I played the first Rock of Ages shortly after it came out. Saying I played it on PC doesn’t give the experience the explanation it deserves. I played it at a friend’s house, sitting on the floor, on a laptop connected to a TV with a couple of wired 360 controllers. So booting up Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder was sort of like meeting up with a childhood friend. Wildly different, but also almost exactly what I expected.
Rock of Ages II is the sequel that no one asked for, which makes sense since Rock of Ages was the game that no one asked for, yet quickly carved out its own niche. It’s a game where you roll a giant boulder at your enemy to break down their castle, in order to squash them flat. It’s not that easy however, as both you and your enemy construct a range of defenses in order to (hopefully) stop your enemies from reaching you. This makes it one of the weirder game genre mash ups of tower defense and racing. For some strange reason, it just works. It also works for the sequel.
Rock of Ages II starts off with one of its many weird and wonderful Monty Python-esque cutscenes. Created from 2D collage animation, these tell the story of Atlas, and offer a comedy gold mine between tactical rolling – as long as you don't mind a bit of off-colour historical humour. It's a bit hit-and-miss at times, but thankfully does stray more towards the hit side.
Atlas starts off the game by dropping the world, picking up a boulder (your new best friend) and eventually falling onto Earth in order to escape God's wrath. In God's defense, he seems more confused than anything else. From there you move through the world and ages trying to escape.
You spend the rest of the game battling against various historic figures, who seem to hate you for some reason, though a fair share are just looking for a fight. Whether it’s Joan of Arc’s misunderstanding of God’s words, or the jealous Hercules, everyone wants a piece of Atlas.
With a huge range of opponents comes a huge range of arenas. Salvador Dali's melting clocks, Baba Yaga’s chicken footed house, and an erupting Pompeii all make an appearance. Some maps you will love, some you will hate, and some are made by the most sadistic people on earth. I can't tell you how many times I fell out of the Garden of Eden.
There's also an amazing range of defense items. Figuring out which ones you like best takes time, but they’re all fantastic to see. From sticky cows, to lions tied to hot air balloons, to whales that suck your boulder and spit it off the map.
The thing about Rock of Ages II is that it's hard. You start off with very little in the way of defense items, no special effect boulders, and a restricted amount of defense item slots. The biggest indication that the game is meant to be hard is that you don't have to actually beat your opponent to advance. You can – like me – lose your way through the singleplayer campaign.
Of course, if you're buying Rock of Ages II for singleplayer you're not experiencing everything it has to offer. There is both local and online multiplayer, as well as a combination of both, letting you play with a friend on your console against others online. Locally you can play through the campaign, Game of War, and an obstacle course with another person. The time trial is the only purely singleplayer mode that pits you against a world leaderboard. In Game of War you can play on any map either with or against someone else.
The online multiplayer side of Rock of Ages II offers up to four player, two-versus-two. Unfortunately, upon the game's release it was hard to find a fully lobby. That being said, Rock of Ages II is the perfect multiplayer game to trash talk your friends in.
On the surface, there doesn't seem to be too much different between Rock of Ages and its sequel. Rock of Ages II plays very much the same and fills the same niche. However, it is a much nicer game with better defense items and a lot more polish. Sadly, I found that Rock of Ages II couldn't keep my attention unless I had someone else to play with.
While the singleplayer is good for learning how to play – and required to unlock characters and defense items – it won't keep your attention for too long. Rock of Ages II thrives off the local multiplayer, and it's done well.
Bronwyn received a digital copy of Rock of Ages II from Atlus for review.