When Rock of Ages came out back in 2011, I don’t think anybody quite saw it coming. Much like the poor defenseless civilians that the giant boulders in this game constantly pummel over, the industry was taken by surprise at this bizarre fusion of genres. Mixing Super Monkey Ball with tower defense and a pinch of Monty Python humor and aesthetics, this series is something wholly unique, and Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder aims to do more of what it’s best at. So if you’ve been itching for more absurd boulder-rolling action, ACE Team is delivering in spades with this beefy sequel.
If you’ve never touched Rock of Ages, it might take a bit to wrap your head around it. Gameplay consists of competitive bouts where two opponents have a giant boulder being built atop a hill on their respective sides of a mirrored battlefield. When the boulder is completed, you can control its momentum and movement to guide it down the hill and crash into the gates of the enemy castle. The first to destroy the gates of their opponent wins, which is why when you’re not rolling boulders, you’ll be building defenses on your land to impede your rival’s progress. A variety of tools from stonewalls to springboards and even hot air balloon ballistas are at your disposal.
It’s an odd mix of ideas, but it comes together incredibly well. ACE Team put together a solid foundation in their first entry, and Rock of Ages II only serves to build on that. The variety of strategies available to you as you build your defenses is large, affording players the ability to come up with their own unique tactics. Do you focus on dealing raw damage to your enemy, or do you try to block off or misdirect them long enough for you to get an extra boulder onto the field?
Still, it can initially be a little tough to figure out the best way to go about building your defenses. While the opening tutorial goes over your control options and how to use the building menu, it would have been nice if it offered up some advice on how to best utilize the tools you have at your disposal. It can also sometimes be hard to know how effective your defenses are, when you’re usually busy rolling your boulder at the same time as your enemy. Having some sort of mini-map or picture-in-picture mode to track the progress of your enemy while you play would help out a lot.
A lot of what makes Rock of Ages so successful isn’t just the gameplay, though. The humor and aesthetic are a huge part of their formula for success. Story mode is silly and bizarre and makes up most of the charm of this game. You don’t have to have played the first game to understand what’s going on, as it’s mostly just a series of strange Monty Python-esque encounters between Greek god Atlas and an array of legendary figures. The cutscenes before each battle have absurd humor that always had me smiling.
Unfortunately, that same aesthetic is somewhat hampered once you get in-game. Compared to the other console version of Rock of Ages II, the graphical fidelity of the game on Switch is massively downgraded. Shadow details are low, and environment details are even lower. The crisp and saturated colors of the original game are toned down and much less impressive in this version. In sacrificing so much visual fidelity, though, the game maintains a consistent frame rate throughout.
That frame rate is important for the high-speed action of the game, especially thanks to the variety of game modes available. If you grow tired of the story and want to simply hop into a quick standalone match on any map, Game of War has you covered. Want to practice avoiding obstacles at breakneck speeds? Give Obstacle Course a try. Or for people who just want to roll a boulder without any enemy obstructions in the way, you can give Time Trial a shot. The variety of modes is much appreciated and adds a heft of replayability to the game.
Overall, Rock of Ages II: Bigger & Boulder is a solid sequel to one of the most bizarre games of the last generation. The wacky writing and adorable art paired with the challenging yet rewarding gameplay lead to a recipe for success. Unfortunately, that recipe is somewhat botched by the very basic tutorial options in the game, unexpected difficulty spikes, as well as the severely downgraded visuals of this Switch port. Fans of the series will have a blast with it on Switch, but if visuals are a priority, you might want to play elsewhere.
A review code was provided by the publisher.