I’m sure before you even clicked on the link to read this review you thought to yourself “do I really need another dual stick shooter?” After spending some time with the game I’m thinking the answer to that question is “quite possibly”. Now I’m not going to try and tell you there’s a bunch of revolutionary stuff in Lock ‘N’ Load (though there are at least a couple of things that I don’t think I’ve seen before), but it is definitely a fun romp through an interesting land clearly inspired by B-grade horror films. I’d say that unless you’re really sick of this style of game play, Lock ‘N’ Load is worth some time to check out.
You play a guy that’s just trying to mind his own business and enjoy some retirement, that is until some nasty beings trample all over your garden. Now it’s up to you to find the source of the evil, which just happens to be an “innocent” little girl, and stop her before her minions trample the gardens of unsuspecting folks across the land (and do a lot of other bad things as well). Your character has the build of Rick from Splatterhouse, the attitude of Duke Nukem, and a nifty mask that would make Jason Vorhees proud. You also have three different weapons you can use to mow down the enemies, as well as the opportunity to pick up a chainsaw on occasion.
The main game has 16 levels, and you must complete each to move on to the next one. At a bare minimum this means basically decimating everything in site, but so far I’ve also had to wander a maze collecting pumpkins and then later outrun a large pumpkin monster created with my collection. There is a nice variety of villains ranging from zombies to scarecrows that launch killer crows at you to something that looks like a vicious animated garbage can. There are also some decent bosses, and while I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to tangle with the oversized dessert filler, I was more than placated by my encounter with the giant octopus. I can’t wait to find out what part the granny really plays in all this (so far she’s still my friend).
As you complete certain goals in story mode you’ll unlock special challenge levels. There is also an expansion pack entitled “Call Of Minions” that gives you nine more levels with a brand new hero. Unfortunately these all require in game money to play. Additional weapons and upgrades also want you to spend your in-game currency, which would be great if it were more freely available. Sadly it seems you earn very little dough throughout the game, and with health vials costing 50 dollars a pop good luck saving up for anything else. Naturally you can spend real money to get in-game loot, but that kind of thing bugs me. Just charge me up front and give me adequate recourse to earn my way through the game.
Being a dual stick shooter it has two main controls – one for moving and the other for shooting. Health vials can be used by tapping a button, and there are also buttons next to the shooting stick to switch between weapons. I do wish I could move the vial button next to the movement stick, since I’d rather let go of that one for a second to activate a vial than the shooting stick, and having to cross even a few inch screen is a big deal when you have a bunch of bad guys coming at you. I also wish the levels were a bit more spread out so they wouldn’t feel the need to have so many “you’re locked in a small area until you kill everything” sequences. Personally, I don’t feel like dual stick shooters were made for that.
Lock ‘N’ Load looks good, but given that I can run games on my iOS devices with the graphics quality of Dark Meadows and Shadowgun, the engine used in Lock ‘N’ Load feels just a bit dated. This is especially evident in some of the characters like the little girl and the pumpkin monster. On the other hand, there are a lot of nice little details in the surroundings. For example, I love the fact that there a bugs flying around some of the larger cob webs. The lighting also looks sharp, and there are some decent effects with some of the creatures.
The sound effects are pretty much what you’d expect for this type of game, though they did a decent job with some of the creatures. Where the audio really shines is in the voice acting. Granted there have only been three talking characters so far (the girl, the granny and you), but each one captures the spirit of their character quite nicely. It doesn’t hurt that the protagonist sounds like Optimus Prime, either. The music serves the game quite well, and is actually rather enjoyable in most spots.
I’m not going to try and convince you that you haven’t seen most of what Lock ‘N’ Load has to offer before. Besides solid dual stick shooter mechanics, which always provide some amount of entertainment, what really makes Lock ‘N’ Load enjoyable is the atmosphere. It’s almost like Duke Nukem meets Scary Movie, and it works well on a number of levels. The action is intense, the quips are humorous, and the story is actually worth listening to. I really do think they need to balance out the cost of health vials versus the amount of cash available on a level better, and they definitely need to make more use of the level layouts to create some cool hidden secrets. Otherwise, Lock ‘N’ Load is a great time to be had by anyone that enjoys dual stick game play.
Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link
This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 5.0.1.