Rock of Ages review

By Ozzie Mejia, Aug 31, 2011 5:45pm PDT

Rock of Ages, from Zeno Clash developer ACE Team, is all about using the greatest weapon in human history: an enormous spherical boulder.

The downloadable game opens with the mythical Sisyphus rolling a giant rock up a hill and failing, as he is destined to do for the rest of eternity. Then he gets a wild idea. Instead of rolling the rock up a hill, why not use it as a weapon against others? This leads to Sisyphus getting lost in time and finding himself running afoul of various historical figures from ancient Spartans to Renaissance figures. The setup is completely silly and sets the tone for a fun ride.

Rock of Ages is essentially a strategy tower defense game. Two sides roll a giant rock at one another. The object is to break through the other team's gate and flatten their leader like a pancake. Players roll the rock across a playing field filled with valuable breakable items and hapless citizens, all of which reward money when they're run over like ancient roadkill.

In between rolling phases, players are given an opportunity to build defenses. At the start of the game, I was allowed to place down cows, defense towers, and catapults to try and slow down the other team's rock. This was a great way to kill time while my stone bowling ball was being constructed, made better by an easy-to-understand interface. Knowing the right strategic places to put down obstacles is a matter of practice. I mainly stuck to placing obstacles around certain choke points, but other players may find more effective spots to place items like catapults, which somewhat alter a rock's trajectory.

Although Rock of Ages feels like it's meant to emphasize strategy, it's really all about rolling a giant rock over enemies and hitting a gate really hard. That's not a bad thing. This is the definition of mindless fun and any semblance of strategy quickly went out the window for me. Games quickly turned into me trying to smash the rock against the gate as fast as I could. Building defenses was merely a way to kill time in between smashing more objects with a giant rock. The good news is that it's all easy to learn and none of it feels boring.

Rock of Ages fully embraces its whimsical tone with irreverent bits of humor. People run away from the rolling rock with expected groans. Breaking through the other team's gate cues a dramatic orchestral sting with an equally overdramatic chorus heralding incoming doom. Campaign cutscenes, illustrated in the style of ancient Greek art, depict a more slapstick-friendly Sisyphus.

The game also features a fun diversion, in the form of SkeeBoulder. A completely different mode outside of the main campaign, this game mode is exactly what the title implies. It's a life-sized version of Skee Ball, with the idea to get a high score using the giant boulder. There isn't a lot of depth to this game mode, but it works well as a supplement to the main campaign.

Rock of Ages is a simple game with a simple premise, but it manages to stay fun throughout.


[This Rock of Ages review is based on a final release version of the game on Xbox Live Arcade, provided by publisher Atlus. The game is also planned for release on the PC and PSN.]

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