Saturday, September 3, 2011

Rock of Ages (XBLA) - Demo

Play Time: ~20min
What Happened: 

I found out about this game a couple of weeks ago through their "Rock Beats Everything" trailer which was posted on a few weeks ago - so when I noticed it on XBLA I had to check out the demo. Game play has been described as tower defense meets Super Monkey Ball. There are 2 modes of gameplay: a third person view where you roll your rock through the level towards your enemies gates, crushing defenses to earn money along the way, and a top down view where you can buy and place defenses to slow down your opponent who is also a ball (tower defense part). Your goal is to crash into their gate with as much force as possible to eventually break it down (in the demo, this took 2-3 runs), before your opponent breaks your gate down. In addition to buying defenses, you can buy different types of rocks, for example, heavier ones which deal more damage.

What I Liked:

Visuals! Very cool game! I love the mixture of different styles - in particular the juxtaposition of 2D and 3D elements. The cinematics seemed heavily influenced by Monty Python, and were extremely playful. The overall sense of place was very unreal and different -- in some ways it felt as though you were playing with toys or miniatures, but there was always a sense of atmospheric depth that made you feel like you were in a huge space. There are also a lot of decorative elements, which are uncommon in 3D spaces. Very cool. :) 

Sounds. Before you squish Vlad the Impaler, he screams like a little girl. It's very satisfying.

Premise. I think the idea of this game is very cool. There seem to be more and more variations on tower defense which allow you to traverse the course itself - and this is a neat spin on it. I found the act of rolling along trying to squish things without rolling off of the course, or losing too much momentum, very fun.

Purchasing. I think the defense options were fun. The demo only featured a few - simple structures, cows (which slow you down A LOT), exploding barrels. They were all unique in that they presented different sorts of challenges, and they all fit well within the playful tone of the game.I also think it's really cool that you can choose different types of rocks -- for me that was the better incentive for collecting money (at least at the early stage I was at).

What I Didn't Like:

Tower Defense. Personally, I felt the tower defense aspect was confusing - but I don't think I've gotten deep enough into the game to really say if it works or doesn't. You and the enemy rock both traverse the same path - so when you are placing defenses, you're creating obstacles for yourself at the same time. I guess the idea is that you should use your knowledge of the course and be able to keep track of things you've set up in order to avoid them? My issue was that I was placing things pretty willy nilly, and as soon as I went into 3rd person camera mode, I completely forgot the layout. Also, from what I could tell, your defenses and your enemy's defenses look the same, so I was never really sure if I was smashing my own defenses or the enemy's.... :) Probably most importantly, in the demo, I never got to a point where I felt like I was in any real danger from the enemy, so I wasn't that interested in trying to place things strategically - which means I sort of missed out on like, half of the game. 

AI. I'm pretty sure in the 2nd level, the enemy ball got completely stuck for the duration of the level... Also, overall, I was never particularly concerned about what the enemy was doing. I think this mostly comes from the fact that it was the demo/beginning of the game, so the AI was still very easy to beat. 

How Do I Feel About Continuing?:

Unfortunately - this game made me pretttty motion sick by the end of 20min!!! :( That being said, I'm not sure if I would have bought it anyway, because I found the tower defense aspect so confusing, and I assume it only would have escalated in difficulty. I hope other people (maybe those more familiar with the tower defense genre?) understand it better than me and buy the crap out of this game! I think overall it's a really neat idea and I hope it does well! :)