Rock of Ages is a cross between a tower defense and a rolling ball game. The main objective is to break down the door of the enemy castle and squish the denizens by controlling a giant boulder. While you are doing this, the enemy is trying to do the same to you, so in between “rolling” you must build defenses to stop or slow the enemy.
Both yourself and your enemy start in the middle of the terrain, with each of your castles at either side. Both of you must roll from the middle down identical paths that get increasingly more difficult to navigate when you start adding in obstacles such as catapults, fans, towers and animals. These can only be placed on certain tiles in the level. By destroying the enemy defenses on the way down, you gain more money to strengthen yours, but also damage your boulder.
The boulder that you use has limited health. As it becomes more and more damaged, your boulder cracks and erodes, making it smaller. The damage to your rock is inversely proportional to the amount you inflict on the enemy’s door when you make contact.
You can also get different upgrades for your boulder, including one with an extra layer of defense, fire for increased damage, wings that allow you to double jump, and oil that can cover enemy tiles so that they cannot be built upon. These are one-off upgrades, and each can only be used once per level, and can come with a hefty price tag. With my experience in the game, I have barely used these and focussed more on increasing defenses.
The basic premise of the story mode is to take on different enemies through different “ages” ranging from Ancient Greece to Romanticism. Here, you face significant historical figures including Pope Julian II, Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Antoinette and Napoleon. In the standard levels there are keys to be found. These unlock boss battles that have a different format than the normal levels. Here, you must hit an enemy in a certain weak spot to defeat them. Once defeated, another set of levels will be unlocked. As the story progresses, more and more defense items become unlocked.
Other single player modes that are available aside from the story mode are Time Attack, Obstacle Course and SkeeBoulder Training. The Time Attack mode is self-explanatory – make it to the door in the shortest time possible. The Obstacle Course involves you racing against an enemy to the end of the track. The SkeeBoulder Training mode is a type of practice mode for hitting targets down a track, then jumping into a Skeeball-type interface at the end to give you a multiplier (for the non-American audience, this is Skeeball: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skeeball). Multiplayer modes can be either local splitscreen or via PSN, and include the Obstacle Course and SkeeBoulder modes, and War – similar to the story mode where players have to both attack and defend.
The game is well designed, and the physics are pretty good. The different tracks that are used within the story are so diverse, and the addition of new weapons helps to keep the game fresh. However, I could not play the game for more than an hour or so at a time as it does become quite repetitive and boring. The fun factor does lie in the story mode, and it is a decent length for a downloadable game.
I did have issues with getting stuck on certain levels, but this is all part of the fun. Different stages can require you to play through a few times before picking up what weapons and defenses are important on each one. Knowing what route the enemy is going to take on the level, and thus where to place the objects, also matters greatly. The game handily gives you a view of the enemy’s progress in the top right corner of the screen.
The cinematics between levels that introduce to you your next opponent are quite witty. They are Monty-Python style animations that include the next character you shall be facing, usually with some relevance to that person’s history (although don’t trust me on this as history was never a strong point of mine), and the style really gives the game a unique character.
I must also mention that some of the sound effects used in the game are great, from the satisfying squishing of a person, down to the scream of your boulder when it falls off the side of the cliff. It really adds to the persona of the game.
Overall, the game is definitely fun in short doses. It has a nice style and gameplay, which is a breath of fresh air in today’s market. You may also learn a few things about history along the way!
Review copy of game provided by publisher.