|System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: ACE Team|
|Release: August 31, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p||Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
You know what? Atlus makes weird games. If you don't believe me, just check out Rock of Ages. It's a combination of bowling, Katamari Damacy, Marble Madness, and a tower defense game, and it centers around a gigantic time-traveling boulder with a face. Yeah, Atlus makes weird games.
We tried out Rock of Ages at E3 this year, and found that the game was simple and fun, if not rather difficult in execution. Your goal is to roll a gigantic boulder at a gate in order to break it down. The tracks of land you roll the boulder on twist and turn, and you can fall off the sides if you aren't careful. Continuously rolling builds up speed, which then builds up the power of your boulder when it strikes the enemy's gate.
Unfortunately, the enemy can build defenses to slow your boulder down. Traps and obstacles reduce your speed and damage your boulder, while enemy soldiers attack your boulder relentlessly as you roll toward your destination. A damaged boulder does less damage when it hits the enemy's gate, and if you take enough damage your boulder will crumble before it ever gets there. Rolling over your enemy's obstacles, however, demolishes them and gives you cash as a reward, which you can spend on upgrades for subsequent boulders. So there is this constant ebb and flow between clearing out enemy fortifications and gaining cash, and between avoiding the fortifications and going for a deadly strike at their gate.
To add another level of intricacy to the game, your enemy is also rolling boulders, trying to break down your own gate. This is where the tower defense element comes in. You too can build fortifications and traps in order to slow down and destroy your enemy's boulders. The demo allowed us to build archer towers, catapults, and even cows that would try to push the enemy's boulder off the side of track. Fortifications cost the same money you use to upgrade your boulder, so it's important to balance spending money on your boulder and your defenses.
The game moves in real time, and your opponent won't stop rolling boulders at you to allow you to build up your fortifications. Fortunately, it takes about twenty seconds between boulder rolls for your faithful workers to chisel out a new one, and the same holds true for your enemy. Spend those twenty seconds wisely, because this will be the main time frame in which to build your defenses. You can't control your defenses while rolling your boulder, and it takes quite a while to roll down the whole length of the track, so get a lot of building in while you can.
The demo we played started in Hades, where we were introduced to a single-sided tutorial. We didn't have to defend ourselves as we attempted time and again to roll Sisyphus's boulder through the gate of Hades into the real world. Once through the gate, the real game started, and we were tasked with breaking down the gate of king Agamemnon before he broke down ours. What ensued was a frantic session of button-pressing and stick-clicking that felt like we were doing a million things at once. In the upper-right corner of the screen, we saw our opponent's boulder rolling toward us, while our screen showed our own boulder rolling toward its destination. The lower-left side of the screen showed the health of our gate and boulder (as well as our cash total) while the lower-right showed the health of Agamemnon's gate. We had to consider all of these things at once as we planned out our strategy for each roll, and in the end, we barely squeaked by after losing several boulders along the way.
Frankly, Rock of Ages is one of those strange games that feel fun even though you can't really put your finger on why. You're doing a million things at once while still trying to bowl your way to historical success. When you succeed, you take a big breath of fresh air and sigh with relief as you watch the tiny little cardboard cutouts play out the "story" between each level.
Oh, and one more thing. As the levels go on, the graphics increase in quality. While the first level is a rather drab underworld scene littered with paper cutouts, eventually you find yourself rolling across brilliantly rendered hills atop a sky blue backdrop. Plainly put, the game is pretty.
Get ready to rock and roll—ouch, I think I took damage from that pun—this summer when Rock of Ages hits XBLA and then PSN.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer