Rock of Ages was developed by ACE Team and published by Atlus. It retails for 800 MSP. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

Rock of Ages is quite possibly the oddest game we’ve played on XBLA.  It is an eclectic mixture of tower defense and Marble Blast Ultra.  You travel through different eras of time challenging historical figures to a strange game of protect the castle. You’ll meet daunting characters like Vlad the Impaler that want nothing more than to push your face-of-a-rock off the cliff to weaken its ability to damage his castle gate, all while being treated to a Renaissance style of music that is one of the game’s best features.

Players who are familiar with tower defense games will feel right at home. You place defensive units up and down the narrow path to your castle wall in an attempt to thwart your challenger’s rock from reaching top speed to crash into your castle’s gate.  In almost all instances, three consecutive dashes on you or your challenger’s gate will bring it down revealing a paper-like historical figure ready to be run over–so speed as well as proper defense are equally important.

If this setup sounds quirky that’s because it is.  Not only is your rock anthropomorphic but it occasionally yells in terror when it falls of a cliff, which will happen often because a finite number of elephants, cows, catapults, towers, explosives and other obstacles will obstruct your path to the castle gate.

Here’s what we liked:

Graphical style – This is the type of game that will stagnate in the player’s mind because of its unique look.  Cutscenes are portrayed in a humorous paper cutout style and often reference pop culture classics like 300.  Spppppppppaaarrrtttttaaaa! The in-game graphics are just as impressive, and the engine rarely chops which is quite a feat considering the amount of chaos taking place.  You’ll have fun crashing into towers and watching them crumble in a convincing matter due to the graphical fidelity of the game.

Humor – Watching a brief Mortal Kombat esque battle screen before the game begins is both fun and hilarious.  It’s kind of like watching Noob Saibot and Sub Zero clench their fists while facing each other except you have vaguely recognizable characters from your history class doing it with far less intimidation and hipness.  The game exudes humor in both its presentation and overall feel.

Music – Like we mentioned previously, the tunes in this game are very big budget and have a sort of whimsical nature that elevates the player’s mood but has them feeling like they are trapped in a medieval castle.  There are no blips or bleeps here.  This is truly a one-of-a-kind soundtrack.

Gameplay – Merely controlling your rock and rolling it down a blocked path is loads of fun, but also the mini games which are playable on your lonesome or with others online are also noteworthy.  We especially enjoyed Skeeball where players merely crash into as many obstacles as possible before hopping into the hole with the most points at the end of the stage.  It brought us back to a time when Chuck E. Cheese dominated our childhoods and the scent of stale pizza didn’t deter us from chowing slice after slice down.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Stupid A.I. – The main game is pretty simple because as long as you bypass the obstacles swiftly and crash into your opponent’s gate at least three times your almost guaranteed to win, so when we found the opposing rock get stuck on obstacles we didn’t even place on the playing field we were turned off.  In one instance, our opponent couldn’t figure out how to get over a simple ledge in the road, something which can easily be jumped over by pressing A.  Granted, this doesn’t happen often but it did occur more than a few times during our playthrough.

Too easy – Although we enjoyed the tower defense mechanisms we found them to be less than important when trying to fend off the opponent’s rock. Sometimes we didn’t place any defensive units and still managed to win the game.  This becomes even easier as the game progresses because more power ups are available for your rock. We would have liked to see a more devious A.I. system that recognized our patterns or lack thereof and created more challenging strategies.

Rock of Ages is a unique title and nothing quite resembles it on XBLA.  Whether this is enough to warrant a purchase is up to the player.  The distinctive humor, impressive graphics and pleasant melodies may be enough for some to overlook the game’s serious flaws, but will keep the game from reaching a God-like status.  If you’re looking for a rock-and-roll of a good time, you’ve found your title.

Score: Try it

Second opinion by Nathan Bowring:

Rock of Ages is the game you’d never expect to happen. Marble rolling meets tower defense in a epic battle through history? It’s almost too good to be true. Even better, both aspects control and function very well. The two genres blend almost perfectly, but the AI is what ruins the story mode. The AI can either range from very smart to painfully dumb at any given time. The physics also feel a little cheap; the gate always seems to take three hits to break, no matter how much speed you have. There’s also a Skeeball mode, in which hit targets in order to get a high score. It would be fun if it wasn’t so easy to cheat by controlling your rock after going off the ramp. Both tower defense and skeeball modes can be played competitively with another player, which are very fun and offer better competition than the single-player AI. The game looks and sounds fantastic, taking from many historical art styles, and the Monty Python-esque cutscenes are filled with charm and humor. Rock of Ages has all of the makings of a great game, but major issues prevent it from reaching those great heights.

Score: Try it