Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder (Xbox One) Review

By Josh Di Falco 28.08.2017

Review for Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder on Xbox One

Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder is a cleverly-crafted tower defence game developed by ACE Team. Blending humour with surrealism, navigate boulders down a slanted obstacle-filled course in one piece in order to roll into the front doors of the enemy's castle. Explore the cut-and-pasted annals of history and mythology, by waging wars against the various figures such as Joan of Arc, William Wallace, and even Adam and Eve. Going it alone or with a second player in an offline story mode, this is an interesting twist on the genre and worth looking at.

When legendary figures of historical context had issues with others, they usually ended up settling the score in warfare. Rock of Ages 2 is no different, except for the fact that they wage war by trying to destroy the other's castle with an extremely large and powerful boulder. In order to reach that castle, the boulder has to navigate through a pathway that has environmental obstructions as well as the options of choice that the opponent has placed on the track. Upon reaching the castle, the boulder then hits the castle doors as hard as possible to inflict as much damage as possible to bring down the castle's life bar. The first player to bring down the opponent's castle wins the conflict.

The basic mechanics are broken into two parts. The first part is actually placing down a series of obstacles, traps and automatic weapons onto the path that the opponent is taking. The aim is to prevent their boulders from reaching the castle, or at the very least, minimise the damage taken by slowing down the opposing boulder. When a battle starts, there is a "quiet" period where both players spend the time to scope out the tracks with a top-down perspective, and begin placing all manners of horrors to defend the castle. When the boulder is ready to make its run, the second part of the game takes a third-person perspective behind the boulder, as it is controlled in a manner similar to Kula World and Marble Blast. Once the boulder has reached the end or died along the way, the game then reverts to the top-down perspective in order for preparation to commence for the next pass. This repeats until one castle is destroyed.

Screenshot for Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder on Xbox One

The top-down perspective view of the tracks in the planning stages is organised on a grid. There are some tiles that simply cannot be built on, and working around these is part of the challenge. Basic defences involve walls, with towers erected on either side of the wall. However, due to the simplistic approach of the grid, the walls can only be built horizontally or vertically, and not diagonally. Of course, every stage has diagonal areas, thus nullifying the walls use here. Turrets are extremely powerful, and can knock the boulders off course or stop them dead in their tracks in mid-jump, but they can only fire 90 degrees from where they are facing. Explosives and fireworks are blasts that do a lot of damage and can quickly turn the boulders into rubble, while a field of cows can slow down the boulders when the cows stick to them upon being touched.

Playing as the boulder, the various traps and obstacles can be destroyed and crushed by simply rolling into or over them. While the heavier ones require a harder hit than others do, one thing is certain: there is lots of carnage, and the merciless boulders wreak havoc on almost everything they pass. However, they are not invincible, and do field a life bar. Taking heavy damage has to be prevented, and sometimes speeding through areas is the most viable way to reach the end. However, the stage designs are cleverly winding, and sometimes even require platforming parts where a timed jump is necessary.

Screenshot for Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder on Xbox One

As fun as all this sounds, however, the actual mechanics of controlling the ball seems clunky at times, and trying to fight gravity in order to keep the boulder on the track is a constant annoyance. Many times, a minor clip of a small obstruction can send the boulder launching right off the track. On top of this, there are environmental elements that the boulder can destroy, such as pre-built houses and walls. In saying that, the boulder also has trouble with stone placements that make no sense as to why the boulder could not possibly run through it. However, the heaviness of the boulders comes through on the controller, as driving them is akin to driving a truck that requires a really heavy turn in order to get around corners.

The boulders contain their own attributes, as some perform more damage, while others travel at faster speeds. In addition to these, they also contain a unique ability that changes how the game is played sometimes, and adds to the overall strategy. One ball has wings allowing for a double jump, while another ball earns extra gold for obstacles destroyed. Another ball can also leave splotches on the ground, thus rendering those tiles useless for future builds for the opponent.

Screenshot for Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder on Xbox One

Rock of Ages 2 contains the Game of War mode, which functions as the story campaign. Battle against historical and mythological figures, and unlock new traps and stages upon defeating them. Winning the stages awards stars, which are then used to open up new paths to harder, more difficult stages and bosses. The boss fights are different to the tower defence style, and contain some unique battles with very specific objectives delivered in a hilarious and amusing way. Cutscenes do a poor job in explaining the context behind each of the battles, but they do a masterful job in illustrating each character satirically.

The only other mode is the Obstacle Course, where the boulders face off in a free-for-all race to the finish line, which is just another castle. The traps are randomly placed by the map generator, and they attack any and all boulders. Apart from the sometimes-hard controls of the boulder, this frenetic and fast-paced mode is more accessible to newcomers. Understanding how to control the boulder and trying to reach the end first is a fun and explosive mode where plenty of fun can be had. The online mode is standard nowadays, and in this game, it just throws out the AI opponents, and replaces them with human opponents. Granted, people are generally a lot harder to tackle than AIs, and this mode is no different. However, it does lack any sort of ranking system or rewards for online wins, though it is something that could easily be expanded on with future updates.

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The maps themselves range from the various parts of history and mythology, and each has their own unique aesthetics textured on to the winding and snaky paths. Some contain sharp corners, while others rely on constant jumping around, and one even contains lava that can damage and kill the boulder. Working out what traps to place in order to maximise the damage caused with help from the environment can be an absolute blast. For instance, placing the field of cows right before the lava will almost always cause the boulder to slow their jump right into the lava. On the other hand, place a jump-spring right on the edge of a cliff to launch them right off.

The aesthetic of the game is that of magazine cut-outs that are then pasted onto historical backdrops. Appearing like something straight out of the first Panic! At the Disco album, this style is whimsical and weird, and completely works with the surrealistic approach. Filled with colourful humour, and cutscenes that give a totally inaccurate depiction of history, the entire concept seems like it belongs in a Monty Python movie. However, in saying that, this can easily throw people off the game completely, and it takes a certain appreciation of this type of humour to truly get behind the game.

Screenshot for Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder is a satirical take on historical and mythological figures, and blends them into this weird and wacky tower defence game. Although the tutorial may do a poor job in explaining the mechanics of the game, this is still easy to pick up and understand. However, be prepared for some ruthless beginnings while messing about with the various obstacles to better understand what works. This game is not to be taken too seriously in terms of story and aesthetics, and it is great for a laugh or two, as they serve as a precursor to the amount of tears that come from some clunky boulder mechanics and some awfully hard AI opponents. Go off- or online with two players and have heaps of fun in what is sure to be a great way to pass the time in a not-so-serious environment of pure mayhem and carnage.

Developer

ACE Team

Publisher

Atlus

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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