Mercury, an early title for Sony’s PSP system, was a game built on nostalgia. Its mechanics took much from classic puzzle game Marble Madness and its simple premise seemed out of place next to complicated and thoroughly modern contemporaries.
Even the name emblazoned above the title on its box, Archer MacLean, veteran designer of games such as International Karate, was a relic from a time when such names mattered - and you weren’t Sid Meier or American McGee.
Six years on and Ignition have teamed up with Eiconic games to adapt the game to home consoles’ downloadable platforms at a budget price, but does it still have what it takes to stand up to competition in the HD era?
Mercury Hg, likes its portable predecessor, involves manoeuvring a blob of mercury around a complex maze, trying to reach the end goal. You don’t directly control the blob; instead, like Marble Madness or Super Monkey Ball, you control the level itself, tilting it to glide the mercury around without falling into the abyss below.
A couple of features make Mercury Hg stand out from similar games. One is the movement and look of the mercury itself; instead of a boring rolling ball, the mercury acts exactly how you’d imagine a pool of liquid would, beautifully sliding, stretching and forming depending on how it moved.
As well as looking pretty, this dynamic modelling also affects the gameplay as it can be split and reformed to achieve certain level goals.
The second feature is the level design and structure. Mercury Hg is rarely a case of simply finding the end goal through a static maze.
Levels often require splitting the mercury up and painting each piece a different colour to set off specific switches. On more difficult levels this can involve juggling several things at once by manipulating the same stage - I’ve successfully manoeuvred one blob only to lose another off the edge as a result on more than one occasion.
Like any successful puzzle game, Mercury Hg is easy to pick up and difficult to master. Its core mechanics are derivative of simple wooden ball mazes, but its high end play is as mind-bending as Portal 2.
One of the reasons Mercury was such a delight back in 2005 was that it filled a niche that other PSP games did not. The PSP was filled with overly complex console-style games that weren’t easy to pick up and play for short bursts.
Mercury could be enjoyed for minutes or hours depending on your mood. This style of gameplay perfectly translates from portables to the downloadable platforms, which scratch the same itch as portable games compared to big budget blockbuster games.
These days there’s more to compete with for your time, but Mercury Hg is worth a play. It’s cheap, cheery and fun to play, a perfect solution to those times when you stare at your collection and can’t decide what to play next.
It’s largely the same as before, but with a large selection of new levels, each with multiple goals to complete, it’s a meaty package that’s great value for money.
Platform: Xbox Live/PSN
Developer/Publisher: Eiconic Games /Ignition
FemaleFirst Michael Moran