Andrew Miller

January 11, 2023

Lock's Quest design notes

(If you randomly subscribed to this blog, welcome! Just writing down some notes when I finish a game to clarify my thoughts.)

Lock's Quest for the DS. Just finished Day 100, and these are the thoughts that are uppermost in my mind.


Maybe this is just me getting old: there was a lot of padding. Each new event would run for 5 days or so, and there was often little to distinguish between the days. Just do what you did before. Now do it again. Feels like they were shooting for 100 days, when 50 would have been much tighter and more enjoyable. 

Bizarre story choices

At one point in the story, one of the characters misunderstood Lock's meeting with the villain, and attacks him, thinking that he's in league with the villain.  The onslaught lasts for five days, and then at the end, Lock meets with her and says "Yeah, you misunderstood", and that's the end of it. Oops. 
The story's full of strange plot choices like this. The villain callously sucks the life-force out of a girl, and then immediately dedicated himself to helping her live, for the rest of his time in the game. This doesn't come from some sort of "what have I become" moment or anything, it just happens. At one moment he's killing a little girl, the next he's talking about how he's the only one who can save her. A lot of things 'just happen' in the plot, and make no real sense.
Also, far too many - and too long - cutscenes. Some nice story beats and world building, but overall too much story padding as well.

All the UI

So much UI, so little space. The battlefield becomes a forest of UI elements pretty quickly, and it's difficult to parse what's going on.

DS Screen, control frustration

The DS Screen is waaay too small for this title. That screenshot above? Not from the DS version, you've got about 25% of the space when you're playing on the DS. When you're setting up your defenses, you'll find yourself frantically zipping around the screen using your d-pad and struggling with the controls. When you put a play on a timer, you better make sure the player isn't fighting the game for half the time- feels terrible.

Kiting, microing

Sometimes controlling Lock feels like pro-level micro-ing in a RTS - the enemy attacks are slow and telegraphed well, so you can dodge in and out, and avoid damage, slow enemy advancement, and generally be a glorious nuisance. When you're not accidentally pathfinding away from where you want to be, or struggling to tap the right target in a giant group of enemies, turrets, and nonsense.  

Rock, paper, scissors

A lot of enemies have counters - certain traps or turrets that defeat that one enemy, and that are useless if those enemies don't show up. In theory, this means you'll have to prepare for everything, build a well-balanced arsenal, and improvise on the fly if something unexpected shows up. In practice, you just start the encounter to see what's going to show up, and then go back and build for that particular balance of enemies. They should have just done what Plants Vs Zombies did and show you what you'll be facing, saves time and frustration.

Fix-it Felix- my favorite part of the game 

Running around, fixing your impenetrable wall is a joy. It's rarely optimal to sit behind your wall fixin' stuff, but I do love it when it happens.

Mini games

I didn't hate the mini games, they're a ok abstraction of different actions. I thought I would hate them, but they end up having a nice keep-you-on-your-toes dynamic. When you switch powers, you have to adapt, maybe to a mini-game that you aren't used to. It works.


Mostly underwhelming. Usually you stick with the same set of powers, and rarely have need to change.

Nice take on tower defense

For the most part, this was a satisfying, interesting game loop. Build the turrets, build the wall, lay the traps, and run around like a madman repairing and running interference for your defenses. There were issues, but for the most part it was a good experience, beautiful art, and mostly forgettable story with the odd genuinely affecting moment.

Rating: On a scale of 232-50, it scores 100. Lower score is better.