When one of the opening scenes to a game is as follows: a 2D cartoon of gandalf on the bridge of Kazad-Dum shouting “you shall not pass” shortly before being crushed by a bolder with a contented looking face on it, well then you know that it will undoubtedly be one of the strangest games you will ever play. That is a fairly accurate description of what you experience when playing Rock of Ages and it does set the scene for stranger things to come.
The game begins as you watch a 2D cartoon – which is described on the site itself as having “Cartoon Violence [and] Crude humour” – of the mythical Sisyphus attempting to roll his boulder up a hill and continuously failing. Then deciding to use his boulder as a weapon and attack his tormentors. The introductions to the levels continue in this vein throughout, with everything from a zombie Plato and Aristotle on the rampage and a monster hunter squashed by Dracula’s boulder, to an angry Napoleon playing on a rocking horse. But enough about the cinematics – as strange and entertaining as they are, it is primarily a game and so the gameplay is what is important.The gameplay combines tower defense with first person control of a boulder. The idea is to destroy the enemy castle-gates first and crush the mythical or legendary leader inside who screams loudly as you batter down their defenses then makes a squelching sound as your happy looking bolder rolls over them. The castles are located at the bottom of separate slopes of varying length and shape with obstacles such as giant mammoths, rivers and sheer drops on either side. The idea is to last long enough to batter down their gates and as your minions prepare the next boulders, rush to spend your income on defenses to place down your own slope which vary from hot air balloons to ballistae to piles of bombs and much, much more. The fast paced placement of towers and frantic rolling gives a surprisingly tense and often frustrating experience, and with local and online multiplayer to add to the game, you will not be bored by unchallenging or unoriginal gameplay.
It is a brilliant concept for a game with a good sense of humour and decent variation throughout. However. Yes of course there is a however… The game is a versus game, and while this is common enough: with games such as Street Fighter, Tekken and Unreal Tournament dominating the genre – I feel it leaves a game somewhat lacking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to button-bash your way to victory in a fighting game or run around with ‘low-grav’ and ‘instagib’ on Unreal Tournament style, and with friends it’s a great way to pass some time. The real problem for me with this kind of game is that the campaign suffers – well not so much suffers as ceases to exist. The ‘campaign’ in this game, follows history through various time periods from ancient greece, though the roman empire, the medieval period, the renaissance era, past the french revolution and on into 18th century spain during the romantic period. Yet it is made up of thirty or so levels, all of which are either boulder rolling battles or formulaic and dull boss-fights. This sort of campaign unfortunately just does not interest me and after twenty or so levels my attention was fast dwindling. As a matter of point – does anyone really like boss fights anymore?…
So that’s my slating of the campaign over. Other than my personal preference for campaigns with a point to them, this game is great. The graphics are impressive, animations are funny, gameplay is tense, victories satisfyingly end with a squelch sound and three different game modes give plenty of variation to it. Not to mention that it’s a very reasonable price on the xbox dashboard. So below is a video of the gameplay, here is a recommendation to try it – you should try it, and here is my overall rating: