Rock of Ages is not just an ’80s hair music production showing at the Pantages Theater in downtown Los Angeles or that musical’s big screen adaptation coming to IMAX theaters next month; it’s now an action-strategy game on the PlayStation Network. Rock of Ages, the game, has been available on PC and Xbox Live since last year and now local Los Angeles publisher, Atlus has brought ACE’s addictive game to the PlayStation 3 and with some extras.
Heavily stylized in a Monty Python-ish package, Rock of Ages takes place over five distinct periods of classic art history, starting in classical Greece. Despite its strange packaging, Rock of Ages evokes gameplay similar to the arcade classic Marble Madness or the somewhat more recent Monkey Ball and Katamari games combined with Tower Defense. Rock of Ages is all about rolling huge boulders down a hill to smash open a door and irreverently make splatter out of historical characters like Charlemagne and Vlad the Impaler.
There are two main portions of the game — rolling your boulder down the hill to smash down the gate (and eventually your enemy) and setting up defenses to slow down your opponent’s rock. The boulder is controlled with the left analog stick and the camera can be rotated with the right. You then use the X button to either jump or fly. You will want to smash at least some items on your way without slowing your momentum too much, as they net cash for boulder upgrades and defenses.
While you wait for your minions to cut out another round boulder for you to launch, you have the opportunity to set up obstacles and defenses to protect your castle. Particularly in the beginning, there are but a few strategic choke areas to use but as the maps get more elaborate, there is more opportunity. You can set up animals to ram, missile weapons like catapults to shoot them off course, and towers to slow them down. All of these are, however destructible, more so if your opponent purchased a boulder upgrade.
The PlayStation iteration of the game offers a few new modes of gameplay. In the single player offering there is a Story mode, Time Trial, Skeeball, and Obstacle Course. The story mode creatively concludes the Greek myth of Sisyphus. If you didn’t know or forget, Sisyphus was doomed to rolling a giant boulder up a hill that would always roll back but, in the game he uses the inertia of the boulder to facilitate his escape from Hades. The game continues the theme as he uses the boulder to travel through time reducing notable figures to goo spots on the ground. If you don’t want to play as Sisyphus and his boulder, you are able to change the character and appearance of the boulder a number of alternates.
The other single player offerings really just offer practice for the corresponding online or local multiplayer modes. War is a two person take on the story mode and the obstacle course sets up random obstacles in a race to the finish line. Skeeball, while interesting isn’t challenging at all as it’s fairly easy to just jump in the 6x multiplier hole. Really, the only thing that makes the game difficult is the somewhat weird and over-reactive physics particularly with the missile weapons.
Rock of Ages, despite its simplicity and technical issues, can be a fun and addictive distraction. The story mode shines in the cut scenes where history, film, and videogames are parodied in a nonsensical Monty Python-ish animation.
Really though, who doesn’t love smashing stuff? Though there is a narrative and are boss battles, Rock of Ages is at its core a simple racing game, the kind of race Dick Dastardly would race. At its best, Rock of Ages will have you and a friend leaning with your controller on the couch or chuckling by yourself at the humor between bouts of frustration at getting knocked off a cliff by a pebble shot at you.
Rock of Ages is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Cartoon Violence and Crude Humor This game can also be found on: PC and Xbox 360.