As my first attempt at a review, I thought I'd take on a curiousity that deserves a bit more attention than I fear it will achieve. Let me know if anything needs changing on this :)
Rock of Ages is another addition to Atlus's wide catalogue of games and sticks to many of their traditions. Namely, it's mental.
To summarize it genre-wise as many are wont to do it could only be described as a Racing/Real-time Strategy. Whilst that might conjure up images of an micro-management ultra-realistic car game, it's about as far from it as you can get. It's more aptly described as competitive angry birds with balls...if you will.
You are Sisyphus, a King from Greek mythology on a quest to escape hell and whatever lies beyond with his trusty...steed(?) a massive boulder with a face. Yep, told you it was mental! Each level starts overlooking a Super Monkey Ball style course with a castle at the bottom. Your goal is to break the door down by navigating the winding paths and any obstacles you may encounter. Generally having to do this three times to complete the level.
I know some people are probably groaning at yet another Marble Blast Ultra style game and I had the same sense of foreboding but trust me - it's where the comparisons end. You see, you have an opponent racing against you on a mirrored version of your course behind you and if that wasn't enough then the best feature comes in.
You start with a small cash sum with which to set up obstacles on your opponents track, ranging from simple "barrier" towers, to "homing bumpers" played by elephants before eventually offering dozens of combinations of upgrades and tactics to employ. Unfortunately, your opponent can do the same so expect to be jumping over dynamite and dodging past the largest bull this side of Deathsmiles. It all comes together to make something exhilarating and unique.
It's all presented in simple but serviceable aesthetics, the music unobtrusive and the speech has the classic Sims sound. The humour, though not for everyone, is good enough to crack a smile at least - a massive statue of David looming in the distance having a cheeky butt-scratch did coax a small chuckle. It also offers both Live and local multiplayer which is absolutely one of the best features of the game and promises to keep on giving when the game is done. The SkeeBall mode was a massive disappointment but it only makes up one of three with Story Mode and Time Trials completing the trio.
It's not without it's downsides though. It can be frustratingly difficult, rarely will levels be finished in any other way than a slight victory. The scales are hugely tipped in favour of your opponent given that they have many more structures than you, but this brings back the wonderful satisfaction of conquering a difficult level even with a handicap.
The AI is questionable and prone to getting stuck, literally permenantly, though this is rare and could be patched out. The boss battles seem rushed and repetitive. Many levels can be completed with the same strategy and holes in defenses are rarely repaired.
But, for me, it comes down to the unique experience, the thrill of beating an opponent by a second and the multiplayer that make it a must buy. There's a huge amount of challenge and replay value finding all the hidden collectibles and it fills a niche that is rarely catered for - people looking for something they have never played anything like before. Next time you hear someone complain that originality is dead, give them some of these balls!