Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder is a strategic platformer/tower defense game developed by ACE Team and the sequel to the critically-acclaimed original Rock of Ages. It tells the story of a quarrel between God and Atlas, the Greek Titan condemned to hold up the sky of Earth forever. As Atlas gets tired from holding up the Earth, God sits there and starts painting. This angers Atlas and he tries to pass the Earth off to God for a break. In this struggle, the Earth falls into oblivion and just happens to land beside the Rock of Ages. Atlas reaches down and picks up the boulder instead of Earth and begins an adventure throughout time to escape his imprisonment from God.
The gameplay mechanics of Rock of Ages 2 is an awesome hybrid of a highly strategic tower defense mode and a slightly challenging 3D platformer. This title allows players to choose from the following game modes: War, Obstacle Course, and Time Trials. The time trials are the most straightforward as it is no different from time trials in any other platformer out there. You begin at the beginning of one of the amazing levels in this game and race against the clock. Some of the levels are quite simplistic, while others can take some trial and error to get the perfect run down.
The campaign of this title is comprised of fifteen stages and three boss fights as you scour the countryside to collect stars and show your dominance over everyone else. You are able to earn two stars on each stage and they are awarded for beating your adversary at War and the Obstacle Course. The War mode is tower defense inspired as you and your opponent race throughout the course to destroy the other’s castle. Each equipped with an arsenal of cannons, towers, sticks of dynamite, and even the power of lightning to impede the opponent’s boulder and reduce the damage that they can achieve. The damage mechanic is determined by the boulder that you chose, the speed upon impact and how damaged you are. Each boulder has their own stats to change up your gameplay style between levels. Some of the rocks will reach top speed and do the most damage but have no special effect. While certain others will not do as much damage, they can instead leave spots on the course that makes the ground unbuildable. They even included the coolest boulder out there, The Block of Ages. The boulder is a cube of solid granite that is super hard to control but always does maximum damage. Great for damage, if you can even make it to the castle! The obstacle courses take place on the same playing field as the War matches, except you race your opponents to an open castle avoiding randomly placed obstacles and hazards.
The three boss fights put you in a unique situation in which you need to defeat a historical legend in a traditional boss fight. These fights differ from the rest of the game as you are put in an arena and must learn the pattern of the boss in order to defeat them. Some are easier than others, but in the end, none of them are that difficult. The best part of the boss fights is the break from the other game modes that populate the campaign and give you a fresh new experience, albeit a short one. Some of the boss fights even pay homage to classic retro titles as a means of defeating the boss. For example: during the first boss that I encountered, the Sea Monster, I was tasked with crossing the sea, jumping from boat to whale and back to the boat again until I reached the monster to deal damage. The level layout was designed like Frogger and acted as such while I was playing it. This amused me and thought it was a nice addition to the humor of this title.
Rock of Ages 2 also offers online multiplayer modes of both War and Obstacle Course. I was about to get a few games of each in, but the multiplayer is not really populated. I spent fifteen to twenty minutes searching for a match and then I was lucky if I found an actual person. I tried four times and only once did I find another human being to play against. The other three times the game just gave up and put me in the match by myself against an AI opponent. This isn’t the games fault, it is just the sad fact that nobody is really playing the multiplayer.
The visuals of Rock of Ages 2 are unique and the prime example of what makes this title stand out. The visuals when you are in control and playing the game are crisp and clear, but the cutscenes are hand-drawn backgrounds mixed with animated cardboard cutout character models that look straight out of a history book. The cutscenes were crude and bizarre, but memorable. Nobody is going to forget a cutscene where an ancient drawing of Hercules is lifting weights in the background while Atlas is carrying a giant boulder.
On the other hand, the sounds of this game were a mixed bag. The dialogue is a mixture of grunts, random gibberish, and a few words here and there. From my perspective, the dialogue was unimportant most of the time and it sufficed for the supposed communication. However, it did get annoying during longer cutscenes where nothing is going on except for two characters flailing their arms and spewing utter nonsense. This was amusing at first, but after playing the game for six to eight hours, I didn’t even listen to the grunts. I just marveled in awe at the visual style. The music presented in Rock of Ages 2 was epic and I had an awesome time listening to it, but it left no major impact on me.
My time with Rock of Ages 2 was extremely enjoyable and I loved every minute of it. From the beautiful visuals to the engaging gameplay, I just could not get enough of it. The platforming had tight controls that allowed for precise movements and the tower defense had tons of options, providing you with various methods to defeat your opponent. This title was the best of both worlds and the developers should be praised for the quality of this title. The original Rock of Ages of the Xbox 360 didn’t leave much of an impact on my gaming history, but I wanted to give this game a chance. I am glad I did as this game blew my expectations out of the water.
In the end, Rock of Ages 2 was a phenomenal platformer mixed with tower defense that I would recommend to any gamer. The game has a slight difficulty curve, but nothing extreme and if it gets too much for you, there is an easy setting. The game is priced at $20 USD, which I feel is fair as you will get eight to twelve hours out of it easily. I personally did everything and got all the achievements and I got about ten hours of gameplay.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review
Final Score: 9.5/10
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