Religion, as an academic topic, is quite fascinating. How is it that religions the world over have the two main themes: self-improvement and caring for others. How they approach these topics and values all depends on the culture of origin. The most famous (or infamous) of them is Christianity, and many of its values have permeated many elements of mainstream society especially here in the U.S. So what’s the reasoning for this drawn out paragraph? It’s the basis for the game Rock of Ages because it reminds me of a hymn by the same name
Rock of Ages follows the Greeks From their Golden Age throughout history. It begins with one of the many characters in the game pushing a boulder up a hill, never reaching the top when he gets the idea to use the boulder to break down the door and escape. This begins a creative take on history.
And it’s really fun. If only history classes were this intriguing; I might have been able to stay awake. And it shows in the gameplay. The cutscenes make fun of pop culture from the movie “300” to the first Castlevania game and Leonardo DaVanci. There is even a scene in which the plague tries to be friendly with people and animals and they all die.
So what is the game like? It is an odd combination of pinball, skeeball and tower defense. The point of each level is to break down the enemy’s door first. This task is accomplished by rolling the ball into the opponent’s door and squashing the enemy general into a pancake. The higher the health and grade of the ball, the more damage the door receives. In order to this, you need to avoid obstacles, enemy towers, elephants, enemy fire and, believe it or not, jumping. Falling off the edge doesn’t penalize the player too much as it just slows the rock down as God/Zeus drops the boulder back into play.
Each level has you navigating different terrain such as scaling mountains and rolling through shallow canals. You and your opponent simultaneously place towers in an effort to slow each down. And it is rare that your artillery destroys the enemy (or even your own) rock. Just don’t think that Rock of Ages is easy. It’s challenging to figure out how to quickly get from one area to the other and properly set up your defenses. Somehow, the enemy has a better understanding of the terrain than the player and more funds. At least there are videos on YouTube that you can watch for help.
So how does Rock of Ages look? The game changes its color palette to reflect the time period. In other words, it is a quick romp through art history. For example, the Greek era consists of blacks and yellows that were used on the pottery while the medieval levels consist of drab colors and the seriousness of the era. Every time the ball falls off the edge, a massive hand drops it back into the field. Places where you can place your defenses are clearly discernible. The one thing that does not change from level is its papery feel. The characters all look and act like puppets. Somehow, it makes things even funnier because it makes the events feel surreal.
So what about the sound design? On the surface, Rock of Ages sounds highly whimsical with flutes piping in on the title screen. There’s the “poump” sound whenever a new character is introduced, which gives the game a humorous feel. And did I mention you can change the rock to something else like a pumpkin? (And it “boos” as it falls over cliffs.) Yet when you dig deeper into the soundtrack, it’s a rather serious musical affair. For example, violins and maracas spin together to create a tense song that does a solid job keeping the player clued. In fact, that’s how I would describe it: a solid soundtrack that fits the environments perfectly.
Ultimately, the question remains: is Rock of Ages worth your time? The short answer is “yes.” The long answer is “it depends.” Rock of Ages is a clever, creative take on a genre that has been rolled to death (pun highly intended) with generic clones that all do the same thing with various degrees of panache. This also leaves Rock of Ages with its biggest problem: Who is this game meant for? All of the different thoughts are nearly seamlessly sown together to create one of the most unique and weirdest games ever created for digital distribution. The problem is that it has one of the most volatile flows of gameplay I’ve experienced in a long time.
And that’s what I would say is the biggest weakness for the game. Pinball and skeeball and tower defense games all have their unique flow. It’s just tough to find Rock of Ages. It’s also on the expensive end, though one can easily argue that the admission price is worth it for its odd humor and artwork across the ages. My answer is this, how many games willingly let you roll a giant pumpkin into a massive gate? So yes, this game is at least worth the “good ol’ college try.”