Rock of Ages II combines simple, fun gameplay with a sense of humor that you won’t find in many other games. While the visuals are basic and there are a couple gameplay issues, Rock of Ages II is an overall pleasant romp through history.
Rock of Ages II: Bigger and Boulder
Developer: Ace Team
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review
Only in video games could one experience being a boulder crashing through buildings and over legendary figures of the middle ages and beyond. If that idea sounds strange it’s nothing compared to the game itself, essentially a giant game of marbles on top of a historical diorama. Things get a bit messy, but in the end it’s a lot of fun.
The story is definitely scarce, but this is the sort of game where that’s a benefit. Gameplay is key in Rock of Ages II, but that doesn’t mean that the small bits of narrative aren’t welcome. Having accidentally dropped the Earth, Atlas roams the Earth to find the AWOL planet before God gets a hold of him and assumedly scolds him for being irresponsible. Naturally, Atlas has to roll through a number of figures from history and fiction, ranging from Copernicus to Baba Yaga, while also fighting legends of culture like the Thinker. It’s a fast-paced tour through a disjointed world history in the best way possible.
The humor is the best part of the story, as there are so many different varieties of comedy present. There are decent parodies of Pokémon and Frogger, alongside humorous retellings of the origins of Joan of Arc or Richard VIII; it’s a silly take on history that stays entertaining without overstaying its welcome.
“It’s immensely satisfying to speed downhill while crashing into enemy turrets and buildings, and just as fun to avoid obstacles to maintain speed for the entire run.”
As mentioned earlier, gameplay is the most important part of Rock of Ages II, and it’s largely enjoyable outside of a few oversights. The main game has you and an A.I. foe both set up a number of defenses on different sides of a large obstacle course, each of which is based on different styles of art throughout history. You and your enemy both try to knock down the door to the other’s castle so that you can squash their leader and win the match. To keep your opponent away, each roll gives you a certain amount of gold to spend on defenses and traps to keep your opponent away. Defenses range from simple things like towers that block the opponent to war elephants and airships that knock enemies off course, though you can only bring a certain number of obstacles to each map. This means you’ll quickly learn what tools you like to use best, finding your own personal niche. There are a variety of boulders to choose from as well, each with their own advantages and flaws. The caveman-wheel moves incredibly fast but is hard to steer, while the cube does enormous damage, but doesn’t accelerate much. The designs of each are incredibly charming, and the differences are drastic enough to justify trying out each one.
It’s immensely satisfying to speed downhill while crashing into enemy turrets and buildings, and just as fun to avoid obstacles to maintain speed for the entire run. The core gameplay is a ton of fun to play over and over, and the large variety of courses make it even better. The courses are normally laid out in a way that makes it easy to keep track of where you’re going, though there are a couple that are too messy visually, leading to confusion and a lot of falling off-course. I ran into a couple gameplay issues as well, where I would glitch into a gap between two walls. I wouldn’t be off-course enough to be placed back on the road, but I couldn’t move or jump, meaning I would have to restart the entire match. This wasn’t frequent by any means, but the few times it came up were frustrating to say the least.
“The 2D photo-based parts of the game are charming, but the 3D parts are too basic, going against the stellar themes at play on each course.”
There are a number of different modes, including a VS mode, a racing mode, and time attack. The variety is much appreciated as the each option provides a different way to play. Obstacle Course has you going as fast as possible without laying out traps, while Game of War has you warding off any enemy from the story, or a friend locally. There’s plenty of fun to be had, whether you want to play alone or with a friend.
Visually, Rock of Ages II is somewhat at odds with itself. There’s a great style encompassing the entire game thanks to the gorgeous variety of styles used. One level has Vincent Van Gogh-inspired painted backgrounds, while another is based on the style of art in ancient Greece. The problem lies in the models for bosses and courses, which look as though they would belong more on the PS3 than the PS4. The 2D photo-based parts of the game are charming, but the 3D parts are too basic, going against the stellar themes at play on each course.
Rock of Ages II has a fun soundtrack that’s made up of remixed classical songs, adding to the artsy feeling the game bathes in. There’s something about running over little historical figures to the iconic scores of the world’s most renowned composers that ties the game together. The voices are incredibly cheesy in a charming way, typically because of the sporadic grunts and groans most characters make. It fits the style of the little paper people hopping up and down spastically, and contrasts with the classical music in an entertaining way.
The Final Word
Rock of Ages II is flawed but ultimately quite fun. The core of the game is a lot of fun, and the humor and variety of modes make for an overall enjoyable game, despite the subpar visuals and glitches that attempt to hold the game back.
MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair