Game Title: Locked
Developed By: Redmoon Games
Published By: MV Games
Released: July 22, 2020
Available On: Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and 7 through 10
Genre: Visual Novel
ESRB Rating: None
Number of Players: Singleplayer
Price: $1.99 on Steam
Strong Points: Good Sound Design; Nice Artwork
Weak Points: Incoherent Translation; Inconsequential Decisions; Way Too Short
Moral Warnings: Sensual Clothing; Mild Language
Thank you Redmoon Games for sending us your game to review!
Video games are often about the action and fun for most people. However, games have evolved to include interesting stories, and one game type that has the easiest advantage for this is the visual novel - a rather niche genre of gaming that some people aren’t convinced should count as gaming. They are interactive. That’s true, but there’s very little actual ‘play’ in them. You’re basically reading a computerized, multiple-choice book. Still, as games like Doki Doki Literature Club have proven, visual novels have as much entertainment potential as any RPG if done right. Too bad Locked was most definitely not done right.
Locked is a visual novel romance. Thus, story is automatically key, so what’s the plot? . . . I have no idea. I’m sorry. I wish I knew, but the writing and dialogue is so incomprehensible I can’t make heads or tails of it. Not because I can’t understand hilarious words like, ‘Inside was a brass key with a beautiful beard,’ but because it doesn’t make sense in its own context. It doesn’t fit the tone nor flows with anything else the game said. I can deduce a few things, though. A guy at a bar hits on some ‘non-existent’ waitress. Then he winds up at a haunted mansion with that same waitress for some reason. They try to escape a ‘thing’. The guy somehow does or says something that defeats the ‘thing’. Then you get to decide whether to stay with her, leave, or uncover a ‘truth’. And that’s it. That’s Locked’s story. Yeah, I know my exposé barely made any sense, but I’m stuck trying to interpret some of the most grammatically inept sentences ever. You try to draw sense from nonsense. Now, I did learn that Locked wasn’t originally English. The text was first in Russian. That explains things, but if that’s the case, whoever translated it needs to understand something: Translating is not just swapping words. It’s adjusting sentence structures and selecting sensible words so the context and meaning of the message isn’t lost between languages. For all I know, maybe the story really is something worth remembering. Unfortunately, I won’t know it in the game’s current state.
I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough content for this review because Locked is hilariously short. No joke, I finished all of it (unlockables and all) in one hour. A single play-through is fifteen minutes. It’s not helped by the fact that there’s literally no gameplay. Now to be fair, I wasn’t expecting much gameplay from Locked to begin with. As I said earlier, most visual novels are focused on the multiple-choice storytelling. The ability to steer the plot’s direction should be the ‘fun‘. Sadly, what few choices you’re offered in Locked are so non-consequential, they’re not worth mentioning. I’m serious. I checked all outcomes, and while they ‘technically’ differed via sparse dialogue swaps, it only did so at the barest minimum. It’s like the developers only did what they had to just to say the story is multiple choice. It’s not a crime, I guess. It’s just rather cheap, and I wish they did a lot more with it.
I always try to find something positive about every game I review - even the ones I hate. That bright spot for Locked is the visuals. It’s not drop-dead gorgeous like Abzu or Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Let’s not kid ourselves, but the artistry is nice enough. It leans on the simple side, but the lines are clean and the colors blend well. The one oddity I noticed was that the main girl’s blushing cheeks looked kinda greenish during the ending segments for some reason. I’m not sure why. As for music and sound effects, I think they’re Locked’s strongest element. It’s nothing real special or anything, but I thought the score suited the atmosphere well. I may not have understood the story. Still, I felt intimidated when I needed to be intimidate. The sound effects were especially good at increasing tension too and came through my headphones nice and clear. It was far from remarkable, but it was a solid job.
Now, to those of you who might buy Locked anyway, (maybe you speak Russian or want something to laugh at), there are a couple of moral roadblocks to be aware of. The language, besides being near gibberish, has some swearing in it, ranging from d**n to s**t. Then there’s how our only two visual characters are dressed. The lady in the game’s opening has some cleavage to her. Plus, her outfit is rather form fitting. Our main girl, though, is dressed a little better. However, there are a few picture shots where her jacket goes a bit off-the-shoulder. Then there’s one particular screenshot, where her skin-tight top has lowered, showing cleavage and nearly revealing her breasts. It’s a rather uncomfortable sight if you ask me.
Locked is a visual novel that gives that impression that very little effort was put behind it. It’s quite a shame too. I see signs of a good artist and sound designer behind it, but everything else felt slipshod. It’s especially telling when the creators ignored the basic principles of how to translate languages properly. Any English speaking player they advertised to can’t enjoy their work. Beyond that, there’s really not much more to say about Locked. The game is purchasable on Steam for two bucks, but I don’t think it’s worth even that. Not unless you think a ten minute story you can’t understand is a worthy time waster. Me? I’d rather buy a pack of gum. At least the enjoyment would last longer.
Game Score - 46%
Gameplay - 1/20
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5
Morality Score - 89%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 6/10
Sexual Content - 8.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10