Lock's Quest DS Review

Only a few months after completing work on the already innovative Drawn To Life, 5th Cell does it yet again, this time with a game that seamlessly blends real-time strategy with a smart and fun combat system. Lock's Quest is one of the DS' most innovative and enjoyable games, and you should it immediately.

You play a young architecturally gifted kid named Lock who finds himself moving up in the ranks of a local legionnaire team known as the Kingdom Force. They're knee deep in a battle with a race of mechanical nightmares known as the Clockworks, being led by the aptly named Lord Agony. Lock must use not only his warrior prowess but also his building skills to guarantee his survival, as well as that of the Force's. Granted, he's got more tools to his trade than the enemy bargained for.

What could've been just another dull RTS game is anything but, thanks to 5th Cell's wise decision to split Lock's Quest into two portions: Build Mode and Battle Mode. It sounds very familiar to what Atari introduced years ago in the arcade game Rampart, but it's much more technical, as well as fun. You begin by building up forts in a defensive manner, making sure cannons and walls are in the right spots in order to avoid someone breaking through. You then enter battle mode, where the Clockworks come at you and require you to pull off numerous attacks utilizing motions on the Nintendo DS screen.

The overall quest will take you over 20 hours to complete, and 5th Cell did an outstanding job keeping it just as compelling with each passing hour. The characters are quite memorable, including Lock, members of the Kingdom Force and even some members of Lord Agony's loyal group. The game design is ingenious, managing to draw the player in with strategic building and fun battles. The gameplay utilizes the Nintendo DS touch screen almost perfectly, even if a couple of the more complex attacks take some practice to accomplish. Hey, no one ever said everything came easy in Lock's world.

What's cool about fort building is how Lock's Quest recognizes gaps in the system. If a wall faces the wrong way, the game automatically adjusts it for you. It's that kind of thinking, along with reasonably adjusted artificial intelligence, that makes Lock's Quest so much fun to play in single-player campaign. There's also multiplayer support, so if you have a friend with a copy of the game and a DS system, you can engage in a friendly little online battle. Still, it would've been nice for some online support, so players could trade parts and engage in battles with others through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

5th Cell also does a more-than-reasonable job with the game's presentation. The music is a fantastic bunch of classy tunes, which play in the background as you engage in your battles. Quality voiceovers probably would've complemented it, but it still does fine without them. The visuals, though, are a 2-D gaming fan's dream. The hand-drawn animation is divinely put together, interfacing between both screens beautifully. There's also a lot happening on screen at once during your battles, causing intermittent but not entirely appalling slowdown.

Overall, Lock's Quest is immensely entertaining. Yeah, online functionality and more multiplayer goodness would've taken it into five-star land, but being a very solid four is nothing to be ashamed of. The original design is exquisite and the gameplay never grows dull, unless you feel it's beneath you for some reason. Un-Lock this treasure for yourself and dig in.

What's Hot: Brilliant combination of combat and fort building, elegant 2-D visuals, great music, local multiplayer.

What's Not: No online functionality, which would've gone a long way for part trading and multiplayer.