Warlocked, Game Boy Color

Warlocked is a neat handheld Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game, developed by British company Bits Studios and published by Nintendo for the Game Boy Color in 2000. Unfortunately, due to “poor sales”, it was only ever released in North America.

The game features ‘Human’ and ‘Beast’ single-player campaigns, each with twelve missions, making 24 individual missions in total. It also has two-player versus play (and swap trading) via a Game Boy link cable.

The aim of the game is to explore a series of overhead maps, collecting gold and resources, and to dominate your opponent, who is trying to do the same to you.

The first thing you need to do on each level is send out some worker units to collect resources, either by breaking rocks to gather building materials, or by mining gold to build-up money. You must then build various structures to produce troops, food and to protect your settlement from enemies (farms, barracks and watchtowers respectively).

As your units explore the map they will remove the ‘fog of war’ that covers the landscape and reveal more of it for you to see. They’ll also occasionally encounter enemy units or structures, which will invariably lead to battle. Your worker units aren’t effective in combat, so you need to keep them away from it and produce soldiers to do your fighting, and to protect your workers and buildings.

Each side has a number of leader or wizard units that can use special abilities during battle. Some are good at destroying buildings, while others can speed up the production of units or cast destructive spells against the enemy. You can also rescue captured wizards in some missions, to add more of them to your ranks.

You can select more than one unit, by holding down the ‘A’ button and moving the cursor over your units, and this is an important mechanic that you need to master to increase your reaction times. As is usually the case in RTS games, speed is a major factor of success.

Collecting scrolls provides gameplay tips as you progress into the game, as well as unlocking puzzle minigames and two-player maps that you can play. Other, special units (such as archers or giant spiders) also become available as the game progresses and these vary depending on whether you’re playing as humans or beasts.

Warlocked is a colourful and playable game that has humour and appeal. It also features music by famed gaming musician Jeroen Tel. It’s not perfect, though. Unit pathfinding is sometimes a bit iffy (for example: a worker returning to base with resources can often get diverted by some distance by another unit leaving the base with empty hands, or units sometimes just plain get stuck in the landscape, which can be frustrating), but overall the game’s faults are relatively minor.

It’s unfortunate that Warlocked never received the wider release it deserved, because it’s a very good game. The control system is easy to get to grips with and the action is absorbing. The graphics and sound are excellent and Warlocked is also relatively unique on the Game Boy Color. There really aren’t many other games like it, and it stands out as something of a hidden gem on the system.

More: Warlocked on Wikipedia

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