It Keeps on Rock’n and Rollin’ through the Ages (Rock of Ages Review)
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water; Jack fell down… and was run down by Sisyphus and his boulder. Jack should have known better than to climb the hill. So what happens when you mix Skeet ball, classical art, wanton property damage, and all the internet memes you could dream of? Well, out comes a foray of raspberry based flatulence called Rock of Ages. My inner 10 year old likes it.
The story is based off the old Greek (and Roman) legend of Sisyphus who was condemned to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down; for all eternity. If Rock of Ages is to be believed, he gets sick of this and escapes, clashing with various important historical figures, settling their feuds by boulder tossing.
The campaign takes players across five different art periods. Right off the bat, players get a feel for what the game has in store for them. The main menu has this mischievous music that says seriousness was left at the door. Every level starts off with a small skit, usually involving conflict and someone getting run over with a boulder, using cutouts from famous paintings. There’s a tendency to parody internet memes or famous movies including 300 with its well-known “This is SPARTA!” and The Matrix: Reloaded and its Architect, other times, it’s simply ridiculing particular pieces of art. These scenes are very reminiscent of Monty Python’s animated art as seen in their show and movies. Each era of art is finished off with a boss fight where the goal is to hit them three times in their weak spot (such as the statue of David and his oh so obvious fig leaf). These are a nice change of pace to try something a little different.
There are two parts to playing a standard match in Rock of Ages: setting up defensive units to prevent the enemy from breaking down your gate (or at least slowing them down) and rolling your rock at the enemy’s. Whoever breaches their opponent’s gate first, and runs over the shrieking enemy general, wins the match. Rolling the boulder down the hill is controlled by the joystick and jumping is done with the A button (on the Xbox). You can really feel the pull of gravity trying to steal control away as you hurtle down the ramp. It’s a simple enough concept, and there’s something quite satisfying about bowling over everything in your path and hearing the raspberry-like squishing sound upon victory.
Defending your gate is all about unit placement. You have limited funds, which are replenished by hitting the enemy’s gate and running over their units. Sadly, the easiest strategy to adopt is putting out elephants or mammoths huddled together in narrow passages. They’ll simply continue to knock the boulder off the edge as well as damage it in the process. This gives the player ample time to get their boulder to the goal. In the end, most stages leave a very small margin between victory and defeat, it boils down to who made less mistakes and how often the computer cuddled up with your Mammoths.
Each boulder can take a limited amount of damage, getting smaller with each impact. Each Gate can withstand up to three full-sized boulder hits before collapsing. Therefore attacks must be balanced between destroying enemy defenses for cash and breaking the gate. Luckily for us, there are four different kinds of boulder upgrades that can be used once per match, either to give that extra edge of destruction or a saving grace from tumbling off the edge. A flaming boulder to plow through your enemies is quite effective… until you quench it in a stream of water (curiosity in the aqueducts level lead to this discovery).
The game isn’t limited to its story mode; rather it has local and online War mode where two players can face off against each other, similar to the campaign. Oddly I had little luck using the Quick Match option as it would always come back immediately saying no matches found. I tried this on several occasions at various times during the day. After creating a lobby however, I did manage to find some willing opponents. In most cases, as seen in single player, placing defensive units was not that important except for a few token Mammoths at a bottleneck. Simple speed and less falling off the track seemed to be the key to victory.
In addition to the War mode, there’s also a SkeetBoulder (local and online play) mode where players get three shots, to try to knock down as many targets as possible down a ramp and launch their boulder onto a skeet ball board for a score multiplier. It’s an entertaining distraction, but not immersively so.
Overall Rock of Ages is a fun game based on a simple concept and a silly, disjointed, but no less amusing story. Where it falls down is in the defense side of things where strategy doesn’t play as important a role.
Rock of Ages earns a 4.25/5.0
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