Game Review #348: Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder™ (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: ACE Team
Category: Action, Strategy
Release Date: 5.14.2019
Price (at time of review): $14.99
Buy Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder™ from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Rock & Roll Through History
I recently played my first ever tower defense game on Switch and had a blast with it. It was nice to play a genre that used to be a personal favorite on mobile or iPad. I still think that, of all the genres, this one is underutilized, where most genres seem to have a wealth of choices. It’s nice to see the TD genre get some love, but even more exciting when it feels fresh and fun as well.
The Chilean developer, ACE Team, who are based in Santiago, created a game in 2011 that was a very different take on the tower defense genre, Rock of Ages. ACE Team developed a sequel in 2017 called Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder™, and Atlus USA (SEGA) published the game and brought it to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox one. In May of 2019, the game was ported to Nintendo Switch. So, let’s jump in and try this tower defense game that seems to be unlike any I’ve ever played before.
History Should Always Be This Funny
Rock of Ages II has a refreshing take on history, as did the first game. They take a Monty Python high-brow British humor approach that I wasn’t expecting, but I’m so glad they did. My Greek mythology is a little rusty, but you play as Atlas. When the Titans were defeated, many of them were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of the Earth and hold up the sky on his shoulders.
As they say, Atlas carries the weight of the world in his shoulders, and the game begins with Atlas fumbling the world and a giant boulder. The world is dropped, and now Atlas jumps into action, taking his giant boulder to Earth to battle different historical figures throughout time, like King Richard and Joan of Arc. Each encounter is hilarious, like seeing God set the sun in the sky as if he’s Ryu from Street Fighter II, shooting a hadouken fireball. Atlas interacts with with each opponent, with a brief story before each match, and God/Zeus always shows up right on Atlas’s heels, hunting him down. These interactions are goofy, and I enjoyed the humor throughout the story mode.
Tower Defense Is Madness of Marbles
Rock of Ages II is a tower defense game unlike most others in this genre. Usually, you have a headquarters or castle you protect by using different sorts of towers to shoot at incoming soldiers or creatures that look to destroy your base. Here, the game takes a completely different approach, where two sides each have a base/castle, and we have to battle it out to see who can be the first to breach the castles front gate. So, rather than always being on the defensive side of this tower defense game, you’ll play ALL sides.
To begin, you have your base where you have little soldiers that will be chiseling your boulder to attack your opponent. This boulder lies at the top of a hill, and you use the left stick to take control of the boulder as if it were a vehicle. So, we’ve traded in armies for large round rocks, and it’s done brilliantly, as it feels like games I’ve played in my past. Games like Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball come to mind. I found it was like those games, but mixed with strategy and tower defense.
The mechanic of controlling a gigantic boulder felt very fluid and natural, and I always felt in control while barreling down a field and rushing towards a castle to take a hit at the gate—which, most of the time, will take you several attempts before busting through. You have to traverse through lands that will change from stage to stage, testing your ability to reach the castle.
At the start, you’ll be taken through a tutorial led by Napoléon Bonaparte, who tells us the basic ins and outs of how to battle and protect our own castle. From here, we take to the battlefield, where we can use all sorts of different items in attempt to block, destroy, and sabotage the incoming boulder.
As far as where to obtain those items, when Atlas drops the boulder from the heavens and it goes from cloud to cloud, it finally lands on a large map, around which you move your boulder. You can move it into little pit stops to acquire items that’ll be used on the battlefield, but they do require gold to purchase. You’ll set up miners to loot for gold for you so you can have more items during battle.
Once you head into battle with a certain foe from history, you have a limited number of items you can take with you, so you have to strategize and choose wisely. You have items that can damage the boulder, like cannons and large bombs, items that can sabotage the boulder, like spring traps and large elephants that will try to throw the boulder off course—also damaging it—and finally, you have items that look to block or slow the boulder down, like building large stone walls, or my personal favorite, cows. Yes! You can choose to put a herd of cows in a strategically-chosen spot, and if the enemy’s boulder runs through the herd, they become stuck to the boulder, making it almost impossible to control and steer properly.
The double-edged sword to all these very unique items is that the opposition will be using them against you as well, and the AI is pretty damn tricky how they set up their defenses as you go further on. Of course, you’ll have to defeat certain missions to unlock roads and get to more item way points.
You’ll have to manage placing your items on the battlefield while waiting for your soldiers to prepare another boulder for you, while also keeping an eye on your opponent’s boulder and your gate life meter. When you defeat an enemy, you get their boulder, which can be added to your arsenal next time you play.
Audio & Visuals - Modes
The audio and visuals both look to be top-notch from a triple A studio. The soundtrack is a whimsical fair, with brass, strings, and percussion bringing music that I was tapping my feet to, and loving every minute of it. The hilarious sounds and voices had me laughing, and the sounds on the battlefield are also done extremely well.
The visuals are, again, gorgeous, with the Unreal Engine 4 doing spectacular work. The colors, though sometimes muted, always felt as if they were popping off the screen. The characters and opening scenes are well-done, and sprinkled with British troupe humor that, as I said, is very reminiscent of Monty Python.
The game modes include Story Mode, Game of War for a quick match, Obstacle Course, which is a run of insanely fun courses without the battle, Time Trials where you can just have a clean run with no obstacles, and Online Play.
The online was a ghost town, as this seems to be the case for most new or pre-release games, and I really hope it grows an audience, as it is such a fun game to play. Though the online isn’t really established at the moment, the local multiplayer is well-done, and will provide hours of entertainment.
It’s A Wrap!
If you’re looking for a game that is unlike anything else on the Nintendo Switch—that’s also a lot of fun—then Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder™ is gonna be for you. The attention to the smallest detail with the artwork, history, and pop culture references make this a blast, and it never got old. The humor, mixed with history that the first game started, took everything to another level. I highly recommend grabbing this one to add to your collection, and I think it just might be a classic in the making!
Buy Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder™ from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Sega