Lock-On goes from strength to strength

Issue 3 of Lock-On is here, and its an absolute beauty. I wrote a while back about this wonderful new trend for high-quality gaming periodicals, and I’m seriously impressed that Lost in Cult – the folks behind Lock-On – have been able to keep up the quality and output of this magazine, with its blend of considered writing and beautiful bespoke artwork. I backed the first two volumes on Kickstarter, but I met the editors of Lock-On at WASD recently, and they kindly offered to send me the third volume for free. Receiving it through the post took me right back to my childhood, with that same sense of excitement as when an issue of TOTAL!, Amiga Power or GamesMaster would be dropped off by the postie, and I couldn’t wait to tear open the packaging and see what delights lay inside.

What really sets Lock-On apart is the stunning artwork that’s commissioned for each and every article, which is something you don’t really see very often – if magazines or websites feature bespoke art, it tends to be a one-off or occasional thing, but here there’s a full-on feast of wonderful images created from scratch to accompany the writing. And the smell! It seems weird to get all excited about this, but it has this beautiful new-book smell you don’t usually get with magazines. Basically, what I’m saying here is that Lock-On is a full-on sensory experience.

Another thing I love is the range and breadth of the writing. Lock-On has the advantage that it’s not beholden to the whims of SEO algorithms or demands from advertisers – without the need to be mindful of page clicks, the editors can commission features on some of the most niche and interestingly obscure corners of the gaming world. I was particularly pleased to see a feature on the cult GameCube title Doshin The Giant, for example, and there are other pages devoted to obscure horror games and various indie things. The big one is Sable, of course, which graces the cover this time around, but the vast majority of issue 3 is devoted to a deep dive into the wonderful and much-missed Sega Dreamcast.

I loved the extensive detail the issue goes into about the Dreamcast, covering everything from the VM to Seaman, and I particularly like how many writers draw on personal memories of, say, saving up for an import Dreamcast or encountering one in the wild for the first time. In places, it feels like the editors have brought the personal and relatable language of blogging to a print publication, but these more-intimate pieces are combined with more technical ones and highly insightful interviews. One of my favourites is an article by Jörg Tittel about the developer No Cliché and their unfinished Dreamcast game Agartha, which provided a brilliant behind-the-scenes peek into the wildly creative culture at Sega in the late 1990s.

What else can I say? Lock-On is a beautiful thing, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. You can buy the first three issues over at Lost in Cult, and they’re also working on a book called A Handheld History, which naturally I preordered straight away. Go on, treat yourself.