style (which has been delightfully revamped in HD for this new remaster) was an inspired and charming choice, and certainly added to the appeal. Here then on the console versions, it’s a shame I can’t take this on the go like I used to (uh…guys….Switch?) but to even play this game again is a joy I didn’t even consider would be a possibility. It was the last game on my mind when considering remasters and yet here it is, and I’m really happy about it.
So what’s it all about? Well, you may have already guessed that you play as young boy called Lock (that handsome blonde fellow on the boxart that isn’t at all suppose to look or sound anything like that Link kid) who takes on the mantle of hero after learning of an attack on his village. To do this he needs source, a resource that’s available to archineers (yup) to build strongholds against the brilliantly named Lord Agony and his army of clockwork fiends. Upon their arrival, it’s up to Lock to save the day by building and fixing defenses. The story is light and fun and doesn’t get in the way of the game. There’s plenty for you to be getting on with.
Lock’s Quest is split into stages in these stages are two separate phases, namely building and battling. In building you have yourself a bit of time to run around and get the lay of the land, deciding on where best you think to build your defenses. If you’re in the same area as the previous battle you can take this time to repair your walls if necessary too, along deciding which of the walls you’re going to place and where. Doing this is delightfully simple, by simply choosing an area on where to place your wall is as simple as dragging and dropping, something that has transferred nicely from the original DS version. Of course, the original had you building defenses with a stylus, which one may argue is the ultimate way to do it, and they’re probably right. Of course, you don’t have this option here and the home console rejig works just fine.
With the game only giving you that single isometric view of each area, it can be frustrating at times to be able to see every corner of where you’re building your defenses. When the battle begins your enemies can simply stroll past your perfectly placed wall due to a space on one side which you weren’t aware of beforehand. It’s all part and parcel of what Lock’s Quest is, but it would have been nice to be able to swing the camera around a little in this remaster.
In the heat of the battle you have to stay pretty focused as your defenses, especially early on can come crumbling down pretty quickly if you’re not staying focused on the wall. Repairing the wall is the one thing which will take most of your time and whenever you see a button prompt be sure to hit it quickly as your wall will need some fixing as quick as possible. On the DS a very small QTE would appear, and it would be a quick stylus ratchet of a lever one side to the other. Here I was using the right stick to pull these off and it didn’t feel particularly natural, although after the hundredth time it wasn’t much of a concern.
If your defense gets broken down and you end up face to face with one of those clockwork demons then it’s really a case of luck over skill. Lock will then need to get physical and again this is played out with QTE’s. You’ll need to get yourself near a clockwork, engage and then a three-button prompt appears on the screen that you need to complete in order otherwise they aren’t going down. Sounds easy enough but when you’re surrounded by clockworks it can be a struggle to focus on a single one when your wall has been shattered and you’re trying to defend for it. You can easily be overwhelmed and there’s little you can do about it unless you have the reflexes of a ninja tiger.
The further you get in the game naturally the bigger armies you’re facing and it can get all a bit chaotic as you’re defending the area along with repairing defenses and fighting off enemies. It’s all a bit mad and to this day I was impressed the DS could even handle all of this on a single screen. Obviously the new consoles can without breaking a sweat but it doesn’t make it any easier. There’s no hint of visual slowdown as the screen fills up with enemies. It makes me glad I’m not worrying anymore about ruining my screen as no longer have to constantly scribble all over it.
This is well and good but then what’s been added to these remasters? If I’m gonna be straight with you, not an awful lot. Visually the game has naturally had itself a nice HD upgrade and it all looks terrific (the character sprites in particular look spiffing on my 49-inch flatscreen) if these kind of visuals are up your alley. Would it have lost some of the charm if it went a different visual direction? Perhaps, as I’ve already mentioned part of what makes Lock’s Quest a great timewaster for me was the style of it all. It’s perhaps a tad dated in 2017 when we see full HD remasters of the likes of Wonder Boy, perhaps a little more time could have gone into making the game look even better for these new versions. Still, it’s fine as it is and only those who complain about everything will probably complain about this.
The most impressive upgrade at least for me has got to be the music. From a great MIDI soundtrack to a full on orchestral score that bookends the game (the music remains the same throughout the game but has most assuredly had a rather great spit and polish to look shiny for these new consoles it’s trying to impress), the music got me right back in the mood for building towers and smashing up walking clocks. I’d certainly like to get a copy of the soundtrack, should there ever be one available. Get to it THQ Nordic…
In terms of gameplay not an awful lot has changed and this may come as a relief to those who played the game back in 2008 on their trusty DS. The game certainly feels more or less the same and I have no complaints in this area. What they have added is a new progression system that unlocks new turrets at certain points in the game, a very handy upgrade which makes later battles just that little bit more bearable. Just.
This is where Lock’s Quest either shines or falls. If you have fond memories of the initial release, this remaster is assuredly going to have plenty for you to enjoy. It’s a lovingly crafted upgrade which is more or less a straight up port with some areas that feel better on a controller, and some that are more suited to the traditional stylus gameplay. If you’re jumping from one to the other it will be a tad jarring at first but you’ll soon get in the swing of this.
For newcomers, Lock’s Quest is a solid tower defense/strategy/RPG/action game that should merit your attention. If the old school aesthetic doesn’t appeal then well, it’s all over this game so you may not have the wherewithal to dig and see what else this game has to offer. At times it’s tough as balls and will certainly test your skills, however the lengthy campaign ensures you get enough bang here for your buck.
If you jump in though, you’re going to love it.
Developer: Digital Continue
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release Date: May 30th – PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were supplied a review code from the publisher. For more information on how we review and score games, please see our review policy.