Back in 2011, a little studio from Chile decided it wanted to take an unusual stab at the popular tower defence genre. Choosing to embrace oddity and quirkiness over any sense of seriousness or consistency, the result mixed traditional defensive mechanics with a ball-rolling system that had more in common with Super Monkey Ball than Plants Vs Zombies. With an overtly Monty Python-inspired art style and sense of humour, Rock of Ages was your atypical curio, but one that carved out its own small sense of cult status.
Six years later, ACE Team has finally given us a sequel in the pun-tastic shape of Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder, with a fresh storyline, that same slapstick gameplay loop and a new four-player multiplayer mode. It’s taken a little longer for this second instalment to roll its way onto Nintendo Switch, but now it’s here, and hybrid handheld owners can finally get to experience this strange little game in all its fruity glory. And while this version isn’t particularly different than the one that came out a couple of years ago, it does feel like a more suitable fit for Switch’s focus on local and online multiplayer.
While the first game followed the mythical journey of Sisyphus – you remember him, he's the Greek king forced to push a boulder up and down a hill for all time – the sequel opts for another load-bearing figure of myth in Atlas, the Titan sentenced to hold the heavens themselves on his shoulder for, you guessed it, all time. Those Greek gods sure had a penchant for eternal punishments. So, in effect, you’re pretty much getting the same experience as the first game; you’ll travel through a surrealist history and battle characters of legend (and fact) by rolling your boulder through a course of defences.
Each contest consists of a battlefield filled with obstacles, with two castles at either end. One is yours, and the other belongs to your enemy. With Napoleon Bonaparte giving you tips (in French, naturally) along the way, you’ll either be rolling your boulder from your castle to theirs, avoiding holes, drops and walls designed to slow you down, before you collide with the castle gate of your foe. When defending, you’ll have a short time to set out your own defences. As you progress, you’ll gain access to lots of defensive items, ranging from simple towers all the way to piles of dynamite and rampaging animals.
There’s variety to the boulders too, which you gradually unlock as you complete levels in the story mode and earn stars based on your performance. In keeping with the game’s zany sense of creativity, these giant balls range from your standard rocky ball to armoured variations that are slower but better at destroying obstacles; you can even earn balls that leave trails of paint that taint the ground they pass over. It’s a neat little mechanic because viable ground is an important part not just of placing your defences but also growing fields of money to account for your tastes in defensive machinery.
Whether you’re playing locally or online, there’s a silly Story mode following Atlas’ journey or you can simply play a single match of Game of War and see if you perfect your defensive skills and ball-rolling expertise. Alternatively, you can cut out the middleman and just race through a series of increasingly difficult course designs in the imaginatively named Obstacle Course. Or, if you’re in the mood for a proper clean run, you can simply race through an undulating course without all those pesky towers and catapults in Time Trial mode.
The Story Campaign is by far the centrepiece here as it showcases Rock of Ages 2 at its most outlandish and creative, even if it lacks the very specific and very unique surrealist humour of the British comedy troupe it so openly pays homage to. Sadly, we couldn’t find anyone online to play with, which is crying shame considering how fun this game can be locally. Still, it’s over-the-top boulder racing action is much better suited to the laugh-out-loud hilarity of couch-play, especially in Game of War and Obstacle Course modes.
If you’re looking for an unusual little curio that's quite unlike anything else on Nintendo Switch, Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder is the oddity for you. While it’s very much in the same vein as the original game, the sequel simply ups the ante with more obstacles, more courses and a ton of crazy characters from history, myth art and popular culture to battle in Python-esque fashion (well, in looks at least). Support for four-player multiplayer – with added customisation for those that like to customise their boulders – offers the strangest of detours, and makes this another local multiplayer classic for Switch.