The PSP launch is filled with a large amount of ports, rehashes and sequels. Hidden amongst this line-up, there are only a few titles that are completely original, and Archer Maclean's Mercury is one of them.
Primarily a puzzle title, the game charges players with the task of guiding a blob of mercury around a maze. Navigation is done by tilting the analog stick on the PSP to move the level around. Rather than moving the mercury, you're actually just moving the world the mercury is in, ala Super Monkey Ball. The primary objective is always to get your mercury to the end of the maze successfully. However, there are obstacles which stop the player from reaching the maze so easily, such as jumps, bridges and enemies that eat all your mercury.
The concept is extremely simple, but gradually becomes harder as the game progresses, for example - the first level is fairly basic and just requires the player to navigate over a hill to get to the end, whereas some of the latter levels require colour mixing, jumping, avoiding enemies and more. In total there are seventy two levels, spread over six themed worlds.
The graphics in the game are suitable and get the job done well. The Mercury goes through all sorts of different colours, and it is very easy to distinguish every object. When each world is completed a small cut-scene is unlocked, and this cut-scene helps to demonstrate the visual prowess of the PSP as well.
The gameplay looks to be where the title really shines. Each of the seventy two levels (and this isn't including the unlockable levels) is completely different to the previous one, forcing the player to adopt a new strategy for each level. At the beginning of each level the game does a pan of the entire level and, when you imagine you only have a small amount of time to scale such a large distance, it's often very daunting. PALGN has passed several levels with merely seconds left on the clock, though to go back and do it all again is just as satisfying as well.
Every level in the game has a different soundtrack to it as well, meaning the soundtrack never becomes repetitive, and it's very well suited to the style of the game. It actually manages to add to the intensity of each level.
The game will also feature wireless play, where up to two players can compete in any of the levels unlocked in the single player mode. We think Mercury could be one of the most addictive puzzle titles we've played in a while, and we're hoping that come the PSP's launch, gamers will take a second look at a game that actually dares to be different. And just for that, we commend Archer Maclean.