Rock of Ages 3 is like a Kinder Egg. And I mean the Kinder Eggs from the 90s, with the toy inside the egg, before they were banned because the American kids kept choking while trying to swallow them whole or something. It’s a delicious exterior, it really is. But inside, there’s just a cheap, flimsy toy that you play with for five minutes and then forget about.
But, granted, those five minutes are a lot of fun.
The game’s Monty Python-esque style is immediately apparent in the art, animation, music, and sound effects. If Terry Gilliam gets royalties every time a fart noise is played over an animated figure cut out of an old painting, then his retirement is about to get a bit more comfortable.
Where Rock of Ages 3 really shines is in the cinematic sequences between levels. The aesthetic is so wonderful that I wish ACE Team would just make a historical adventure game and forget about the boulder-rolling stuff. The game opens with the Greek myth of Odysseus raiding the cave of a giant cyclops named Polyphemus – you know, the one where Odysseus blinds the cyclops and then he and his crew cling to Polyphemus’s sheep to get out of the cave. From there, you’re taken on a journey through human civilisation, going from ancient Greece to Rome, India, Mongolia, Mesoamerica, and beyond. You can also go backwards in time, to when the Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe, and the music and visuals change to match each setting perfectly. In one stage you’ll be crashing through Roman villas, and in the next you’ll be dodging Aztec temples. The soundtrack, while always frantic, is true to each setting, albeit with an electric guitar mixed in. It’s great.
As far as gameplay goes, you control a (usually) spherical object as it careens along an obstacle course until it reaches the end, which is either an enemy castle or a set of skee-ball rings. Some game modes will have you constructing obstacles to stop an enemy boulder from hitting your own castle while you wait for your next boulder to be ready to launch. You’ll unlock different boulders and obstacles as you play through the campaign.
Boulders to choose from include the default stone sphere, a stone cube, a ball of sheep, and a wheel of cheese, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, so you’ll need to choose the right weapon for the challenge. Obstacles you’ll come up against (or that you’ll pit against your enemies) also come in a wide variety. There are ranged weapons that chip away at your boulder’s health, for example, and springboards and fans to push you off-course, monsters that’ll stop you dead for a few agonising seconds, and various animals that’ll get stuck to your boulder and generally make life difficult. It feels like there should be some strategy involved, but I found that just piling on catapults and cannons and trying to get my boulder out of the gate before my opponent’s usually did the trick.
Playing against the AI, I found the difficulty to be inconsistent. In some levels, falling off the track once meant certain defeat, and in others I couldn’t even see the enemy behind me. Rarely did I feel that I actually deserved the win or loss, though I did enjoy each match.
Of course, this is Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break, so what’s the make part like? You can create stages for any of the game modes and set them in any of the locales. I feel like the track creation could be a lot more intuitive, but it’s functional enough as-is. You lay down tracks, adjust the height and angle, drop in scenery and obstacles, and drop in a boulder to test the stage at any time. These custom stages can then be uploaded and voted on by the community and played in multiplayer matches. Unfortunately, during my time with the game, I was unable to connect to any multiplayer matches, and the AI didn’t seem to know what to do with the custom maps that had been uploaded. There does seem to be a following for the series, so perhaps it’ll pick up and you’ll get more mileage out of the multiplayer component. I can imagine playing locally with a friend would be a lot of fun.
Overall, Rock of Ages has a lot of charm and can be a fun respite but there’s not much more to it than that. The gameplay never reaches the heights that the art and sound design do, and adding a rudimentary level creator and bugs to Rock of Ages 2 does not a new game make.
The soundtrack rocks
The Monty Python-esque aesthetic will bowl you over
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