Rock of Ages review
Nothing is sacred to Rock of Ages. Priceless Greek urn? Smash it. Beloved historical figure? Squish them. Tragic Greek myth? Illustrate it by having tiny demons poke a man in the bottom. Anything that stops you from rolling your rock to the end of the course is there to be flattened.
Sessions of Rock of Ages have two phases. In the first you construct towers and catapults on your track to keep the enemy’s rock away from the gate protecting your squishy leader character. In the second you roll your boulder along the enemy’s heavily defended course and batter down the door to the opposing general. You use your defences to try to destroy or slow the enemy rock while taking the shortest possible path to your own target.
The rolling is the most fun by far. You’re in direct control of the rock, which feels incredibly weighty and substantial as it skips, jumps and crashes through obstacles. Carefully guiding the boulder around, over or through defences, is where the real challenge lies – and crushing catapults, cows and elephants beneath your mighty boulder is just smashing. Occasionally you’re interrupted by a pointless boss fight, which is nowhere near as much fun as the rest of the game. Still, it’s hard to complain when you’re defeating an animated version of Michelangelo’s David by repeatedly hitting him in the stones.
Where the artistry of Rock of Ages crumbles is in that first, strategic-defence building phase. In theory it’s the more thoughtful, tactical side of the game, with a whole variety of towers, animals and siege weaponry for you to deploy. The problem is that there’s a very narrow window of opportunity in which to place your defences before your boulder is unleashed, so there isn’t time to do much but scatter these things at a few key chokepoints. Multiplayer opponents are smarter and require more thought, but more often than not games end in a straight race between two rolling stones.
What keeps you coming back is the brilliant silliness of it all. Rock of Ages takes you on a tour through art history, having boulder-based battles with a variety of historical figures, from King Leonidas to Leonardo da Vinci. Each is represented by a cutout model based on famous paintings, dancing around and gibbering unintelligibly. The mix of highbrow art and lowbrow humour is clearly inspired by Terry Gilliam’s classic Monty Python animations, and even if you know nothing about art it’s hilarious to see that one picture of Vlad the Impaler that everyone uses starring in an impromptu Castlevania skit.
Rock of Ages provides a few hours of great fun, and the unique flavour and hilarious cutscenes are worth the budget pricetag. Don’t expect it to hold up to repeated playthroughs, but this is a game about smashing up artwork with a big rock, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Knockabout in every sense, Rock of Ages is quirky, fun and characterful. Just don’t expect longevity or depth.