An interesting trend of late has been to take a standard game genre and just utterly smashing the concept into something that’s practically unrecognizable from the original concept. Rock of Ages does just that, no pun intended. A touch of tower defense with a little bit of Super Monkey Ball thrown in, this is simultaneously best described as a combination of those two and at the same time utterly different in every single way.
See that screenshot right there? That image sums up the entirety of Rock of Ages in a way that words never could. The game is so extremely bizarre that saying it out loud sounds weird but here we go: in Rock of Ages your goal is to destroy the gate of your opponent’s castle and squash them with your giant boulder. To do this you must maneuver past the various obstacles in your way such as towers, cows, mammoths with towers on their back, and more. Your opponent is simultaneously trying to destroy your gate.
This is of course where the strategy part of the game comes into play, as you get to put down the same defenses to stop the other guys boulder. At first you only have a small selection of objects you can place, but as these games typically go the more you level up the larger your selection of obstacles. Some are more useful than others, but I found that no matter what you choose it’s all just a matter of slowing down your opponent’s boulder. I can’t think of a single round where my boulder or theirs was completely destroyed.
As you roll through the level you take damage for each object you hit and when you fall off the level, which is of course your opponent’s ultimate goal with their object placement. But it seems that no matter how damaged you are, you still do the same amount of damage when you hit the other guys door. Whether your boulder is fully intact or one hit away from destruction you’ll always do 1/3rd of the total damage and victory will almost always require three hits.
Each round there’s a time limit before you can launch your boulder, and this is your time to set down the various obstacles you want to place. You can take as much time as you want here, and even interact with the level while your opponent’s boulder is rolling but they move so fast and navigation with the camera is so slow that you’re going to want to set down as much as you can and launch as soon as the option is available.
Each object you place takes up a certain amount of space on the grid of the level, and while getting the perfect placement isn’t always vital sometimes you really want to place something in a certain spot and the largest complaint against the game comes into play for me as the movement with the analog stick is too imprecise. I don’t know if it’s my wacky controller which is nearly useless in how broken it is, the high speed at which the cursor moves or a combination of the two but I had a lot of trouble placing things precisely.
As you progress through the single player campaign you’ll occasionally come across a boss fight which changes things up significantly once again. These are a jarring change of pace from the core game but are still very fun and fit well into the core experience. They’re each very different from each other and I don’t want to spoil any of the encounters as they were all very surprising (especially the solution for beating them).
The campaign itself features a ridiculous story that’s presented through hilariously absurd introductions featuring very strange animations and utterly ludicrous setups. The various ways the characters grunt, shriek or shout at you throughout the level is absolutely hilarious, especially when you finally break down the door and have to smash them.
The art design of the game overall is to be highly applauded and just might be one of the highlights of the game, and what it might be best remembered for.
Rock of Ages also features a mode reminiscent of Ski-Ball which is incredibly fun at first but I got bored with it very fast. It’s nice as a distraction but I didn’t see any long term pull to the mode, even in multiplayer. I would have loved to have seen more modes like this like bowling or other games but this is the only one.
Multiplayer itself actually works brilliantly, although everything plays out exactly the same as it does in the single player experience. Players place their obstacles and race to slam into the other person’s door as fast as possible, and while the added difficulty of playing against humans certainly makes things more interesting it never felt any different than offline. Multiplayer exists and it’s solid, but again it’s nothing too special.
Unfortunately I think that sums up my entire experience with Rock of Ages. Everything about the game is absolutely rock solid (pun again not intended) and the experience is a lot of fun but it’s also JUST that. I feel like there is a lot missing from this game that could have pushed it farther.
Rock of Ages is a ton of fun and I had a blast playing it, but after going through the single player campaign and playing a bit of multiplayer there wasn’t a whole lot to bring me back to it. Everything that’s present in the game is great, I just feel like there could have been more.