[REVIEW] Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder

Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder
Developer: ACE Team
Publisher: Atlus, Atlus U.S.A.
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Steam
Price: $14.99 USD
For fans of: Tower defense games, Monty Python

Hello, and welcome to the Not-Brad hour! I’m your host, Kayla, and I’ll be taking you on another review today.

Among all of the games I’ve played, I never thought I’d be playing one that involved rolling boulders with different special abilities down hills and through herds of cattle, dodging buffalos and catapults in a land straight from Monty Python illustrations. Yet, somehow I found myself here, and I actually really enjoyed it.

Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder is… Well, it’s ridiculous, but in the best way possible. The visuals are gorgeous and reminiscent of Monty Python movies with their zaniness and paper doll-esque themes. I never played the first, so I’m unable to compare the two, but I found everything from the music to the environment to the mechanics rather enjoyable nonetheless.

The game revolves around Atlas the Titan, son of Iapetus and Clymene, who is stuck holding Gaea, or Earth, while God does… God things. You know, painting pictures, drawing platypuses, the usual. In an attempt to work a kink out from his back, Atlas accidentally drops the world and finds himself holding a boulder instead. In a panic, Atlas winds up falling into the world and travels across various points in history with his trusty boulder sidekick, encountering figures of history and myth such as Joan de Arc, Adam and Eve, Vincent van Gogh, Hercules, Medusa, and more.

Fun fact, by the way. In the original mythology, Atlas did not actually hold up Gaea! He stood on the western side of Gaea, and held up Uranus, or the sky, as punishment for being on the losing side of the war, called the Titanomarchy, between the Titans and the Olympian gods.

The game spans across five time periods, with a total of fifteen rockin’ levels. A fantastic counterpart to the zaniness of the game itself was how gorgeous the levels were. I fully admit that if I fell off the map, I took a moment to savor how well-crafted the scenery was. Some levels, like ‘Lviv’ (based off of Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’) were absolutely stunning. Each level felt unique, in both visuals and strategy needed. The music was just as enjoyable, and it was hard to be frustrated at a set of annoying obstacles when I had such upbeat music playing in the background.

And the mechanics actually impressed me. The physics felt pretty spot on. Rolling a boulder at fast speeds means they’re not going to turn on a dime, and while it was frustrating sometimes when I couldn’t get through a turn safely, I still ended up laughing at the dramatic way my boulder fell off the map. The various boulders handled differently, which meant I couldn’t just roll into a game and expect to rock it the same way as the last one. Similarly, I couldn’t use the same techniques on each map. Some of the maps, I was able to use the inflated cow boulder to hop over chunks of the maps and obstacles without an issue. Others, however, that was clearly impossible, or at least required a much steadier hand than mine was. Some boulders had wonderfully useful skills, such as the tar and paint boulders being able to stop your opponent from building on squares, or the angel boulder giving you a double jump. I still haven’t successfully implemented the rock of ages, but there’s something hilarious about watching a giant square trying to roll down hills.

While it had the potential to get repetitive, the zaniness of the game had me laughing so much that I didn’t notice that. I restarted courses multiple times in the campaign, and to my delight found that the A.I was not programmed to place the same obstacles in the same places. One level I might start with a row of bulls and explosive barrels waiting for me. Another level, I might have a whale and a wall waiting for me in the same place. There were obvious places that were favorites to put traps- such as springboards on bridges or the giant fans blowing into the whales in narrow corridors- but no two games felt the same, nor was I ever able to roll through a game without trying. Some courses took me multiple tries, as I had to finagle my strategy for both my opponent and my course. Eventually, I managed to rock it, but it always took time and strategy.

There are boss levels, which are as zany as the rest of the game. You’re given a cutscene while going into the level and are assigned a boulder, rather than choosing one of your own. Instead of creating obstacles, you’re set to move around a limited arena and have to hit the enemy in a specific weak point. I learned very quickly that the opening cutscene isn’t meant just to be silly or humorous, it’s your only clue for how to get the enemy. It took me way too long to figure out how to hit Le Penseur. (Or The Thinker. Sorry, I was feeling fancy.) After that first embarrassing fight, I learned to really pay attention to those cutscenes. The Sphynx was actually pretty tricky for me to figure out, and I have to thank my copilot, Steampoweredmina, for that one. With how much I love Monty Python and a worry I might be biased due to said love, I decided to Share Play with one of my Overwatch teammates and gauge her reactions for this game as well. I’ll get into that later, but it’s thanks to her suggestion of “Maybe you’re supposed to boop her on the nose? I mean, she’s like a cat.” that helped me there.

Of course, nothing prepared me for playing as the ball in a match of foosball…

You can replay any of the levels in the campaign, and watch the ridiculous cutscenes as much as you want. Each level in the campaign has two modes: War, and Obstacle Course. In War, you can select nine units, with boulders taking two units apiece, and the rest taking one. Before DLC options, there are 16 boulders total, and 19 defensive units. Defensive units range from basic pieces like the Tower, which can be used by itself or spread out to make a wall, to more ridiculous options like vacuum-powered whales that suck up boulders, and balloons that use a ‘lion-anchor’ technology to attack boulders. New boulders are earned by beating levels in the campaign, while new defensive units are earned by rolling over them in the world map.

The goal in War is to reach the enemy’s castle and batter the door down, which can take several tries to wear down the door. If you aren’t careful, your boulder’s health can be depleted all the way by the enemy’s defenses, leading you to have to wait for your boulder to respawn. Once the door is broken down, all that remains is to roll on in and squish the enemy. The Obstacle Course pits you and the AI on the same track, dodging obstacles and racing to reach the castle first. Win three times, and the level is yours. Each level has two stars, one earned from War, and the other from Obstacle Course. Boss levels award one star apiece, leading to a total of 33 stars.

Outside of the campaign, modes include:

  • Game of War, which is a stand-alone version of the Campaign’s War
  • Obstacle Course, the same as in the campaign
  • Time Trial, which has you trying to race down the tracks, sans obstacles, as fast as you can to the castle doors.

The more I delved into the different modes, the more I realized that there was never just ‘one’ way to get through the course. You could follow the beaten path, or you could look for the hidden routes, the shortcuts, the easy way outs.. Though those admittedly had their own risks. In the Garden of Eden, for example, it was very easy to jump around as the inflated cow, but failing to gain enough momentum for some of the jumps or a strategically placed obstacle could ruin that plan.

I’d say you can easily get through the campaign on Normal in under ten hours, but it’s definitely a wild ride full of fun. It’s far more enjoyable with friends. Share Playing with my pal had both of us in giggles or her shrieking when I failed to hit a jump. We both were in stitches over the ridiculous cutscenes, and admired the visuals together, discussing the use of the artistic references. The kids of the house wandered in a few times and were delighted at how silly it was, and suggested different obstacles for me to play. The online multiplayer is enjoyable as well, as it’s a nice change up from playing against the computers, however, the pickings are slim. I got lucky one day and found three other people online at the same time, and that’s the most I’ve seen at any given time. However, if you have a friend over, or are having a house party and want something whacky to play, I’d certainly recommend this as a title for some giggles from your guests.

Really, my only complaint besides lack of online players is how short it is. I would have loved to see more of the silly shenanigans that Atlas and his boulder get into. And once the campaign is over, the urge to play it for more than a short period of time diminishes, unless I decide to play through the campaign again to experience the silliness.

Overall, this is a game I’d strongly recommend to many of my friends. It’s whacky, it’s fun, and for those of us that are fans of Monty Python, it tickles us right in the funny bone. The campaign is certainly short, but there’s enough of a challenge in the different modes, trying to get the trophies, or even trying it on different difficulties that replayability is a given. For the price point, it’s not a bad value at all. There are so many different things to laugh about that it’s the perfect pick-me-up, a wonderful gem to play between longer titles for a break, for a laugh, or for fun with friends and family. The campaign is short, but there’s enough content in the other modes to make up for that. For me, this was an extremely enjoyable title and a ton of fun.

So where’s the score? Sorry lads and lasses, there’s no score to be had. A score is just a number, after all, and my goal here was to convey my opinions and impressions of the game, rather than a strict arbitrary number or shaded-in sequence of shapes. Check out the review above to hear my impressions about it, or reach out to me on Twitter for more in-depth questions that I couldn’t answer here!

Full disclosure: This review was completed using a digital PlayStation 4 copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher, Atlus U.S.A. The contents of this review are unbiased, however, and are entirely based on my experience of the game as a gamer, in order to give constructive criticism to the developers/designers, and a fair accounting for other gamers who are interested in the title.

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