Are you ready to rock?
Welcome to Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder! This is a sequel to the historically accurate military bowling game that rolled out in 2011, where we followed the tale of Sisyphus using his boulder to fight his way out of hell. I think. The jury is still out on whether or not that was just a daydream while he was on a break.
Anyhow, this game focuses on Atlas, the titan that carries (or rather, carried) the world on his shoulders, as per the Greek mythos. He accidentally drops the ball and shatters the super continent of Pangea when God is visiting him, creating the Moon and Sun, with stars and constellations to boot! When Atlas realizes his mistake, he accidentally drops Earth off of his tower, and has to pick it up off the floor. Instead of picking up Earth, he picks up Sisyphus’ boulder and carries that on his shoulders. When God turns around, Atlas jumps into Earth to escape the wrath of God.
The rest of the game has been described as a distilled version of Monty Python. You run into historical individuals and must fight them in the majestic art of medieval bowling. This is where the gameplay kicks in. You make selections of what type of boulder(s) you want to bring with you, and of what defenses you want to bring along to place on your track.
Each map has a different theme, befitting of the historical opponent, with two identical tracks. At the end of each track is a castle – the track you build on has your castle, whilst the enemy has theirs. You must siege their castle by rolling your boulder down the track and dealing as much damage as you can to the enemy gate, until it breaks, so you can then roll over your opponent. Before you get to the castle gate though, you have to deal with your opponent’s defenses, and the more of them you break, the more money you have to spend on your own upgrades.
Generally speaking, you want to smash as many of the defenses as you can, but you will run the risk of damaging your boulder – and the more you damage your boulder, the less damage you do to the enemy’s gate. If your boulder’s health hits zero, then it crumbles apart and you have to wait for another one to be carved out. Each one, of which there are many, has a special ability, along with different stats. One of these stats is how long it takes for another to be carved out for you to roll at an opponent. Generally speaking, the weakest balls take the least amount of time, but you’re able to churn them out faster and send a barrage of destruction to your enemy’s base. Of course, the inverse of that statement is also true; the stronger a boulder is for stats, the more time will be needed for another one to be shipped out.
My personal favorite is the Gunpowder Boulder, a giant rolling grenade that has a fuse. If that fuse rolls over the ground enough times without a break in between, it will ignite and blow up your boulder. This is supremely useful for doing a large explosion to enemy gates, unless you aren’t careful enough before you get to the castle of course. It has weak stats in everything but damage, for which it is entirely maxed out. It generally takes four rolls against the enemy to defeat them. Three of those rolls are dedicated to breaking the gate, one of them for rolling. The weakness to this ball, of course, is that because it explodes when it hits the castle gate, you have to roll another one after you break down the gate in order to finish the match, leaving you vulnerable to an unfortunate stolen victory.
When you defeat an enemy, they will unlock more nodes to travel to on the world map; some of them reward nodes, others are mission nodes. The rewards will usually be new defenses, but there are three extra defense slots that can be found behind challenges. In order to access these challenges, you have to have gained a certain number of stars from missions. I do believe it goes in increments of five, so it’s not too difficult to gain access to these bonuses and getting a leg up on the competition.
That’s about it as far as the game goes. There is an obstacle course mode, but it’s mainly just a race against an AI boulder and randomized defenses. Each map can be played in obstacle mode, but you have to complete the main conquest of said map beforehand. You get to select any boulder from the ones you have unlocked, and it generally adds more use for the faster, slightly weaker, boulders. You’ll need to beat the AI boulder three times to win the match, accruing points for each successful lap against your opponent. The game also features Co-Op, both local and online. You can bring three more people in and have a 2v2 experience, but I have had major difficulties finding an online match, and usually lack enough friends to host a local game on a regular basis. But from what I’ve seen, Rock of Ages II only brings more fun with three more boulders!
As far as the story goes, it’s satire. Don’t expect anything truly riveting, but expect to laugh if you enjoy Monty Python-esque humor. The graphics are truly fantastic, the audio is quite high in quality, and the gameplay is fun for those that like racing down a hill, dodging/smashing your way through obstacles. I say we drop this in to a new genre of games, for it isn’t really a full tower defense title, and it isn’t really bowling. It should be called “Boulder-dash!” Yes, with an exclamation point.
But that’s not all that I want to talk about. I want to dedicate some serious praise to the people involved in the graphical side of development, for they are that extra ingredient that takes this game all the way to a five-star rating. The absolute work and care they have put in to make Rock of Ages II Bigger & Boulder look as great as it does is truly commendable. They’ve had to mimic art styles, and to make three-dimensional art that looks like a Van Gogh painting is just spectacular. I would like to raise my boulder up to them, and thank them, and the other members of the development team, for a truly spectacular game.