About as far removed from Ace Team's last game, Zeno Clash, as it's possible to conceive, Rock of Ages is a weird, Python-esque tower-defence pinball game that sees you battling dragons, zombie philosophers and priceless works of art for apparently no reason whatsoever. That sounds strange, we know, but it's also brilliant, even if it is genre-defying and wrist-gnawingly insane.
Presented as a paper-doll puppet show which uses classical art for characters, Rock of Ages puts you in the open-toed sandals of Sisyphus, the Greek king condemned to a hell of pushing a rock up a hill. Driven a little bit crazy by his devilish labours and the fact that Hades keeps poking him in the bum with a spear, Sisyphus endeavours to bust out of the underworld by smashing his massive boulder against the gates. Afterwards, he apparently wanders the surface of the Earth, flattening any philosophers, kings, dragons or references to The Matrix that he can find.
Leonardo da Vinci drops knowledge
Immortal and annoyed, Sisyphus sees the ages roll past one by one, moving from one twisted stage of civilisation to another through inter-level cutscenes. Starting in Ancient Greece, he gradually moves into the Middle Ages, and then emerges into the Renaissance when Aristotle and Plato revive as zombies intent on lecturing the masses. Sometimes Sisyphus also stops to battle a dragon or giant automaton, further cementing the opinion that the developers at Ace Team are wonderful, visionary lunatics.
As you would expect, Sisyphus' tactics for defeating his enemies, which seem to be influenced by everyone from Vlad the Impaler through to Julius II (AKA: War Pope), are just as insane as this storyline. Starting at the top of symmetrical, Super Monkey Ball-style levels, he then directs his giant boulder down the perverse mountainside and batters the enemy castle at the bottom. Meanwhile, his enemy attacks similarly down the other side of the slope.
Rock of Ages 'Rolling Through The Ages' Trailer
There are more nuances to the game than this description suggests, however. Boulders only have limited strength, for example, with every impact damaging your stone until it risks being so small that it can't dent the enemy gates. At the same time, though, money can only be earned by demolishing items in your path, which creates a conflict between your path to victory and your ability to achieve it.
You see, Sisyphus isn't alone in his endeavours. He has an army of tiny paper figures helping him, building new boulders, taming war elephants and constructing fortifications of devilish insanity. Whenever you aren't launching your spherical granite body down a hill towards an enemy castle, the view will switch to a top-down perspective and you'll be able to place these obstructions on your side of the mountain to stop you foe. Again, they'll be doing the same to you constantly as well.
So, just in case it wasn't clear, there really is nothing about Rock of Ages that's even remotely normal.