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Review

Rock Of Ages Review (PSN)

They see me rollin’.

Perhaps the most bizarre combination of genres we’ve seen on the digital market this year, Rock of Ages is just as quirky as Ace Team’s first-person brawler, Zeno Clash, but is much more of an acquired taste.

The premise is as follows: players adopt the role of a boulder who accompanies the tormented tyrant Sisyphus (of ancient Greek mythology) in his bid to get one over on Cronus, the titan who imprisoned him to an afterlife of perpetual agony. However, this isn’t a romp through Grecian locales of ancient beauty; instead (for reasons that elude us) Sisyphus and his stony sidekick must travel to the future in order to rid themselves of their nemesis, stumbling upon a number of historic set-pieces and iconic figures along the way.

Info:
  • Released almost a year ago for Windows and Xbox 360.
  • £6.49 on the PlayStation Network.
  • Free for a limited time via PlayStation Plus.
Combining ancient/European history with a smattering of pop culture and gaming references works surprisingly well. The comedy – mainly presented in brief cutscenes between each “Story Mode” encounter – will often retire itself to a dumbed down level of toilet jokes and slapstick humour, though ultimately it helps the game move along nicely. It’s dumb, but not the sort of dumb that will intrude on one’s enjoyment of the game.

Split into 23 stages, Rock of Ages’ singleplayer campaign revolves around its primary game mode, War. Whether facing off against King Leonidas, Leonardo Da Vinci, or even the zombified forms of Aristotle and Plato, the same objective always applies; navigate your boulder into the enemy’s castle gates. The speed at which you collide with the gates and other modifiers (such as which boulder you use) will determine how much damage is doled out. Once the gate has been reduced to nothing but splinters, you are then free to roll over your petrified, defenseless opponent and win the match.

Requiring only two controller inputs (one stick to steer, one button to jump) directing the boulder doesn’t seem like much of a challenge at first. However, shift focus away from the physics-based platforming to the other half of the game and things start to get a little more complex. Instead of competing side-by-side on the same track, opponents race on separate albeit identical versions of the map, each half governed by the enemy player.

Using the money generated from destroying obstacles and other sources, you and your opponent can purchase units to hinder each other’s progress. Each unit is available in three flavours, the most powerful commanding the highest prices, and can only be stationed in specific areas.


Ace Team's use of the Unreal Engine 3 is delightfully subtle.
Static structures such as towers and bomb barrels can be placed in order to seal off shortcuts whereas cows, wind turbines, and catapults are used to knock the enemy’s boulder off-course. After a little experimentation, you’ll begin to adopt specific strategies, knowing which units complement each other and where best to erect them.

It’s an interesting mix of genres, though one that isn’t executed to perfection. There will be the occasional scenario in which units can effectively incapacitate (or even destroy) a boulder, though these are rare in comparison to the number of times a player will be able to use dexterous platforming to skip the enemy’s defences entirely.

A similar effect can also be achieved when gambling with the in-game physics; depending on how they are arranged, bombs, cows, turbines, cannons, and catapults can sometimes propel a boulder forward instead of obstructing it. Though effectively made of two parts, Rock of Ages definitely leans more towards its platforming side, despite the amount of focus dedicated to its tower defence mechanics.

Time Trials, Obstacle Course, and SkeeBoulder modes are also available, and like War, can be played online or locally against a real opponent. Despite giving Rock of Ages the presence of full-fat digital gaming experience, players will have to stomach a reduced frame rate during couch play.

Facing more exigent problems is the online multiplayer however; even the slightest falter in your net connection can result in delayed input-to-screen actions. It may sound fairly insignificant but precision and the need to retain momentum are vital when it comes to securing victory.

Pros

  • Strong concept that is delivered well.
  • Platforming is smooth, boulder physics are easy to read.
  • Environmental back-drops look great.
  • Goofy humour.

Cons

  • With enough skill, you won’t even need to use the game’s tower defence mechanics.
  • Unit selection and placement can be finicky using a gamepad.
  • Attempts to inject replay value aren’t substantive enough.

Being such a unique game, Rock of Ages has very few contemporaries (if any at all) and is therefore difficult to compare with what’s currently on the market. It’s aesthetic character is certainly a highlight and, for the most part, gameplay is fun and increasingly challenging.

With that said it’s far from rock solid; the lack of balance between platforming and tower defence coupled with a handful of under-featured game modes and unstable online multiplayer prevent it from being a “must have.” Still, at £6.49, or free on PlayStation Plus currently, it’s a guilt-free option for those seeking a late-summer palette cleanser before strapping on their bandoleers for the upcoming barrage of gaming blockbusters.

Score: 6/10

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14 Comments
  1. gaffers101
    Member
    Since: Oct 2008

    This is a fun little game, but I think it would have been better on the Vita.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 09:04.
  2. igotmy9milli
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    The presentation is awesome, very unique and charming. Game play isn’t great but I did still enjoy it.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 09:31.
  3. psychobudgie
    Member
    Since: Nov 2009

    It’s a tower defence game. What is not to like. Other than the tower defence bit.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 09:44.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      I dunno, it’s a twist on tower defence. A lot of games say that, but this one really is because you are defending AND attacking.

      Tower defence is normally about stopping all/most of a stream of attackers while this is just about weakening one as much as you can while trying to guide your ball through their defence with as little damage as possible.
      The element of racing the other player makes it much more exciting than traditional tower defence and split screen with a real person is great

      Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 10:02.
  4. Kevatron400
    Drake, baby.
    Since: Dec 2008

    I spent a good couple of hours playing this local splitscreen-style with my brother on Sunday, which I’m gonna be talking about on the Podcast if there’s time. I think local play is definitely where this game shines.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 09:46.
  5. 3shirts
    Member
    Since: Aug 2008

    I gave this a download because a) It was free for Plussers like myself, b) It wasn’t very big c) Where the eff is my Skyrim DLC!

    I actually found it really enjoyable. It’s a simple concept and I think it’d work really well on Vita but even on PS3 it’s a simple but fun kickabout. Not sure I’d pay £6.50, in fact I’m sure I wouldn’t, but it is a good game and surprisingly tactical once you get a few levels in. I love the little animations before each level (especially the 300 one) and the general art design.
    I think they’d shift more units if it was a couple of quid cheaper but I recommend everyone with Plus download it, it’ll surprise a few of you like it did me.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 09:55.
  6. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I liked the humour and the rolling but the unit placement was far too fiddly for my patience.

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 10:02.
    • 3shirts
      Member
      Since: Aug 2008

      You can zoom in, makes it much less fiddly.

      Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 10:56.
      • Jim Hargreaves
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Even so it was still a bit janky. Selecting which unit you wanted was a little awkward for me too especially under the prep time limits.

        Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 11:00.
  7. BrendanCalls
    Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc - YOHIMBÉ!!!
    Since: Forever

    Its a game in my opinion that best enjoyed in local multiplayer, theres a good bit of tactical nouse that can be applied along with just the right amount of luck

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 11:20.
  8. Sympozium
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    Good title,

    “Rock of ages, rock of ages
    Still rollin’, keep a-rollin’
    Rock of ages, rock of ages
    Still rollin’, rock ‘n’ rollin’
    We got the power, got the glory
    Just say you need it and if you need it, say yeah! ”

    Good song, but yeah seriously… they need to release it on the Vita then I’ll have 3 copies… :/

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 15:13.
  9. XisTG
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    “With that said it’s far from rock solid” ahahahah :D

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 20:25.
  10. Foxhound_Solid
    Is a smart cookie.
    Since: Dec 2009

    Great review but pass….

    Comment posted on 14/08/2012 at 20:55.

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