It was a first for me when I saw a game with any sort of resemblance to Monty Python, so Rock of Ages caught my eye right off the bat. Cut scenes are rendered in a similar style mimicking the great ideas that Terry Gilliam used in the Monty Python works, and it gives the game a very unique and comical flare. Rock of Ages has a unique presentation, and PlayStation Network games require a special look to stand out amongst some of the greats like Dead Nation and Journey. The art style may give this game a refreshingly welcome touch, but the gameplay is really what should bring all the boys to the yard.
Tower defense games are all over the place, and each game has to have a unique aspect. Rock of Ages takes the traditional tower defense system and puts it on a race track. Players place turrets, bombs, wind machines, and even animals on the track to prevent or slow the other player, and the same is done to the player. After the initial preparation phase, players then runs a rock down the track, avoiding obstacles and traps set along the way. The ultimate goal of each map is to race to the end of the track to break down the opponent’s door. Once the door is open, each opponent stands in the middle of the castle, and they respectfully scream like little girls. As I played through the story, the perspective of this phenomenon changed: it went from surprisingly hilarious to gloriously rewarding. The non-player characters become harder as the game progresses, and finally hearing enemies bellow in high pitches made my day each time.
Mingled throughout each map is three keys, and these keys are required to progress through the story. Normal maps can be played without any sort of key collection, but each section of the game is blocked by a boss fight that requires a certain amount of keys to enter. Believe me, boss fights in a game like this must have the same kind of combined diversity that a game that has both tower defense and track running together. Much to its dismay, that’s not the case, and these fights prove to be quite frustrating. The basic goal is to hit a weak point on the boss, but your enemy always has some sort of eluding ability that either hinders momentum or movement entirely; the inconsistency in these fights is one very strong weakness to this game. Sure, the fights are simple, but they require more effort than they deserve. These changes in gameplay don’t feel genuine, since the overall experience through the story, and looking at the list of available maps, diversifies the tracks so well that adding frustrating and disorganized boss fights deter the game from being a solid experience.
Rock of Ages also offers a fair amount of game modes that all reside around the basic concept mentioned above. The story mode pits players against historical figures such as Leonidas, Leonardo Da Vinci, and even zombie Aristotle and Plato. Another mode is called Time Trial which, as the name implies, times players to run the track as fast as possible. The Obstacle Course mode has players race against the CPU while having to avoid pre-set traps. War pits players against each other, and this can be done through either local or online games. The final available mode is quite surprising: SkeeBoulder. Yes, overgrown skeeball in a tower defense game. Unfortunately, the only true way to partake of this great game is to play split-screen games or go online. Granted, RoA provides a SkeeBoulder training mode, but it’s incredibly brief. This wouldn’t be bad if more people played; the game mode is still great, having players race down the track destroying towers for multipliers and ultimately ending at a skeeball point deck.
Without a doubt, tower defense games are everywhere, but it’s refreshing to see a take on it that really enunciates the sheer need to keep opponents hindered. The pre-race preparations have to be done before starting the race, and anything after that is to the whim and placement of the preparations themselves. Sure, players can jump the maps and manipulate themselves to victory, but making the game that one-sided takes away from the experience. Rock of Ages is a near miss, and it only has a few things keeping it from being a true rock of the ages, but it still offers something other games haven’t: tower defense on a race track.