You know, I try not to question developers too heavily in my reviews, but I think they may have made some key errors in their historical accuracy.

...I am, of course, poking fun. Rock of Ages 2: Bigger & Boulder is aiming for about as much strict adherence to the past as a Bart Simpson book report. Even the central premise laughs in the face of sensibility, instead aiming for an absurdist comedy flair that feeds into the gameplay loop. Can't really knock someone for not doing something they were never trying to do in the first place, you know?

So instead, let's talk about that central premise. If you haven't played the first Rock of Ages, well, you're in good company, because neither have I. Our game begins with the greek Titan, Atlas, holding up the sky...by which I mean the moon...By which I mean a very large boulder. Scale is one of many things that the game takes a fair bit of leeway with, you'll get used to it.

Just like you'll, hopefully, get used to the paper-cutout animation style. The game uses classic artwork of its historical figures as though they've been clipped out of a magazine and pin-jointed into paper dolls. And when you combine this with the history-mocking, absurdist humor, the result feels not so much like it's inspired by Monty Python, but almost as if the developers tried to make a licensed game around the comedy franchise, started from the interstitial animations, and somehow ended up in a very weird place.

Now, that's not necessarily a bad thing. While tastes are what they are, especially for humor, Rock of Ages 2 definitely leans into a raw energy for its mockery that helps the good jokes land harder, and the bad jokes get swept away before they ruin the festivities. If you're at all compatible with the surreal, absurdist vibe the game is going for, it'll likely work for you...And if you weren't, well, now you know.

But that's just talking story, and...Oh hell, I forgot to finish talking about the actual story! Right, let me wind back. Paper cutout style, yada yada yada, Atlas, right, Atlas! Greek Titan, cursed to hold up the sky in mythology. He's doing that (again, by sky we mean moon, and by moon we mean large boulder) one day...And then he drops the damned thing. And so he ends up having to go after the moon-sky to try and get it back up where it belongs...

Except, well, he's in a weird cobbled together historical Earth, where famous warriors, painters, rulers, and general people from all walks of history have decided to settle all combat using giant boulders.

It's...A thing.

Still, that gets us to gameplay! And here we can put in some focus. The game has a few modes that put various spins on things, but let's zero on the real center, a typical War. Your journey through the story mode will consist of a bunch of these battles, and any multiplayer festivities you get up to will probably be as well, so it's the sensible place to look. (Oh, and as an aside, ignore the white boxes. The game shows your username at all times, something I did not consider when I took my screenshots. This is the best compromise on offer.)

Your basic War has two fronts; the strategic/defensive, and the rolling/offensive. You'll start in the strategic mode, with some form of crazy obstacle course of a map. On one end is your castle. On the other end, your opponent has set up their own rock. Your goal, is simple; ideally, destroy their rock. Otherwise, make sure they hit your castle as late, and with as little speed, as possible.

To this end, you're going to have a variety of tools. Walls, defensive units, traps, the usual mix you might expect. And of course, they cost money, giving you some strict limits as to how much you can use and how far it'll get you. But, as your opponent's boulder is being prepared, you need to get as much up as you can in as cunning a strategic form as you can.

Until your own boulder is carved out of a giant stone block, it's ready go go go! As soon as your rock is prepared, you can kick it into the rolling mode at your leisure. Your opponent's map is a mirror image of your own, and just like you, they've set up traps, walls, cannons, explosives, whatever they can to make it as difficult as possible for you to even make it to their castle, let alone slam into it.

With the typical boulders taking the same amount of time to prep, this means the rolling phase ends up having elements of a race to it. Because you can actively work against your opponent to some degree if you're in strategy and they're in rolling, your goal isn't just to get as much momentum as possible when you slam into their castle, but to get there as fast as you can. If you can hit their front gates with enough time to spare, you might just be able to get some extra defenses up to do double-duty...or at least zap them with a thundercloud, your most basic and free anti-boulder attack.

But either way, once you get your boulder to slam into their gates, it goes poof, and you're back into the strategy phase while your people make the next rock. All the damage you do nets you some extra cash, and so you can put more stuff up, but so can your opponent, letting each of you fill in some gaps and respond to tactics, though crucially, you can't replace anything broken. Its carcass weighs upon the battlefield, leaving you unable to put up anything in an area that already had something down once before. A strategy might work wonders once, but then you'll likely need a new one in its place.

And then just rinse and repeat that cycle until someone's gate shatters, the ruler in question screams like a little girl, and gets crushed underneath a giant boulder that may or may not represent the entirety of Earth's atmosphere, depending on who you're playing as. Simple, right?

Okay, so I've spent about a thousand words so far on explanations and trying to be witty. Let's get to brass tacks. Problems and what I think.

The problems...I'm going to ignore the ones where they executed something I don't like, but did it effectively. You know me, you know that I and Monty Python style humor don't always get on. The game does pull off some very clever bits (the Vincent Van Gogh cutscene for one of the early battles is just so, damn, ridiculous, that it wraps past silly and right back to funny) and, at the end of the day, I can't hold it too harshly against a game for doing what it sets out to do.

What I can hold against it, are mistakes. And right off the bat, I saw some of the most prominent, classic mistakes from a developer that probably mostly worked on and tested their game on a PC, not a console: Tiny tiny text, that can go all the way to the very edges of the screen. Where a TV is likely to cut it off. Look at these screenshots, and consider how small the text is.

Yeah, I know I harp on it a lot. I know I'm kind of beating a dead horse at this point. But, real-talk? I see this in, like, every third plucky little indie game that crosses my metaphorical desk. Solid gameplay loops in a lot of them, good stories in the ones that are trying to tell one, but they keep making these games that are just, straight-up, not going to play well when you're six feet away from the screen.

But okay, off the soapbox. What else does it mess up? Balance is...wobbly, especially in story mode. There are defenses that are just far better investments than others, and the computer opponents will often get them well before you can...plus plenty of cash to put up more than their fair share of the things. You're still dealing with crummy catapults in the early game, while quite possibly your second opponent has fleets of cannons that can really put your boulder through the ringer. And when how much mass your boulder has left can strongly affect how much damage you put out, you end up in a position where the AI ends up with some absurd advantages you have to overcome.

The result is a game that feels a little...I'm gonna avoid the pun here, and say rough. And it's a shame, because there's a lot of aesthetic stuff that the game does really well. A lot of the battlefields are gorgeous, and use their locale and historical significance to impressive effect. But when the actual raw gameplay feels like the deck is stacked against you, that aesthetic gets hard to appreciate.

So final question of the review, the core thing to ask. Should you, or should you not, buy Rock of Ages 2? Well...Here's the deal.

I don't have to tell you!

...Which is to say, there's a free demo on PSN.

The problem here is that while it makes a few objective mistakes, a lot of the game's good and bad points are more matters of taste. The humor, the melded gameplay genres, a lot of the experience kind of comes together into what I can only describe as one of those vegemite kinda things. If it works for you, you're gonna love it. If it doesn't work for you, you're gonna curse the day I brought awareness of it into your life.

So at the end of the day, while I poke fun at giving this suggestion...I really do think it comes down to, you gotta just play the demo. See what you think. Full game's gonna be more of the same.