Unique, retro inspired puzzle games don’t get much better than this!
2005 saw the release of a new puzzle game called Mercury, that captured the imagination of PSP owners.
Now the PSP has a new version, Mercury Meltdown.
For the uninitiated, Mercury Meltdown is a bizarre mix of games. It plays like the old classic marble games (Marble Madness, Spindizzy) but with a mix of newer takes on the genre like Monkey Ball. Then it throws in a splash of colour mixing and the final twist, you are a blob of mercury!
The game is controlled with the analogue nub. As you move the nub, the ‘table’ tilts in that direction. Your blob then rolls downhill. So far so easy. But as I said, you are not a ball, you are a blob of mercury and as such your blob can be broken apart. Hit the corner of a wall and the blob will split apart. Move a bit to fast and you will break apart.
This adds a whole new dimension to a classic game format. Now you can have multiple blobs rolling around the table. This can help you get to areas that the large blob would be to slow to get to. You can also sacrifice parts of your blob to get bonuses that you could not safely reach.
What makes this puzzler more interesting is the colour mixing mentioned earlier. On each map is an exit. To get to this exit, as well as navigating around all of the obstacles, you will need to change the colour of your blob to get through certain gates. This is done by rolling through a colour changer of some sort. There are a couple of basic colours, Red, Blue and Green. But the gates are not always one of those colours, so you need to mix your colours! To do this you need to break your blob up into parts and then change each blobs colour then bring them together to make a new colour. For example, if you have a yellow gate, you will need to mix a red and a green blob together.
There are other things on your table to worry about as well. Some doors can only be opened by pushing friendly blocks onto the (called ) There are unfriendly blocks as well who will drain your mercury if you touch them.
Once you complete a level you are scored on how much under or over the par time you were, how much mercury you have left and how many bonuses you collected.
Bonuses mean party games! There are 5 party games that can be unlocked. Rodeo: See how long you can stay on the moving table with out being blown off by the fan.
Metrix: A kind of tetris game.
Race: well it kind of says it in the name, not the best of them though.
Shove: Curling with blobs…again not great but a fun diversion!
You also have a Ghost mode, where you can try to beat your best times against your ghost. This is also available as an Ad-Hoc multiplayer game.
This sounds very complicated and it is. But the controls work well enough for you to get the hang of it all very quickly. The nub is good, but lacks some of the accuracy needed at times (I am looking forward to seeing the Wii version for this very reason!)
The graphics are superb. The blob does not exactly move the way mercury moves, but it is believable and works well. The backs are all varied and look great as do the tracks.
The game is well presented through out. From the mock C64 loading screen, to the the Lab ion and level ion screens. Time has been put in to make it all smooth and fun.
Music in the game is a bit hit and miss, from metal to dance style tracks. All ok but you may want to but the stereo on!. Game sounds are functional, but nothing major.
On the whole this is a wonderful puzzler. The gameplay is unique enough to make it stand out, but similar to other marble style games to make it instantly playable. As with all good puzzle game, you constantly have that “One more try” feeling. There are 160 levels for you to wade through and the promise of downloadable extras, so it should keep you going for a long time!
Add to this the bonus games and the high score tables for each lab, this game will have you coming back over and over again!
The Bad: Sounds are a bit weak. The PSP analogue nub is not best suited to this at times!