[Review] Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Giant Monkey Robot, ACE Team
  • Publisher: Modus Games
  • Release date: 21/07/2020
  • Price: £24.99 / $29.99
  • Review code provided by Modus Games

Introducting: Rock of Ages: Make & Break Review

When I first heard about Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break, it was described to me as Super Monkey Ball combined with Super Mario Maker. Now, I haven’t played a lot of Super Mario Maker and I never got my hands on Super Monkey Ball, but always been curious. This seemed like it would be a good chance to get a little taste of both, so I volunteered to be the one to get run over in the hopes that I could see the majestic sheep boulder from the trailers.

Humpty Dumpty

Rock of Ages is a trip through time sending boulders down all sorts of courses in order to get to the castles at the end and absolutely wreck them. There is story here, but it’s not all that important and never seems to take itself seriously or see itself as important. The focus is in Monty Python-esque humor, poking fun at historical figures with little cutouts moving around in a sort of puppeteered animation style that suits the tone that they are going for perfectly. Getting to choose who I was going to play as was the icing on the cake, as I easily choose to play as the famed internet meme “monkey Jesus”, a hilariously failed fresco restoration that went around online in the early 2010’s.

I was glad to see that if you are a history buff, then you are going to get some more out of the humor than those who aren’t. I’m not really one myself, but I am an English major, so seeing the opening of the game paying homage to the story of Polyphemus from The Odyssey was what got me. The additional touch of having the sheep boulder be what you are taught with in that level really put me over the top. The humor is lovingly done, and even if it started to wear on me a little by the end, I never got to the point of being actively annoyed by it.

Let’s Break Something

Despite the idea of “roll the ball, smash the castle” being the basic idea of the game, there is actually a lot of variety of the game modes that are on display here and the level progression is done by collecting stars in challenges so you can just stick to your favorites, provided that those will give you what you need. I personally found myself to be much more interested in the obstacle courses, time trials, and skee-ball areas of the game more than anything else. I used those for most of my progression, with a little help from the other modes, War, Avalanche, and Humpty Dumpty.

The problem is, though, that even my favorite modes have some drawbacks that keep me from enjoying them to the fullest. Time trials, for instance, are frustratingly pedantic at times. When playing them you are rolling a bomb with a constantly shortening fuse. This will set the bomb off if it runs out before you reach the end. Simple enough. However, this nearly put me off the game mode completely at first.

The first time trial I played was very unforgiving to a new player just getting a feel for things. I didn’t expect to make gold, but I also didn’t expect to fail to even reach the end every time since the bomb went off just about 20 seconds after the gold time cutoff. This kept me from getting better at the later parts of the stage since I would sometimes never reach it. The hit detection for what was “finishing” was also upsettingly finicky. While in most cases just getting though the door of the goal would trigger the end, the time trial requires landing on a platform of explosives within the castle. There were several times where I would roll in, only to hit the back wall and fly up and out the back of the castle, costing me time to fix.

Collision Course

The game in general has a problem when it comes to explaining how to play to you. While the creative mode to make levels does have a tutorial to walk you through the basics, some of the other modes don’t. Time trial and the obstacle course are self explanatory, but the first time you play avalanche as part of the story mode introduction is less so.  You’re given a variety of obstacles to use and told to use them, but no indication of what they can be used for and what they do. Meaning you’re likely to flounder the first time, and that left a sour taste in my mouth for the mode. When you select this mode in the rest of the campaign you get to choose a load-out of obstacles from the ones you have unlocked and there is explanation there.

The lack of initial explanation is a flaw that persists in several other modes. For example, I still don’t understand the reasoning of preventing me from building again over the top of where an old obstacle was destroyed. Initially I was even unclear on the differences between Avalanche and War modes because they were outwardly very similar, though War is clearly more geared towards multiplayer.

A lot of the modes are actually built with multiplayer in mind. In the story mode this roll is filled by the AI of the game, but I found that it’s variable in how clever it is. In some cases, it’s exceedingly and enchantingly competent, while in others, it didn’t feel like much of a challenge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try the multiplayer out very much since there aren’t many of us playing concurrently before launch. I tried a few times but luck was not on my side when it came to making a match with another reviewer.

Let’s Make Something

The creative level building mode is simple, but it functions for what the purpose of it is. You have the options of the main game and there is a good amount to use, and I personally didn’t notice anything to be missing from what I came into contact with in the main part of the game. I looked at the levels that other early players have put up and they’re all pretty simple so far. Since the level uploading isn’t open to the public yet, it’s not surprising that there isn’t much there. That being said, this is something I think that a lot of people are going to get very creative with.

However, I did find it to be difficult at times to actually build a level. Unlike something like Super Mario Maker which is on a 2D plane, this is a builder in all three dimensions. As a result, building with it can be a little fussy and your imputs might take a little adjusting because with your camera positioning, you thought it was a straight line, but in fact was on just enough of an angle to miss where you intended to end. It’s something that will take a lot of getting used to if you intend to make anything interesting. I wouldn’t call it bad, more just a little on the clunky side due to the added third dimension of building possibilities. I think this is something that will be a much smoother experience for the PC players.

Round and Round We Go

The visual design of the game is perhaps my favorite part of it. The whole paper puppet aesthetic that the cutscenes and characters have is utterly charming and just adds to the comedy of the animations. This carries over into the rest of the game as the puppet people are also present in each of the levels in order to add more flavor to the levels. The skyboxes are perhaps the most stunning, though. They’re so beautiful, even if you might not notice it at the time because you’re busy focusing on rolling your ball along.

However, that’s not to say that the visuals of this game are all perfect. While I do love the look of the cutscenes and the skyboxes, that’s not what you spend the majority of your time looking at. In the actual levels, there are quite a few textures that are rather muddy. You don’t notice it much when you’re rushing along, but there are places where you will have to slow down in order to get around corners, and it becomes very noticeable then.

Smash, Crash

The only place that I ran into any non-gameplay problems was in the overworld menu of the story campaign. This is going to sound strange, but it gave me joycon drift. I used a few different controllers and on the overworld area I would experience some kind of drift with all of them. Usually it was an upward drift or to the right. However, this is not happening in any other game that I have played before or since, so I am left to conclude that this is only in this game and only in this section. It’s an odd issue, but it never causes any gameplay problems so it is workable, but I would hope that it is soon mended.

We All Fall Down

Overall, I would say that Rock of Ages just isn’t a game for me. There are elements that I really liked about it, but it seems that the game modes that I was less interested in were the ones that are the series constants, if the light googling I have done on the series is to be believed. That’s alright. I had parts of this that I enjoyed, but I think the flaws were enough that I won’t be coming back to it for a while.

Pros

  • Fun Comedy
  • Excellent Aesthetic
  • Gameplay Variety

Cons

  • Lack of Direction and Explanation
  • Clunky Level Building
  • Each Game Mode has Unique Flaws

Verdict

Rock of Ages 3: Make & Break that just wasn’t for me, but might appeal to those who are already fans, so long as they are willing to overlook some glaring flaws.

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