Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder Review
Release Date: August 28
Developer: ACE Team
Platform: Steam, PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One
A few years go, Rock of Ages fulfilled our desire for quirky action/strategy/comedy all at once by offering a silly title inspired by (but not accurately portraying) several classic art styles through history. In the midst of Sisyphus' (of Greek Mythology) neverending quest to roll an immense boulder up a hill, various foolish things would happen that would result in an all out war centered around rolling said giant rock down a hill in a slapstick tower defense game. This time, Atlas was holding up the Earth as God worked on various creatures. I suppose he shrugged, because down goes the Earth. Thus the rolling continues again.
Rock of Ages is the kind of series that you don't do a lot of changing to. The storyline is done in a very Monty Python-esque way, with cutout characters dealing with strange situations that lead to battle. The irrerverent humor is very smart. Pablo Picasso is represented as some strange beast who goes around barfing paint on things to turn them into his unique oil paint design, or Don Quixote has a level where giants in the distance slowly morph into windmills as you roll closer to them. As the title states, this is "Bigger and Boulder," much like how Portal 2 took what worked with the original and expanded, giving you more of what was good in the original. There's plenty of smart comedy for those wise enough to catch it.
In the story mode, you run across a wide variety of enemies, from traditional foes like Alexander the Great and William Wallace, to Adam and Eve or Salvador Dali's Burning Giraffe. Munch's "The Scream" character has a battle because Atlas accidentally replaces his suntan lotion with glue, sticking his hands to his face. Each opponent has a world map, with your defending playfield identical to theirs. Both opponents from the top of the hill and defend a castle at the bottom. Deploying weapons that range from sticky cows that Katamari onto the boulder to make it difficult to roll to whales that suck up your boulder and spit it out across the battlefield, the weaponry is not without mirth. The game proceeds much like an evolution of the classic "Rampart," where you are given a chance to bombard your enemy castle with your boulder and then have time to build your own defenses as your lackeys carve out your next boulder. During this time your opponent is doing the same. The purpose is to get to your enemy's gate, smash it, watch them scream like a little girl, and squash them flat. Occasionally you will come across boss battles, and have to do battle with giant monsters representing classic artistic pieces as well. In the sequel, these mirrored landscapes actually have a chance to cross over each other as well. You don't often run into your opponent, but if you do it gives you a chance to throw them off balance.
Rock of Ages 2 has a stronger focus on multiplayer than it's predecessor, allowing up to four players to roll to their hearts content, in versus matches or obstacle courses. In a wonderful turn, you can play two players on the same system and still get into an online battle. Many titles these days limit you to one person per system, so it's good to see split screens still exist and not force you to find four separate owners to get a full game going.
The best part of the game for me is the beautiful artwork. Each world follows it's own artistic theme. One moment you'll roll on a frosty landscape with Starry Night in the background, while the next you'll be flying over Dali's melting clocks in Persistence of Memory. A lot of care is put into the art represented here. The developers truly have an appreciation for art, and have earned the ability to throw some jokes the way of the classic painters and historical figures. Along with the upbeat music and giggle worthy cutscenes, the presentation of this title makes you come back for more, despite any paper-thin plot. But how much plot do you really need to throw a ball down a hill to break down castle walls?
If I had to throw (or roll) a negative at the game, it would be that by and large there's only so much you can do. You can experiment with different combinations of weaponry, but each level really calls for particular sets, so it would be a personal challenge to try with a different loadout. The different boulders are similar to the power ups of the original title, and give you a chance to try for victory with a ball made out of sticky tar that prevents your enemy from building, or a literal bomb that will explode before you get to the destination if your fuse is hit too much. Again, though, these challenges are up to you. And while there is an emphasis on multiplayer, only time will tell if it holds enough of a population to be fun in versus mode.
Rock of Ages 2 takes what was great about the first title and ramps it up, making it bigger and "boulder." While funny for all, those who know their art history will get a few extra kicks out of the cutscenes. Weaponry is funny, but also makes sense as you get used to it, and a smart player will find perfect combinations to take down their enemy. It's a straightforward title with not much variety in the grand scheme, but the aesthetic variety and humor within will make you want to see all it has to offer.
-Fun defense/offense combo like oldschool Rampart
-Humor is laugh-out-loud funny at times
-Beautiful artwork is ingrained into the graphics in each level
-More of the same is good in a series like this
-Gameplay is repetitive after a while
-Self-motivated variety to prolong gameplay options
Thanks to the folks at ACE Team and ATLUS (heh) for providing a code for review.