Bringing destructive new meaning to “Rock n’ Roll”
Even if you’re the happiest person in the world, there’s no avoiding the fact that some days will always be better than others. And on some of those off days, haven’t you ever thought of just throwing yourself down a hill and letting your body squash every physical thing that happened to be getting on your nerves? I wouldn’t recommend it: I tried that once and just wound up bumping my head against my mailbox. Luckily, Giant Boulder of Death from Adult Swim Games makes this feat a whole lot more rewarding (not to mention safer for your head), as you guide a deadly boulder down an unsuspecting hill just for the sake of destruction.
The gameplay in Giant Boulder of Death is simple: tilt your iOS device left and right to control a giant boulder as it speeds its way down a mountainous incline and barrels into everything that even remotely looks your way. But of course, even giant death boulders have their limitations, and the town has taken up several preemptive measures to ensure they won’t be wiped completely off the map: from carefully-lain spike traps, to cavernous pits, to the often unfair homing mines which break apart your boulder into harmless little pebbles. You can tap the screen to jump over stuff, and when you rack up enough points in any one game session, you’ll automatically activate a temporary “Invinciboulder” power-up, which enlarges your boulder and covers it in deadly red spikes, letting you obliterate even the toughest of environmental obstacles without even breaking a sweat (or whatever the equivalent to sweat is for giant boulders of death).
The serene, mountain village and lush green hillsides that you’ll be careening down are very geometrical in shape, with helpless villagers waving their rectangular arms as they flee from your path, and the evergreen trees looking positively triangular. It’s definitely a high point of the Giant Boulder of Death experience, and gives it that extra bit of quirkiness that would only be expected from a game that tasks you with crushing entire civilizations with a big ol’ deadly rock. Unfortunately, there just isn’t that much variety in the actual game world environments themselves to keep things interesting for very long. While there’s a healthy number of different creatures and obstacles to find, you’re still just rolling through the same mountain village setting, and the changes that occur the further down the mountain you travel are just too subtle and slight to make that much of an impact (unless I’m just really bad at the game and haven’t reached an adequate distance for the changes in setting to really wow me).
But when you look past all of the shiny bells and whistles, the true fact of the matter is that Giant Boulder of Death is a simple endless runner game: nothing more, nothing less. The main problem with this is that it often feels like there aren’t that many incentives to keep you hitting that “Play Again” button, and positively needing that one more run at the end of each play session. As you play the game and bulldoze over people left and right, you’ll always have a singular cumulative mission to be working towards at any one time. The requirements of these missions will range from destroying 25 small houses, to collecting two purple gems that are hidden in the game world, and are all relatively simple enough to earn through regular gameplay.
Every time you complete one of these missions, you’ll be rewarded with a new entry unlocked in the “Gallery O’ Victims,” which acts as a bestiary of sorts. When new structures and characters are unlocked in the bestiary, you’ll then be able to find them (and squash them) in subsequent playthroughs, depending on their rarity and point value. While things start off more or less expectedly, with cows, barns, and “Herrderhosens” making up the bulk of your roster of victims, things will definitely escalate to much weirder levels before long, as you start sending your boulder after hiccupping dogs who drank too much liquor, and even legendary yetis. It’s certainly a fun idea, but with such repetitive core gameplay, the Gallery O’ Victims is just not up to par with the inherent addictiveness that makes other more successful endless runner games like Temple Run so great.
You’ll be able to upgrade your boulder directly by improving its jump height, steering speed, and the duration of the Invinciboulder power-up, as well as influence the mountain world around you, like decreasing the overall amount of spikes to appear in the game, and improving the frequency with which you’ll come across yetis and purple gems. While purple gems are the premium form of currency here in Giant Boulder of Death, you’re rarely forced to use them, as their only real purpose in the game is to continue on the same run after your boulder has connected with a hazardous spike, or to buy more spins on the timed bonus wheel and boost the effects of whatever rewards you might receive. All in all, a wonderful example of a free-to-play model that can work, and you’ll never once feel at an impasse with nowhere to turn but your real-life wallet.
So in the end, Giant Boulder of Death is a decent endless runner game. It has a great visual art style, a dash of that same quirky humor that we’ve come to expect from an Adult Swim Games production, and a lot of fun characters and objects that you’ll subsequently smash to smithereens. But despite its nice presentation, the repetitive gameplay and noticeable lack of any addictive incentives to keep you really coming back for more after your first few rolls down the idle mountain hillside really lessen the experience as a whole. I would still recommend it over trying to smash up some evergreen trees yourself in real life, but not if you’re in the market for a lasting endless runner experience.