I’ve always liked the idea of the Rock of Ages series; there’s something inherently fun about rolling a ball around in a game and smashing down structures with it. I was always put off by the style though. There’s something about the Monty Python-esque art that doesn’t sit right with me (to be fair, I find all things in this style a bit…creepy…but that’s my personal thing). Happily, ACE Team have managed to nail the comedy side of those classic sketches though, being genuinely funny for the most part. I’m glad I pushed through my misgivings though, as Rock of Ages 3: Make or Break is a lot of fun, if a little confusing at times.
The campaign takes place over an extended period of history, from early cave man up to more modern times. Each of the mission’s grants between one and three stars depending on type, with set requirements needed to unlock the next set of missions. It’s a fairly standard set of rules for progression, with stricter requirements needed to max out the star count from each stage. Thankfully, there are always a couple of areas open to attempt, so it’s not a case of getting stuck on one area trying to gain more stars. There are also new items for the War modes to unlock with the stars dotted around the map.
When it comes to the various modes themselves I found my enjoyment to be a bit of a mixed bag though. The more straight forward races were great fun; trying to maximise speed while not flinging my ball off the edge of a sharp turn, or utilising the various items to hop over obstacles to stay ahead I found to work really well. The skeeball mode adds a multiplier board at the end to jump into, while smashing a castles gate down exposes the vunerable target inside to squish. Again, the premise is simple, the handling of the various balls that can be used is just right, and the destruction we can cause along the way is presented in an amusing fashion.
I am less fond of the tower defence-style War missions though. Here, each side get a budget to place various items on the track to stop the opponents ball reaching our castle gate. Each sides ball is slowly being created while we do this, and once it’s crafted we can begin rolling down to try and smash the gates down. These tend to make up the main mission of each time period, and I found myself avoiding them until I had no choice to play them. Placing items is fiddly, with a cursor that doesn’t quite go where I want it to all of the time. Each item, from simple spring traps to towering buffalo that pound balls into the ground, feel too ineffective for the most part. Most of them can be destroyed by simply grazing past them, and it’s easy to see thousands of coins worth of units destroyed or bypassed easily. Gathering coins is also a bit of a hassle; while we start off with some currency, coin bags will drop randomly around the map to be picked up. Again, the cursor makes this far too awkward to do with any ease and sometimes fails to work at all.
The campaign can be played in 2 player co-op. Here, it’s simply a case of both players contending with a pair of AI. With four balls rolling down the track it can get somewhat hectic, but it’s also – as most co-op games are – a good laugh with a fellow player.
Rounding out the package is a custom track editor. As you may imagine, this allows us to create our own takes on the various game modes with custom designed layouts, and is a pretty flexible editor to boot. Laying track is easy enough, as is decorating it or creating gaps and hazards. It’s a little fiddly to raise and lower things, as pressing up on the stick raises the ground while also moving the cursor, and hence, the camera. It’s a bit of an odd decision to not lock the camera while this is in use, and trying to line up surrounding details with the track suffers from the same issue. There’s a lot to get stuck into though, and I can envision plenty of great creations coming out.
Creations can be shared, and here was another sticking point for me. Downloading another players course seems to only be playable in a multiplayer match. I tried various settings but despite downloading the track I managed to play exactly zero due to not being able to match with anyone. If I’m missing something I’m obviously happy to amend this part, but it seems a baffling choice to let people create tracks, then lock them behind online multiplayer that, in the few days after release, I’ve not managed to find a single game in.
I also found that sometimes the win conditions for missions were not only vague, but failed to trigger properly. Smashing down the castle door appears to be the end of it, but we actually need to destroy whatever is in the castle too. This is trickier than it needs to be, and there’s a long delay in doing so and the game actually registering our victory – if indeed it does at all. Other bugs were present too, mainly in the form of spawning off of the track after a fall. While not overly present, these did detract slightly from the experience for me.
Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break manages to provide some good, old school style arcade fun with it’s core game mechanics. Rolling the balls down the nicely designed tracks, smashing buildings and people along the way is great fun. It’s let down by some fiddly, tedious tower defence-style missions, and a creative suite that, while deep in options, only seems to serve as a gateway to online play.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.