David Low
16 Jan, 2007

Mercury Meltdown Remix Review

PS2 Review | Equal rights for games based on poisonous metals!
The original Mercury game on PSP was apparently developed with a tilt sensor add-on for the handheld in mind. When the peripheral was eventually canned, the game ended up being released with standard analogue control. However, while it and it's sequel Mercury Meltdown were actually quite good puzzle games (receiving scores of 7.5 and 7.0 from PALGN), and were well suited to Sony's handheld, with nice 3D graphics and good 'pick up and play' gameplay, they were still held back slightly by the PSP's input method. The PSP's analogue nub is simply not as good as a standard analogue stick for games requiring fine movements, and the lack of a second stick meant the PSP versions had quite limited control over the camera. Well, Ignition has come to the rescue by porting the game to the PS2 as a budget title, bringing better analogue control, the camera mapped to the right stick, and a bunch of extra levels to boot. And while the basic game design remains better suited to a handheld device, as an arcade puzzler on PS2 Mercury Meltdown Remix is pretty damn good.

Mercury 'Meltdown'? So is the game set at -38.82 °C?

Mercury 'Meltdown'? So is the game set at -38.82 °C?
If you haven't worked it out already, Mercury Meltdown Remix is a new spin on the old Marble Madness formula of 'guide a ball around a 3D maze filled with traps to an exit', a gameplay type recently seen in the (mostly) excellent Super Monkey Ball series. The main difference is that instead of guiding a spherical object, you guide a blob of everyone's favourite liquid metal neurotoxin. Much like the refinement to the formula made in Super Monkey Ball, instead of controlling the blob directly, the left stick tilts the game level and gravity does the rest of the work - although being a blob rather then a ball, it can actually be affected more by the environment. The mercury bends around corners and gets split up by sharp objects, and when you veer too close to an edge some of your blob will drip off the side – in fact, the goal is only to make it to the exit with a certain amount of your blob intact, although obviously 100% is required for a perfect score. There are other complications as well – you'll need to change the colour of your blob via colour changing devices to pass certain obstacles (eg only red can get through a red door) and at times you'll have to split your blob up, change the colours of each, and then combine them to form new colours to proceed. The colour puzzles can initially seem relatively complicated, but there are only seven colours, and a colour chart is visible at all times on the top right of the screen. On top of all this, some objects can change the state of your blob, it can be heated or frozen to pass various obstacles – the latter turning your blob into a solid ball and allowing the use of rails. The game does a decent job of easing you into all these options, but sometimes large levels can be overwhelming, requiring multiple colour or state changes in a row, and often you'll need at least a few tries before you've even worked out what has to be done

Escher would be proud

Escher would be proud
In terms of the actual levels, Mercury Meltdown Remix gets the balance just about right. It's pretty clear what most objects do, and the challenge comes from the puzzle elements, sometimes the odd enemy, as well as the actual control. The levels show their handheld heritage and are usually reasonably short, utilizing just one or two ideas for their challenge and taking a minute or so to complete successfully. There are larger levels that require some planning – luckily you can press select to pause and free look to decide how you will proceed - but the game could probably have done with a few more meaty challenges - hopefully Ignition will make the upcoming Wii version slightly more console friendly. Control is very good, if you ever fall off you'll know it's your fault (or at least the fault of an unanticipated enemy movement). The left stick tilts the level smoothly, and the right stick controls the camera, which can be set to snap at set horizontal angles, or be totally free, and the shoulder buttons are used to swap the view between blobs when you have more then one, and R3 changes to a multi camera mode.

However, even with decent controls it can be quite a difficult game. It starts out quite easy, with a few spikes in difficulty, but as the game goes on, even the levels where you know what has to be done can become frustrating in an old-school arcade kind of way, usually because you'll successfully navigate 90% of a level before falling off the last corner. It doesn't help that the load times, while generally good, are not quite as good as they could have been when re-starting a level you just failed (or are about to) – many an X button will be mashed in the few seconds between re-starts. However, there's plenty of game here, with 200 levels and many extra goals within levels in the form of bonus pick-ups and speedier runs through levels, and if anything becomes too frustrating you can skip the level and come back to it later. There are also some single player party games, but they require unlocking by collecting the bonus items within the levels. The party games are usually a slight spin on the main gameplay including a balance game, racing game, and an interesting Tetris clone called Metrix, where like Puyo Puyo you match the colours of blobs to make them disappear.

This is what happens when Captain Falcon's radiator bursts

This is what happens when Captain Falcon's radiator bursts
Visually, Mercury Meltdown Remix is quite good. It's done in a cell shaded style influenced by 'wacky' cartoons and games, and is generally bright, clear and pleasing to the eye, and while not exactly packed with detail, it runs at a flawless framerate which is important for a game such as this. One slight problem is the animation of the blob – it's got a black outline around it to look cartoony and stylised, but the less defined edges don't help sometimes - on certain edges and platforms it doesn't seem to behave 100% consistently, but it's still functional. Much like the gameplay, the music and sound effects hark back to the old days. The sound effects are 'wacky' though functional, with many objects helping you to know what's coming by making a noise before they act, and the music has an 'anything with a beat goes' vibe from light rock to club techno.

Overall, Mercury Meltdown Remix is a good port of the PSP game made better with the improved controls. It looks good, has a good mix of puzzling and physics based action, plenty of content, and a decent challenge for puzzle aficionados. While it's probably still more suited to a handheld, with it's short individual levels, if you're after an action puzzler on the PS2 you could do a lot worse, and at a budget price the deal is even sweeter.
The Score
A great action puzzle game that controls well and is quite addictive. Well worth the budget price! 7
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Content

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Mercury Meltdown Review
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