The interface between myth and video game

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By Kristofer Hammer

In the tale of Sisyphus, the king is condemned in Tartarus to roll a giant boulder up the hill for eternity. But what would happen if he were able to escape?

The answer lies in Rock of Ages. This small, downloadable game should not be taken seriously, as it is purposefully made to be comical. This is evident from the opening sequence and menu screen music. The game relies on Monty Python-esque humor, complete with slapstick comedy and absurdities.

In the single player game, players begin as Sisyphus – or, more accurately, his boulder – and fight through different eras of history, battling famous figureheads, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Leonardo DaVinci.

The gameplay can be described as the love child of Super Monkey Ball and tower defense strategy, leading to a fun and odd combination not seen in other games.

Players begin by setting up defenses against enemy boulders while they build their own. The Super Monkey Ball aspect of the game soon kicks in as players take control of their boulders and attempt to navigate it through the level, making sure to avoid or destroy opponents’ obstacles.

The end goal is to smash boulders into opposing gates, while avoiding damage. However, one must also destroy the opponents’ obstacles in order to implement more defenses, as players earn money with each destroyed object. This becomes increasingly important with each level, as upgrades for each defense are unlocked.

A level is not finished until one gate is destroyed and multiple boulders are built. In later levels, strategy is increasingly important because the enemies’ boulders are released at the same time (in contrast to the early levels, in which players are always given a head start).That being said, the game provides a tutorial that adequately introduces the player to each defensive unit, unlocking higher levels.

This historical setting allows the developer, Ace Team, to use the art of the time period, presenting each opponent in their own era’s painting style and having each level reflect something about them (most notably Plato and Aristotle).

Because of this, the already quirky nature of Rock of Ages is done reasonably well in the context in which it is given. It also provides humor and intrigue for the art history buff, who can see the manipulation that the development team followed in its three-dimensional level layout.

Do not let the classical backdrop be a deterrent, as the game is beautiful in its own right and the destruction of obstacles looks fantastic.

The music in the game is light and charming, adding a fun, airy feeling to the game but not detracting from the overall experience. Due to its nature, the story is not dense, allowing anyone to enjoy the ride. It is not focused on historical accuracy or education, so the player is not bogged down with the frustration of being unfamiliar with classical art.

Rock of Ages is the perfect game to pick up and play for just a half hour or less, an adequate amount of time to get a fully satisfying experience. It is even much like the quick and dirty video game experiences currently found on the mobile smart phone market.

Finally, while the campaign is satisfying, it is neither too difficult nor incredibly long, so I was able to beat it within about two hours.

The online mode is, luckily,  where the real fun is to be had, as human opponents offer much more challenging and dynamic situations.

While it is not the largest and most complex game I have ever experienced, Rock of Ages resonates as one of my favorites because of its humor and charm, which always left me smiling and laughing.

For these reasons, this game is an easy recommendation for fans of the light-hearted gaming scene.

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