E3 2011: Rock of Ages preview – Marble Madness meets Monty Python, and tower defense will never be the same

With only one word, developer ACE Team has taken tower defense games and flipped them on their collective ear. The word is “offense,” and Rock of Ages is exactly that. Rock of Ages is a tower offense game, which grants players the opportunity to build defenses and defend their castle. But because you then take control of a giant boulder with a face and try to run your opponent’s gauntlet and bash down his castle doors, it’s a tower defense game unlike any you’ve seen before.

The main gameplay involves two castles on opposite ends of a long, floating landscape. One is yours, one is your opponent’s. When the timer starts, two things begin to happen. First, you and your enemy both begin carving out a boulder to roll from the center of the track into the other’s castle gates. The carving happens automatically – you just watch it happen. Or, if you’re smart, you spend that time laying down defenses – everything from charging elephants to TNT to balloons with huge fans on them – to keep the enemy’s boulder from getting to your doors. Because once the carving is done, it’s time for you to drive your boulder into his territory, and hope your own defenses hold up. Then, once the rocks have rolled, the cycle of carving and fortifying continues until eventually someone’s door gets bashed down.

This offense/defense duplicity adds a frantic nature to Rock of Ages beyond that of traditional tower defense games. We were pressured to quickly build our defenses, knowing a boulder would soon be speeding toward our wall, while at the same time we had to get back to our own rolling ball of destruction. Being stressed out, we rolled our ball off the edge of the path more than once, increasing to the challenge.

To add another unique spin to the game, ACE has made Rock of Ages a trip through art history, complete with animations for each time period. We played during the Classical Greek era, but it also includes Renaissance, Rococo, Medieval, and Goya period art. And the whole thing is silly in the same style as Monty Python’s clip-art animated skits.

Rock of Ages should be a perfect bite-sized title that will offer a solid amount of replayability. In addition to the main game, we’ve seen a skee-ball-like multiplayer race mode, and there are some hinted-at puzzle elements as well that we didn’t see. We can’t wait to get a closer look when it hits XBLA and PSN this summer.

Jun 14, 2011