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Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

Author:
David Brown
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
ACE Team, Atlus, Rock of Ages, Strategy games

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

Platforms: PC | XBLA
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Atlus

The game’s called Rock of Ages, so that means we need a heavy metal soundtrack on while playing. So, to the sound of a Godflesh, it’s time to get our balls out and start them rolling.

Rock of Ages mixes an exploration of various historical periods and characters with bowling. And utter lunacy, of course. To describe it as ‘quirky’ would be wildly understating the game’s uniqueness. And naturally it’s absurdly simple as well. Perhaps a bit too much so, but we’ll come back to that.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

The object is simple: take your big boulder and roll it down increasingly complex courses until you see the gate of your enemy’s stronghold. Smash into it and then wait for your next rock to be constructed by an army of slaves. Then repeat.

While waiting for the next boulder to appear, you can place defences to stop your opponent from smashing your back door down (as it were). As you progress through the single player mode, you get more and more to choose from, and they get weirder as you go along as well.

The first time you start out, you’ll have to keep your eyes on the prize as massive elephants with human heads and big tusks try to bounce you off the track. Later on you can expect big statues blowing wind at you and big cannons smashing chunks off your ball as you desperately try to figure out just where the hell you’re meant to be going.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

To protect you against the myriad of different hazards, you can upgrade your ball with different defences, obtained by smashing up objects and squashing enemy soldiers on the way to your goal. This same cash is what you use to build your track obstacles, so you’ll need to balance the protection of your ball with how tricky you make it for the opposition.

Once you’ve smashed your way to victory, you move onto the next level and face off against a new historical enemy, with such famous individuals as Napoleon, Agamemnon and Cardinal Richelieu (the real one, not an impersonator - Python-loving Ed.) rolling their balls at you in anger.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

Courses get more difficult to navigate as you go on, and not just because there are more sophisticated stopping mechanisms in place. Some are incredibly convoluted and it’s often very frustrating as you get totally lost.

Without this though, it’s arguable that the game becomes too easy, especially when you get down to the real business of multiplayer battling, where your historical opponent has a human mind behind the mask.

You can play in two ways with a human, either locally or online. There’s the War mode, which is the same as the single player, and there’s also a race mode called Skee Boulder. The objective here is to get to the end the quickest, but in a twist it is worth your while trying to destroy as much you can on the way, because the ‘goal’ is a big board full of holes that, depending on the hole you send your ball down, multiplies your score. There’s also a Time Trial mode, which is self explanatory.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

The thing is, there’s not much else to it. The craziness is all well and good (and it is a good thing, believe me) but the whole rolling thing does get a little tired quite quickly. It also seems that it only takes three whacks to knock down a door, meaning it is very hard to actually make a comeback if someone gets to your door first.

Couple this with the confusing nature of the whole defence layout mode, which is difficult to comprehend and often doesn’t do anything of note in terms of halting your opponent. Certainly it is difficult to know whether what you’ve done is having any affect at all, and you generally lose not because of your enemy’s tactical skill, but because you stupidly tried to go too fast or got lost or whatever.

There’s an element of customisation to give you a few more options on top of the game modes, like giving your boulders different etched faces, and there’s the definite possibility of extensive DLC modes and things like that being slotted in over time.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

But we can’t score a game based on what might come later (or what probably will come later) so the fact there’s only three actual types of game mode to choose from is a let down. Comedic value and weirdness can only go so far, and it’ll wear out its welcome relatively quickly.

Still, it is only a handful of your devalued Euros or English pounds, so it’s not like you’ll be feeling ripped off after purchasing it.

Pros

  • Utterly insane.
  • A very interesting idea, executed well, and it’s ‘well cheap’.
  • Visuals are unique and you’ll never get to literally squash Napoleon in any other game.

Cons

  • Not enough (currently) game modes.
  • Are my defences actually doing anything? I can’t really tell...
  • Loses its appeal quicker than you’d expect.

The Short Version: An absolutely f**king mental ball-rolling romp through time and space, ripe for DLC-ing. Sadly, there isn’t quite enough to it out of the box, as it were, to make it a compulsory purchase.

Rock of Ages Review | Keep Rollin', Rollin' Rollin'

Add a comment 1 comment
JonLester  Sep. 16, 2011 at 13:48

I absolutely agree about the limp defensive mechanics, and I can't help wishing that the 'ball vs ball' gametype was actually a multiplayer mode. AI enemies attacking with regular units would have made for a more cathartic experience IMO.

Definitely worth at least downloading the trial.

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