I’m sensing a bit of a pattern in my reviews, often referencing much older titles when reviewing newer ones seems to get my mind in the right place for considering the merits of the latest game I’m reviewing, and this one will be no exception.
When I first saw screenshots of Mercury Hg my brain was immediately catapulted back to Spindizzy on the Commodore 64. The isometric viewpoint with weird controllable… erm… thingy in the middle, the task of collecting a huge number of crystals spread out over a pseudo-3D world never really got old for me. Mercury Hg, whilst bearing more than a passing resemblance its old Granddad, is actually a million miles away from my initial assumption.
The basic premise of the game is to guide a lovely (fluid dynamic) animated blob of mercury from the start of the level to the chequered tiled finish line. This isn’t done a la Spindizzy by directly moving the blob with your stick, this is achieved by rotating the landscape it sits on with either your left analogue stick OR by using the Sixaxis controller. Wait… games STILL use that?? Oh yeah, well, there you go. Whilst in theory it sounds like a perfect match up I found using the Sixaxis a little too fiddly and unresponsive to control with enough accuracy and so relied on analogue movement instead. This does go some way to explain why this control method never really caught on!
There are several game modes – Discovery is essentially a level progression affair where you move through the periodic table completing levels and collecting “atoms” to unlock new levels. You are scored on the time it takes you to get to the exit, the number of atoms you collect and how intact your mercury blob is at the end of the level. The Mercury blob can be split by loads of different hazards from bumping into sharp walls, dropping from a height or an uneven moving floor surface. Obviously the more bits of Mercury you have dotted around the level, the harder it is to control without losing any. Thankfully if you hold down the “X” button your mercury reforms by itself (a bit like in Terminator 2) but your timer runs down a lot quicker whilst the reformation process is undertaken. Fracturing your blob (ouch!) sounds like a bad thing, but in actual fact for some of the levels its required. For instance in some of the levels you need to colour the Mercury blob a certain colour to allow it to pass over certain coloured tiles and on the level is a red and a green colour changer, if you split the Mercury on a sharp wall, move one blob to the red and another to the green (easier said than done) then merge them you get yellow and can proceed. Took me quite a while to figure out that, even though I had played through the pretty thorough tutorials!
Unless you are really fixated on collected all the “atoms” scattered throughout the level, the hardened puzzler will probably breeze through the discovery mode relatively quickly, opening up several bonus levels/modes to play through including such as time trials and the like. There’s also a wealth of leader boards to compete with (should this be your bag) and ghost modes to try and beat your own level times. If you are feeling especially cocky you could download the fastest online ghost and try and beat that! The game also allows you to play your own tunes in the background which is a nice touch – more puzzle games should do this – it even has a nice background equaliser pumping away to your tunes, this meant I could get RIGHT back into my Spindizzy days by playing Club Tropicana, Howard Jones and Queen in the background whilst playing (the Queen thing being ironically relevant)!
It’s hard to be overly critical here. For a game that you can buy for less than a couple of pints there’s a lovely amount of gameplay, charm and old school fun to be had here, even if the game does sort of feel a little like it was designed to be a Mini. The score is directly proportionate to the cost here, had this been any more expensive it would’ve been difficult to justify the purchase, but at a gnat’s knacker under £4.00 its almost a no brainer.
Reviewed on PS3