The Rock of Ages series is a rather strange beast. A concoction of ideas that on paper might be tough to envision working but in practice actually ends up being a surprisingly good mix. Part Super Monkey Ball, part tower defense game and a big ol’ dose of Monty Python-style humor and animation is the best way to describe ACE Team’s rock-rolling actioner. Put simply there’s little out there quite like it. While the Switch is certainly no stranger to… well, strange titles, how does Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder fit?
Much like the first entry, the game’s story is suitably weird and random seeing you take on the role of Atlas, a Titan condemned with holding up the heavens for all eternity. After failing at said punishment Atlas accidentally winds up with the boulder of Sisyphus – a neat call back to the original game – and must then make his way through a series of battles with a lineup of legendary figures both real and fictional that includes the likes of Henry VIII, Ramses and even the Scream (of artist Edvard Munch fame).
These battles have one simple goal and that’s to roll boulders through a Super Monkey Ball-esque battlefield in an attempt to send them crashing into your opponent’s castle gate. Accumulate enough damage and you’ll break said gate and win. Getting your boulder to your rival’s fortress plays out similarly to SEGA’s much-loved series where you’ll have full control over your boulder’s movement as you navigate tricky corners, ramps and even leap over gaps. There’s definitely a weightiness to these spherical rocks that require extra thought as opposed to going full speed recklessly especially as you pick up momentum.
Not only will you have to contend with the level’s geography but you’ll also need to deal with your opponent’s weaponry. Between attacks, you’ll have time to also mount your defense by placing obstacles and weaponry on the battlefield in hopes of delaying and damaging your opponent’s boulder. Damage it enough and you may be able to destroy it altogether. Your resources are limited – although do replenish as you cause destruction or build gold-rewarding mines – so you’ll need to choose your tools wisely.
These instruments of chaos range from barely causing much of an issue to being outright impossible to avoid. As you can imagine the obstacles that lean more toward the latter prove more expensive to use. You’ll have everything from livestock and towers to dynamite and catapults at your disposal as you slowly chip away at the opponent’s boulder. When and in what combination is usually key to an effective defense. For example, a narrow piece of ledge is usually an ideal spot for some explosive barrels that should the opponent hit will send them flying off a cliff.
This mix of light strategic tower defense and perilous boulder racing proves to be a fun one resulting in competitive battles that regularly tip back and forth. All it takes is a few well-placed catapults or a successful shortcut as the boulder to make a comeback.
As you progress through the game’s world map you’ll slowly unlock new devilish tools to mess with your opponents as well as different boulder types each of these offering their own stats. The Angel Boulder, for example, allows you to double jump while the Block of Ages is essentially a cube making rolling to the gate a nightmare but at the benefit of inflicting maximum damage. Breaking up the standard one on one clashes are obstacle courses that see you repeating the same stage three times each run getting progressively denser with things to avoid as well as boss battles that often require you to do a bit of light platforming to take down. The Celtic Sea Serpent, for example, sees you hopping across ships and whales in order to smack it in the face. While rarely proving too taxing to take down they do add a little more variety to the campaign.
If you want to simply hop into a quick match, you’re free to take on AI opponents whenever you like outside the campaign while time trials are an extra option delivering pretty much what you’d expect with medals awarded based on your speed getting through a stage.
Unfortunately, multiplayer options are strictly limited to online play, which is a real shame, especially since the original (and other console versions of the sequel), also included some surprisingly fun local multiplayer too. It’s this shifted focus to playing online that also has me concerned for the game’s longevity since I found it particularly tough finding others to do battle with. Without a local option you’re crossing your fingers you’ll find someone online any time you fancy a bit of multiplayer.
Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder excels in the style department, its stages taking inspiration from art throughout history such as Impressionist art or even going further back to ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, the game does seem to struggle a little on Switch, the visuals blurry especially when running in handheld mode. While far from game breaking it does put a blemish on the otherwise outstanding artwork and styles on display.
Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder manages to combine conflicting genres with a truly weird and wonderful aesthetic style. Unfortunately, the Switch release stumbles in a few areas namely its visuals and the lack of local multiplayer. Still, if you’re looking for something truly left field then Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder is a funny and entertaining ride sure to raise a smile or two.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SEGA