Sisyphus... the king who was cursed to spend the rest of his days pushing a giant boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back to the bottom, forcing him to start over again. After many hours of frustration, he gets fed up and decides to rebel against Cronus by rolling his boulder into Cronus' castle in order to escape from Hades and to freedom. From there, Sisyphus and the angry boulder go on a journey throughout the ages of art (from Ancient Greece to Medieval times, all the way up to the Romantic era), meeting powerful historical figures and smashing their defenses to pieces.
This is the story behind Rock of Ages, a game developed by Ace Team (the minds behind the also-very-bizarre Zeno Clash) and released on August 31st, 2011 for Xbox 360, on September 7th, 2011 for PC and on May 15th, 2012 for Playstation 3. The objective is to roll your boulder into your opponent's castle gate, while preventing him from destroying your gate by setting up towers, catapults, elephants and other traps to slow him down.
This game has nothing to do with the Def Leppard song or the musical.
A sequel, titled Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder, was released on August 28th, 2017 for PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One, and then on May 14th, 2019 for Nintendo Switch. Another sequel titled Rock of Ages III: Make & Break was made for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC, and released July 21st, 2020.
Tropes used in Rock of Ages:
- Art Shift: Each era takes images from artwork from the era. Cronus even transforms from a Greek Black-Figure etching into Francisco de Goya’s famous Saturn Devouring His Son during his intro.
- Attack Its Weak Point: Each boss has an obvious weakness. The Dragon even flinches when his weak point is pointed at.
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: There are quite a few massive enemies like the Mammoths and Cannons. The bosses are even bigger.
- The Black Death: Personified as a skeleton simply named Plague, who kills whatever it goes near.
- Blow You Away: Fans can be placed to blow a boulder off-course. Some of the higher-grade fans are cow-powered.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Leonardo da Vinci knows and tries to explain to Sisyphus that their world was made for "A deranged activity they call "Video Games"." Not that he really cares.
- Boss-Arena Idiocy: Every boss except for the dragon. Why are there CANNONS in Heaven?!
- Cloud Cuckooland: Pretty much everyone has an oversized rock ready in case they need to flatten someone.
- Excuse PlotAdvertisement: Your neighbor quite dislikes you. This probably explains why they've decided to roll a gigantic boulder in the general direction of your castle and it's denizens. And you know what? You haven't really been their biggest fan either. Which is why you will: A. Do everything in your power to deflect and destroy their little rock. B: Retaliate with your own enormous globe of crushing. Because they're jerks and they deserve it.
- Also used in the sequels. The whole plot of 2 is literally just Atlas shrugging off his responsibilities and taking a vacation on Earth while hiding from God/Heaven, who wants him to get back to work, while 3 has Odysseus’ crew trying to get back home now lead by Elpenor after Odysseus was crushed by the Rock, but a Greek Curse mixup causes them to travel through time.
- Full-Frontal Assault: While Sisyphus and Co aren't exactly doing the assaulting, nether he nor Bacchus put any clothing on throughout the game.
- Gainax Ending: At the end of his struggle Sisyphus is crushed by the falling Cronus during his victory dance. After the credits the Rock hops into a random hole and discovers its master dancing with the rest of the characters in what seems to be Hell.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The hand that replaces the Rock whenever it falls off the track is never explained. It's styled after medieval portrayals of the hand of God, however.
- Genre-Busting: The game is a bizarre blend of bowling, platforming, tower defense, and racing.
- Giant Mook: Well, they're all pretty big because nothing man-sized can stop the rock. However, each of the environmental enemies can be seen as a giant version of another unit.
- Lammasu/Giant-Bull: big version of cow/elephant.
- Giant cannon: huge siege weapon.
- Cloud man: plus-sized fan.
- Tower of Babel: gigantic, indestructible tower/wall.
- Glass Cannon: The boulders in the second game are far flimsier than they were in the first one: they take much more damage from hazards and falling off the edge takes a chunk out of their health on top of that. This means it's far more important to avoid damage than it was before: losing a boulder entirely is now a very real threat.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Each battle ends with one player running over the other, followed by a squish sound and am immediate cut to a victory screen.
- Grapes of Luxury: Some cherubs feed them to Bacchus...until he eats the cherubs.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Louis XIV's intro has him using the loo in his throne. Which, incidentally, did happen. That's where the term "throne" as slang for the toilet comes from.
- Joke Item: The Block of Ages can wear armor. This isn't a joke unless you factor in the fact that the Block is already invincible and can't be broken, thus making the armor pointless.
- Lethal Joke Character: The Block of Ages is slow-moving and unwieldy, but it destroys a gate in two hits instead of three and is completely indestructible, making it a viable option if the player has a good defensive strategy, and is even more dangerous on a map like L'aquila, which doesn't have any turns or major obstacles. There's even an achievement for winning a multiplayer match with it.
- Mad Marble Maze: You roll a boulder down a hill, avoid enemy traps and try to crash your opponent's castle gates.
- Mythology Gag: In this game, Castlevania's Dracula and the real life inspiration for the original Dracula, Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, are one and the same.
- Only Sane Man: Leonardo da Vinci, who elects to calmly explain their existence to Sisyphus rather than doing something silly.
- Petal Power: Marie Antoinette throws massive flowers from her balcony, smothering and crushing nobles below.
- Ramming Always Works: The only way to win is to ram your opponent's gate until it breaks. Size and velocity determine how much damage you deal.
- Rewarding Vandalism: Driving your boulder into opponent's structures generates gold, which you can use to bolster your defenses between turns or save for a special boulder.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Played for laughs. Your opponent does this when you break down their fortress' door.
- The art is a tremendous love letter to Monty Python.
- Ancient Greece recreates the pit scene from 300 (the game numbers each Spartan in case anyone misses the reference), but it doesn't work out so well for Leonidas.
- In the Middle Ages, there is a cutscene that serves as a Castlevania homage, before revealing that the castle is instead inhabited by Vlad Tepes.
- Leonardo Da Vinci explains the fourth wall to Sisyphus while reenacting The Architect scene from The Matrix Reloaded.
- Charles III's introductory cutscene has him trying to shoot a squirrel. This scene is shot from a first-person perspective with a HUD very reminiscent of Doom and Wolfenstein 3D.
- Saturn has no small resemblance to Francisco de Goya's painting Saturn Devouring His Son.
- You Shall Not Pass! re-creates Gandalf delivering that very line to the Balrog in the 2001 film version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, while Punctuated! For! Emphasis! pays tribute to the "THIS! IS! SPARTA!" scene from 300.
- The series' very title is named for the song of the same name.
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: Sisyphus gets crushed by Saturn just after killing him.
- Siege Engines: Catapults and trebuchets fire projectiles that chip away at a boulder's strength.
- Songs in the Key of Panic: When either side's gates are close to collapsing the music speeds up.
- Standard Snippet: The soundtrack uses plenty of stock classical pieces, most notably "Dies Irae" by Mozart for when you break through the enemy's gate and when you fight the final boss.
- Stealth Pun: The level where you fight Saturn is called Saturday, or "Saturn's day."
- The Unfought: The major boss battles end when the boss is defeated and the characters introduced in those levels apparently escape being squished.
- Video Game Demake: Pebble of Time, made by Edmund Bordeau. For context, he's actually someone on the Ace Team.
Tropes used in Rock of Ages 2: Bigger and Boulder:
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: The protagonist in this game is Atlas. The boulder, however, is the same one as in the first game. Atlas unknowingly steals it from Sisyphus in the opening cutscene.
- The Bad Guy Wins: In a way. God loses the final game, but he tricks Atlas into holding up the huge foosball champion trophy on his shoulders... Which has the world on top anyway. Judging by Atlas' expression, either he's oblivious, or the trophy is easier on his shoulders.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
- Joan of Arc. God tries to ask her if she's seen Atlas (who is hiding in a bush nearby), but she ends up taking it as a sign that she should lead France to crush the English. God is baffled by her behaviour, and just shrugs his shoulders as he leaves.
- Don Quixote. But, well, that goes without saying. His entire stage reflects his delusions, making windmills look like giants swinging their arms around until the camera gets closer.
- Confronting Your Imposter: William Wallace’s cutscene features the Mel Gibson version of William Wallace trying to rouse the Scots against the English, only to be caught out by the real William Wallace.
- Cranial Eruption: After Ramses crashes into the boulder, a big lump grows out of his head that he covers with the the distinctive Atef crown.
- Difficult, but Awesome: The Prehistoric Wheel is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin - a literal stone wheel, as opposed to a boulder. It has slightly less health than the standard boulder, but can deal more damage. It is also is the fastest "boulder" in the game, but with the big caveat that it's much harder to control, especially if it ends up on its side, and it can be easily stopped. However, it is extremely useful on maps where going out-of-bounds is much harder (mainly the more modern painting-inspired maps), especially in obstacle course races.
- Distracted by the Sexy: The Thinker's brain pops out if he's watching the dancers in his stage, giving the player the chance to hit it.
- Fragile Speedster: The Balloon Boulder has low health and doesn't do much damage, and actually doesn't have much top speed, but it has high acceleration and greater jumping height, which is very useful in obstacle course races, where it can more easily do platforming and perform shortcut jumps.
- Hero Antagonist: God is chasing after Atlas, but only because he is shirking his duty of holding up the world.
- Mundane Made Awesome: The game takes this trope to its silliest - how does a foosball/table football match with God sound? Nevermind one backed by a remix of "O Fortuna", pretty much the most well-known example of Ominous Latin Chanting.
- Not Using the "Z" Word: God is only referred to as "Heaven". Except in the achievements.
- Original Generation: Urian, a demon who has both a normal head and a head on his butt. His introduction sees him try to threaten the inhabitants of Pompeii, but they, for obvious reasons, don’t take him seriously, so he causes Mount Vesuvius to erupt.
- Pokémon Speak: Adam and Eve.
- "The Scream" Parody: The Scream itself appears at one point, sunbathing in Oslo. Due to a mix-up, it accidentally glues its hands to its face, and this results in it making the screaming face.
- Adam and Eve's entire introduction is basically a homage to Pokemon, complete with a classic 2D 'overworld', Adam and Eve popping out of tall grass, their Pokémon Speak, and the entire battle sequence.
- The Sea Monster's entire boss fight is basically a 3D version of Frogger, which the intro sequence makes even more blatant.
- 20% More Awesome: The announcement trailer for the game boasts that it is "Now 40% less historically accurate!"
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The Final Boss is the final conflict between Atlas and God... Except it's a game of foosball (aka table football), played up in the most epic way possible, with each player alternating between control of the ball.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: Joan of Arc is basically the game's way of saying "destroying the enemy boulder is a strategy now that we've made them a lot flimsier, so get on that". Joan gets a huge head start on the player, beginning her charge at least ten or fifteen seconds earlier, and short of her AI screwing up and getting really badly stuck on the traps there's really no way to brute-force outpace her. About the only way to reliably beat her is learn how to use the traps and lightning cloud to break her boulder entirely and turn the time advantage over to the player.
Tropes Used for Rock of Ages 3: Make and Break:
- Ascended Meme: One of your opponents is Ecce Mono, a monkey based off a botched restoration of a picture of Jesus Christ in 2012 that became highly memetic.
- Autobots, Rock Out!: Whenever you start rolling your boulder, the music shifts to a rock rendition of the current track.
- Bait-and-Switch Boss: The opponent for the Swiss Alps level is first suggested to be William Tell. However, Elpenor ends up killing him by accident, at which point the game reveals your real opponent is his son.
- Decoy Protagonist: You start off in command as the famed Greek war hero Odysseus. After the first stage, he gets crushed by the Rock and command shifts over to Elpenor, the youngest of his crew.
- Disney Villain Death: Elpenor falls off a roof after the credits. Granted, this is accurate to how he died in mythology…
- Joke Character: Humpty Dumpty, who you unlock by clearing all five Wonderland levels. He’s even more useless than the Block of Ages, since he's as fragile as you'd expect an egg to be.
- Level Ate: Spaghettiland, a land of noodles, meatballs, and tomato sauce where you fight the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It’s portrayed here, as it is in Pastafarianism, that it created the world and even God (who just finished up his work by making Adam and Eve). Fittingly, he uses two food-based boulders: a wheel of cheese and a meatball that grows bigger the more damage it takes.
- The boss fight with the Vitruvian Man is one big one to Mortal Kombat.
- Poseidon has the Spongebob sky outside his window.
- Rasputin's cutscene parodies his appearance in World Heroes.
- Kali's cutscene parodies the '90s X-Men: The Animated Series cartoon's opening.
- The start of the Moby Dick boss fight parodies Antarctic Adventure complete with a running penguin and similar opening jingle at the start.
- The Beast’s cutscene is basically a parody of Beauty and the Beast, complete with cursed servants in the form of household objects. Special mention goes to one servant- morphed into a pipe- who says “Je ne suis pas une pipe. (I am not a pipe.)
- The Final Boss is basically Mario Kart, with the track being like an Ancient Greek Rainbow Road.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: In the boss fight with the Vitruvian Man (as mentioned above in Shout-Out), instead of rolling around a stage, you’re rolling in a side-scroller, and in addition to the jump command, you also have a power dash with with to attack ol’ Vitruvi.
- Womb Level: In the boss battle against Moby Dick, you actually have to enter the titular white whale three times and break open barrels of pepper a la Pinocchio in order to free Elpenor and his shipmates.