When it comes to history and the humanities, there’s a lot of confused information out there. Misattributed quotes, creative licensing with figures and events that are centuries past: it doesn’t just end at terrible Marilyn Monroe quotes, people.
So isn’t it refreshing when Chilean developer ACE Team comes to the rescue with a game that not only entertains, but educates? Rock Of Ages 2: Bigger And Boulder is an indie bowling sim/tower defense game in which you battle historical figures, mythological creatures, and gigantic works of art with the help of a handful of gigantic rocks. Just like it happened in real life.
The gameplay is a simple enough good time. You set traps for your opponent while you wait for your boulder to be carved from the local mountains. The moment it’s ready to roll, you find yourself piloting the oldest version of a nuclear weapon known to man: a big damn rock. You need to dodge traps set out for you while also maintaining a good speed. At the end of the course (if you make it to the end), the velocity and general well-being of your boulder determine how hard you smash into your opponents gate, and therefore how long it will be until you Joan Of Arc or Vincent Van Gogh or Adam and Eve are thinner than a D student’s book report. Just like it happened in real life.
The real joy of playing Rock Of Ages 2, however, comes from the art direction of the game itself. The characters and settings are based on actual works of art, and they’re manipulated in a way that’s very reminiscent of the old Monty Python cartoons. Your familiar opponents have been morphed into surreal caricatures that squeal and scream and bounce off the walls like a classic Daffy Duck cartoon: it is so much fun and so genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, that the natural progression of beating one level after another is made all the more urgent by the fact that you’ll want to see what insane things the developers got the next person to do. The levels you find yourself in are incredibly beautiful and varied. One moment you’re soaring through Adam and Eve’s heavenly racetrack in the clouds, the next you’re bounding over the sand dunes and melting clocks of a Dali-inspired dreamscape, courtesy of the Burning Giraffe.
Like the artwork, the music serves as a brilliant method of mixing the surreal with the classic and legendary characters that you’ll find yourself attacking with rocks. You don’t have to be a fan of classical music to appreciate how perfect a lot of these pieces are for their levels. Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights, Funeral March For A Marionette, there are so many classics in this game and they fit the overall theme perfectly: one part nod to Monty Python-esque humor, one part tribute to the greatest works of art known to man, shortly before you smash them.
Rock Of Ages 2: Bigger And Boulder is a true slice of something wonderful. The core gameplay mechanics largely remain the same outside of some special levels, but the personality that ACE Team has infused it with is the true selling point. It’s outrageous, it’s bizarre: Rock Of Ages 2 might be one of the more memorable games of 2017, if only for the number of times it left a big stupid grin on my face.
Review is based on PC code provided by publisher. Rock Of Ages 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam for $14.99.