Some games are instantly forgettable. Rock of Ages, a new twist on the Tower Defense / light strategy genre from veterans Atlus, is not one of those games. From the minute you load the game to the minute you give up in frustration, you know this is going to be a memorable experience.
First, an explanation. I say it's based on Tower Defense but it's probably one of the looser adaptations out there - you could argue, even, that it has a closing sibling in a childhood game of marbles than in that venerable genre.
Basically, what it boils down to is this: you need to roll your rock down a slope and bash it into your enemy's door. The first person to break through and squish their opponent wins. In your way is a series of obstacles, weapons, and devices that are designed to put you off. These elements are placed in your path by your enemy, and you get a go do similarly obstruct him by constructing towers of your own while you wait for your next ball to be built between rounds.
The paths start of fairly obvious in their route but become increasingly arcane in layout as you progress, making simple navigation (there's no map) part of the challenge. And oh my, what a challenge. It starts of simple enough, gradually building up the complexity as more elements are introduced. Once you get to "Plague", a half dozen levels or so into the game proper, suddenly the combination of a whacky path, uphill sections, and devious enemy tower layouts combines to ratchet the singleplayer game difficulty up somewhere north of "impossible". And it gets much harder, very quickly, thereafter.
There's multiplayer, too, which is possibly of more interest - especially if you have friends with the title - however skill and strategic prowess from human players is just as likely to leave you embarrassingly obliterated as the genius-level AI.
Then there's the visuals. Wow. Using Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) esque, comedically-animated 2D art in conjunction with the 3D world is a move that will rock you off your feet when you first see it in action. It's gorgeous, simply put, and a bold statement as to how games should or can look on a modern console, without resorting to reality simulation. It's art and it only misses out on top marks here due to slightly swimmy graphics in the build phase.
Similarly, the sound is wonderful and truly befits the visual package. It's funny, carefully and perfectly placed, and applied with the deft touch of a master. If you like to see a game with well-appointed sound, it's worth the price of entry (800 points) for that alone.
A truly unforgettable experience - the only downside is the frustration level. With a bit of tuning, and maybe a minimap, this bad boy might well have scored maximum points - as it is, the difficulty is going to eliminate much of the audience as surely as a huge rolling boulder might squish a stray peasant.
Still, if you reckon you can handle the jandal, it's worth picking up. Hell, even if you grab it just to experience the adorably bizarre presentation, you won't be disappointed.