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Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break (PC) artwork

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break (PC) review

"Stealth tower defence you canít just take for granite"

Rock of Ages wears its nonsensical Monty Python influences on its sleeve. For example, fans of Greek mythology will recognise the opening stages as taken right from Homer's Odyssey. In the myth, Odysseus and crew find themselves trapped in the cave of a Cyclops, who eats a couple of them every day. To escape, they blind their would-be jailer then attach themselves to the underside of his flock of sheep, to avoid grope-lead detection. In the case of the game, much of the setup is the same, only the main thrust of the new escape plan is to bundle all the sheep together in a boulder-shaped mass, and then roll it repeatedly down a hill until itís able to smash through the barricaded door.

The irrelevant attack on mythology is played out around all the rock rolling, with an animation style paying heavy homage to Terry Gilliam. Itís faithful enough to the fables just enough for them to be recognisable, but then jams in the exploits of a time travelling boulder thatís often shoehorned into improbable situations that are all solvable by smashing down someoneís door. To that end, the sheep boulder represents Rock of Ages in perhaps its purest form; set atop a steep hill, youíre tasked with getting to the bottom of the slope without falling off the edge. The more speed you retain, the more powerfully you smash into the massive door youíre tasked with destroying. Destroy the door and give whomever is hiding behind it a face full of stone, and you win the game.

Except it wonít ever remain that simple. The sheep-themed milk run makes things simple, but not overly easy. The hill isnít one straight shoot, but is crooked with some less than hospitable corners attached. Your massive boulder is about as responsive as, well, a massive boulder, lumbering and turning with all the gravitas that promotes. Itís tricky, but far from unachievable, and you can guide your woolly rock to the finishing line with a little finesse. Then, the game adds some walls youíll need to either bust through or ricochet off. Then, the game adds exploding barrels that knock you off course if you trigger them. Then, the game adds spring pads regressed into the floor that gleefully hurl you braying into the abyss below.

In a lot of ways, what Rock of Ages really wants to be is a secret tower defence game. Most levels give you a hill not only to roll down, but also to fill full of annoying obstacles like the ones mentioned above. It then gives you an AI opponent with a similar mission in mind, then has you go head to head to see who can reach their goal first. Youíre given a countdown while your boulder is being prepared which you use to highlight choke points on your own hill. You use this timer to jam awkward obstacles to foil your AI foe, then, once your boulder is ready to go, you take on their hill.

Thereís numerous variations of this, but the head-to-head tower defence/oversized marble run duality is the bedrock of the game. Various tools come and go ranging from simple walls and towers to giant angry goats whose demonic cries spike your boulder directly into the ground. Thereís a frustrating level of randomness involved in these races, where you can see your AI opponent being absolutely ocement your tower placements as ineffective and amateurish. Thatís annoying, but probably no different to playing against a meatbag challenger whoís needed a few lame rolls to suss out your layout.

To prove it, you can take on other filthy humans online, and itís perhaps here that Ace Teamís third rock and/or roll simulator sees the most change. Thereís always been respectable lobbies filled with people who think they can travel down a hill at a greater speed than you, but as suggested by Rock of Ages 3ís acceptably punny tagline Make & Break, thereís a brand new emphasis on being able to design your own hills from scratch and then float them up online so people can belittle your efforts. People could -- and do -- use this to make some pretty creative rolls but, much like Mario Maker before it, itís also prone to bringing out the most sadistic designers in people. Still, taking on homebrew hills is certainly an adventure and, with a bit of fiddling about, not as difficult to put together as you might be expecting.

If thereís one issue with mapmaking, itís an issue prevalent throughout the game, and thatís how very little is clearly explained to you, and youíre left bumbling about to work things out on the fly. Perhaps, in the context of the main game, this is because the bulk of the players are expected to be returning fans, seeing as new modes (like the Humpty Dumpty setting, which has a pop at being a Monkey Ball-ish platformer) suffer less from this. But the premises are oft interesting enough that your progression wonít be stonewalled. Odds are, youíll roll right through it. If youíre unsure, maybe wait for the game to go on shale. Will I end this review before my pun game hits rock bottom? Ore will I show some restraint? No fracking way.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (August 06, 2020)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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