Reviewed: September 18, 2011
Released: September 7, 2011
I’m not a big fan of the “tower defense” genre, but Rock of Ages is anything but your typical tower defense game. With presentation elements inspired by Monty Python that poke fun at everything from movies like 300 to Lord of the Rings, and some of the most addictively fun arcade-style Marble Madness gameplay, it’s hard not to fall in love with this game before the tutorial is complete.|
The concept is brilliantly simple. You control a giant boulder that you must navigate down a twisting path, smashing all sorts of enemy buildings and people while trying to avoid enemy defenses that will try to stop you or at least slow you down. Your ultimate goal is to smash the giant door at the end of each level and crush the boss hiding within the fortress. The bigger your boulder and the faster its speed will determine the damage done upon impact. After each strike your men will start carving you a new boulder and the process repeats...usually three or four times before the door breaks apart.
The time is takes to carve your new boulder is also the time you have to spend building your own defenses like towers, catapults, and livestock. These all have varying degrees of stopping or slowing power and each has additional levels of upgrades that can be selected prior to placement for an additional charge. You’ll earn money by doing damage on each boulder run, but the trick is that each time you crush something your boulder gets a little bit smaller and loses some speed. You have to cleverly weigh your need for cash versus doing the most damage when you reach the door.
You see, the entire time you are attacking the enemy door, the computer (or human opponent) is doing the same thing. They are planting defenses and launching their own boulder strikes, and often, it can come down to who launches their boulders first. Other choices like spending more money to launch a metal-plated rock or even a fiery boulder to do more damage can also affect the outcome.
For such a simple and charming game there is a whole lot going on. You have to be quick in placing your defenses and you have to learn the fastest path through each level – and yes, there are multiple routes and shortcuts, but they do come with a risk – and you need to pick and choose which enemy structures you smash and which to avoid as well as dodging catapult fire or the rampaging elephant that can knock you off the map. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for special keys strategically placed around the levels. You only need to get them once, as on future replays their original position is only shown with a ghost image.
The controls are a bit of an issue. The rock rolling portion plays great with a 360 controller with nice smooth analog movement, but accessing the radial build menu and then trying to place your defenses on the top-down grid map can be awkward. The mouse and keyboard are great for building defense, but then you sacrifice smooth control over your rock. Bottom line; the game often comes down to “who strikes first” rather than the defenses either of you may build, so I’d opt for the gamepad.
Once you have conquered the Ages you will certainly want to play this game with a friend, either in the split-screen War mode – pretty much the solo game with a human player instead of a computer, or the incredibly addictive Skee Ball mode. Yes, just like the arcade, you and another player roll your boulders down the hill, knocking each other around fighting for position as you line up for the target ramp and aim for the highest scoring hole. This mode is so much fun, even on a PC where side-by-side gaming isn’t that accommodating. It’s sure to be even better on the Xbox 360 or PS3 version.
Rock of Ages is one of the cleverest PC titles I’ve played this year, and for only $10 on Steam, you really can’t go wrong. I loved the arcade approach to tower defense and especially all the hilarious animated skits between chapters. Whether you play on PC or console, make sure to play Rock of Ages. It’s great fun for the entire family.