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Rock of Ages

After waiting for a strangely lengthy amount of time, Ace Team’s Rock of Ages smashes its way onto the PS3, bringing its eclectic take on marble madness and tower defense to a larger audience, unchanged. This isn’t the kind of game that needs to traverse the plethora of all the current generation’s hardware to maximize its profit, though publisher Atlus surely wouldn’t mind the extra financial attention. No, Rock of Ages is the kind of game that gets ported so that the people without access to it otherwise It’s for the gamers who would latch onto it’s eccentricities while also being able to forgive it’s weaknesses, so that they too would be able to experience it.

Ace Team is no stranger to the weird, considering their previous work Zeno Clash, and with Rock of Ages they once again tackle familiar gameplay territory with outlandish art design. The story is simple: Sisyphus, of Greek mythology, is forced to forever push a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back down at the end of the day. He takes fate into his own hands and utilizes the boulder as a weapon to fight everyone, from the Gods to Louis the XIV.

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All stages function in the same manner. On one side of the map there is Sisyphus, hiding behind a tremendous gate. On the other side there is your opponent, hiding behind another. Separating the two gates there is a winding road filled with twists and turns, pitfalls and secret paths. In the center there are two boulders, each launched towards the opposing gates. Only by navigating your boulder down these paths towards the gates, busting them down and crushing the enemy within before he does the same to you can you achieve victory.

Only, that’s only half of the gameplay. The other half is the tower defense aspect, giving the chance to create a formidable front that will, hopefully, make your opponent’s next attempt at your gate turn sour. It’s not necessarily the deepest mechanic, but then again it’s not like there’s all the time in the world to devise intricate strategies. There are pits, there are cliffs, and there are tools that when properly used, and with luck, will introduce the enemy’s boulder to many pitfalls. Rest assured that the opponent will be doing the same, making the already tricky path even dicier than before.

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And for the most part, it works. Maneuvering the boulder feels right. When it builds up momentum there’s no warning bells that go off stating that a boulder of such size and shape should be able to bank harder into oncoming turns. It’s the kind of thing that makes the experience both exciting and tense at the same time. It’s a race to get to the gate first, but also to get there the most efficiently, so that the most damage can be dealt. The artwork that goes along with it is bright and lively, and probably far better than expected for this kind of game.

The defense is the weaker aspect, but this is mostly because it can be difficult to judge the effectiveness. While traversing the deadly trenches there is the capability of viewing the opponent’s boulder, but it’s off on the right side of the screen. Paying any attention to it can easily lead to certain conflicts with gravity. It’s a setup that makes it easier to learn how to succeed on defense by seeing where you fail on offense.

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And then there are the boss battles. These things are cretins meant to be obliterated and then forgotten. These are the things that employ the boulder in arena type battles, taking a quasi-platformer turn on a game whose focus is on velocity and managing speed against control. It’s like the boss battles exist to break apart a very repetitive level structure with lesser, confined versions of itself.

I believe everyone will have their own view as to what they think of Rock of Ages. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t try to imitate any single game, and by combining several ideas into one it creates something new and unlike anything before. This is the sort of game that every individual person has to try for themselves, and even if they walk away from this game considering it an interesting experiment gone mediocre, they will know they have played something bizarrely unique.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

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