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TVG unlocks the latest title from playTHQ, but can a strategy game aimed at twelve year olds really work...
Delving into the strategy genre may not be the most obvious move to make for a label targeting 6-12 year olds, but playTHQ's Lock's Quest on Nintendo DS is trying to change all that. Set in a fantasy world where the people are threatened by an onslaught of clockwork robots created by their master, the painful sounding Lord Agony, the game mixes light action with wall-building strategy for a gentle introduction to the more 'core' Real Time Strategy genre.
TVG grabbed some bricks and mortar to see whether Lock's Quest is the key to attracting the Command & Conquer and Dawn of War fans of the future...
Developed by the 5th Cell, the team behind Drawn to Life (another PlayTHQ title for the Nintendo DS), Lock's Quest sees players follow the story of an orphan called Lock, who becomes increasingly involved in defending the world from Lord Agony's hordes of clockwork robots. An aspiring 'Archineer' (a cross between a bricklayer and engineer), Lock must also try and find his little sister Emi, who disappeared shortly after the first clockwork attack on his village.
Largely controlled with the stylus and touch-screen, Lock's Quest splits gameplay into two distinct parts, the 'Build' and the 'Battle' stages. Like most core RTS titles, Lock's Quest has its very own resource (called 'Source'), which is earned when players defeat an enemy or repairs a damaged wall. With Source, Lock can build a range of walls and turrets from a number of materials, together with cannons and traps, to defend against the waves of clockwork robots until the timer runs out. The levels are tailored towards creativity, opening up many strategies for where and what sort of walls to build, with cliffs and ruins dotted throughout the landscape.
After what often becomes a tight deadline to building the defences, the robots appear, and so does the 'Battle' stage. With the walls in place for the battles (which last for several minutes), it's up to Lock - and players - to ensure they hold long enough for the robots to be defeated. Thankfully, the youngster is quite handy in a fight, with a number of special moves unlocked through the game. All of these are also touch controlled, with number sequences or gestures (like spinning a wheel) used to unleash them.
The repetition and light learning curve of the story is perfect for younger gamers, though Lock's Quest is far from a walk in the park; wrong strategies, a short building time, and danger of getting surrounded by a pack of robots all throw in a decent difficulty level - though it's far from frustrating. The robot soldiers (being mindless drones) are far from the brightest opponents to face too, which may put off some older kids, but they have their own objectives to meet -and their own weaknesses too.
But there's a lengthy campaign to be had here in Lock's Quest, with over one hundred battles. This isn't the sort of game that players will complete in an afternoon, and can be played in short bursts easily. Throw in the occasionally occurring 2D 'Siege' stages, where Lock has to man a turret cannon and judge the arc of the cannon balls in order to hit the robots, together with two-player multiplayer gaming, and there's more than enough to Lock's Quest that'll engross any family's little general or brickie.