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ROCK OF AGES 3: MAKE OR BREAK
The ROCK OF AGES series is soon ten years old and includes now three games, plus DLCs. That’s probably the most surprising thing about all this. What started as a Terry Gilliam inspired pastiche built on some truly terrible dad-jokes has become something of a cult favorite over the past decade. But is there really enough material in this SUPER MONKEY BALL meets castle defense to warrant returning to the fold? The answer is yes, and most certainly no.
As a series the games have never been wanting for content. Each game has proven itself more than capable of delivering level after level of nerve shattering, blood pressure destroying racing, and enough tinkering in defense levels to keep even the most dedicated castle crasher satisfied. The campaign modes each have featured a sparse, highly esoteric plot usually aping classic mythology in a style reminiscent of Monty Python, and the multiplayer modes have been fairly decent as well.
So why is it that ROCK OF AGES isn’t a much bigger brand name outside of a dedicated cult following? Probably because despite there being much of everything, not a lot of is truly compelling. It’s all reasonably well made and there isn’t anything particularly wrong with it, but for some reason or another the whole never pulls together.
The racing itself is fun, but finicky, often leading to falling off the track because of unresponsive controls than anything else. The AI is also remarkably unfair at times, rarely making mistakes in the runs against you, causing a single tumble over the edge usually to mean that the level is best restarted altogether.
Same goes for the defense mode, which in the beginning is as bog standard and dull as they come. That’s because most of the fun traps are hidden behind an in-game currency paywall. To open them you’ll have to play more of the campaign, which in itself isn’t as fun as it sounds. There are occasional chuckles (hurling a mutant ball made of sheep continues to be giggle-worthy), but mostly it just feels like a chore to open up something new that’ll break the monotony.
Visually it’s all very good looking and you can tell a lot of love went into making it. The Gilliam-esque cutout drawings and animations are clever, even if they rely very heavily on brand recognition. The soundtrack, complete with metal and hard rock covers of classical music, is equally the kind of “oh, clever” that never makes one laugh quite as much as the creators probably hoped.
Then there’s the “Make” portion of the game. Essentially a new way to prolong the lifespan of what’s mostly a single player experience, Make allows for the community to get together to create and share maps in the style of MARIO MAKER. The tools are versatile and surprisingly easy to use (even if the tutorial leaves something to be desired). There’s also a good amount of space to build tracks, something that a lot of editors don’t take into account.
But the community at the present is surprisingly slim and the selection of maps is shallow. A heavy emphasis can be seen on the super difficult levels, built entirely for Youtube reaction shows, none of which are fun to play beyond a cursory glance.
It would be unfair to call ROCK OF AGES 3 a bad game. It’s not. It’s perfectly well made with a decent amount of content for the price. It’s just not very memorable, and I’ve felt no strong urge to return to it after finishing the review. I’ll probably play the inevitable part 4, and during that I’ll wonder why it is that I haven’t played this series more. Then, about fifteen minutes later, I’ll remember again.
Some games are just like that.