Mixing the obstacle course theme of Marble Madness with tower defense, Rock of Ages 2 is a bigger and bo(u)lder sequel thanks to new content, new ways to play, and quirky atmosphere. Unfortunately, the gameplay does not match its creative and humorous personality.
If you didn’t play the original Rock of Ages don’t worry because this sequel can easily stand on its own. Honestly, the gameplay is such a simple but yet so thoughtful concept, I am surprised there have not been knock offs between the original release in 2011. The goal is to guide a bolder down a hill to smash through your enemy’s defenses. Along the way, your opponent will lay tower defensive-like traps to impede your progress and damage your rolling rock. Played in real time, each player must think and react carefully to ensure victory. Do you roll your boulder slowly, carefully, down the hill to avoid damage, or race to the end in hopes to building the next boulder before your opponent? Do you risk taking a shortcut to save time but could take damage or take a wide path where there are less traps but takes much longer? Each match plays different and there usually no easy decision to make.
While the opening tutorial segment introduces players to the basics of gameplay it excludes many details. For example, I still have no idea how the lightning attack works or fully understand how money is calculated. The camera also has issues as there are two views to select from: close and closer. I would have preferred a straight overhead view as some stages are filled with holes, traps, and tight turns and the 3rd person over-the-should view can’t keep up. Also, the player doesn’t have access to all the traps from the beginning. Instead, a new trap or two becomes unlocked after each enemy is bested. While I understand this level or progression, the enemy AI often has access to weaponry that you do not, which makes the overall challenge seem unfair. Even on the easiest setting, I still had difficulty defeating enemies and it seems like many of my traps simply do not work. Watching the enemy roll right over your catapult trap without it flinging the enemy boulder into the drink is frustrating to say the least.
Although there are several modes of play, including 4-players online, the formula for each match mostly remains the same. Unless something drastically goes wrong, it takes three boulders to break through the enemy castle no matter which traps are laid out or which boulder is used. Seeing this pattern with little ways to break it limits the overall fun factor as repetition sets in quickly despite having eventual having access to many different tower defenses and playable boulders. The journey will be different between each match but always ends in the same destination.
The clear highlight of the Rock of Ages games is the Monty Python humorous aesthetic. With goofy animations and a ridiculous plot (you play at Atlus who cracks the Earth while God was creating it so you fight well-known historical figures in a game of literal boulder dash), Rock of Ages 2 is something to see. This sequel doesn’t take itself seriously and instead embraces the craziness. Like some kind of weird paper puppet show, the cutscenes are funny and all visual aspects highlights this theme; the William Wallace Braveheart reference was especially entertaining and even the before-fight Street Fighter poses are hilarious. The developers even made the main adventure mode map an interactive experience when they easily could have made it strictly menu based. From a presentation stand point, there is more personality in this boulder rolling sim than many AAA games.
The other key feature to note is the included four-player mode. Played either locally or online, players can join a match to break each other’s boulders. Also, it is actually refreshing to see the single player mode getting outfitted with AI opponents, something that lacks is many games nowadays. You can’t fight against other Master Chiefs in Halo’s multiplayer can you? But you can roll against competitive AI here in Rock of Ages 2. With several modes to play, including vs, co-op, and even obstacle race modes, there is a fair amount of content within this $14.99 digital download. Unfortunately, after several attempts, I was only able to find one other player playing online at a time. The limited audience could be a problem when so much is geared around four simultaneous players.
Even with all the gameplay modes available, ACE Team’s follow up stands out with unmatched personality but stuttered gameplay. If you enjoyed the original, there is no reason for you not to like this sequel. Gameplay is just a little rough around the edges with inconsistent (almost feels buggy at times) competitive play, a camera that doesn’t hold up, and a trickle of unlockable and limiting weaponry. It isn’t that this is a bad game, or maybe I am just being picky, but at least the full title of Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder is pretty much the perfect pun which has to account for something.
Better Than: playing with one of those marble-in-a-box games
Wait For it: a new Super Monkey Ball on Switch
Also Try: Katamari Damacy
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