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PSP  header logo

Mercury Meltdown

For: PSP

Run, don't walk, towards this blob

Product: Mercury Meltdown | Publisher: UTV Ignition Games | Format: PSP | Genre: Puzzle | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
 
Mercury Meltdown PSP, thumbnail 1
You're a rat in a maze. Somewhere is a lever that releases cheese. Another administers an electric shock. Being a lab rat isn't all smoking and wearing unethically-tested make-up, you know.

Imagine your squeaks of joy when you figure out how to get the cheese and avoid the jolt! Alas, a pretty Oxbridge student then reconfigures the maze with a sinister smile. Shocking misery returns.

That, in analogical terms, sums up the twisted motivation behind many puzzle games, and Mercury Meltdown in particular. But rather than a rat, you're a blob of the eponymous liquid metal. And while the levels often resemble a maze, they're much more than simply lefts and rights. There are floating platforms, pressure pads, colour-coded gates, conveyor belts, surfaces that slow you down and speed you up, and plenty else besides.

Cannily, the whole caboodle is floating in space – you don't control the mercury blob(s), but tilting the maze via the PSP's analogue nub causes the mercury to roll around. If any mercury falls off the edge, it's lost.

By interacting with the environment to split the mercury into multiple blobs, change it into different colours via spray devices, shimmy this way and roll that, you eventually get some mercury onto the finish square and complete the stage. (You'll even change the blob's state by heating or cooling it; when solid it's like a pinball, neatly recalling arcade classic Marble Madness.)

Mercury Meltdown is both more complicated and simpler than it sounds. On confronting all but the earliest levels, you'll stick your tongue out, dumbfounded. Yet within a few minutes you'll have it finished. Result: our version of rodent euphoria.

Pleasingly, the deeper satisfaction in the game doesn't come from unlocking new stages – you'll progress without too much frustration, saving both your PSP and your hairline – but from completing the stages in ever better style.

There's a 'par' timer to come in under, or you try to retain more mercury. There are also score bonuses to collect, which often at first seem impossible to reach. Eventually you'll need to beat everything to unlock it all, but much of the 160-plus stages are accessible to even the truly ham-fisted.

The stages are divided into 'Labs', which you open up as you go. You can tackle any stage within a lab in whatever order you like, and while the labs are supposedly themed (Chem Lab, Bio Lab and so forth), unlocking them makes little real difference beyond the all-important drip of new elements and challenges. About halfway through the game gets much harder, but you'll have enjoyed 80-odd levels by then.

Mercury Meltdown looks and sounds great, with colourful environments and some rollicking tunes. Positioning the camera can be a bit of a pain, but as it's a game with zero-button gameplay – you can finish many levels with the nub alone – it's rarely burdensome.

Indeed, in every respect it's far more forgiving than its predecessor. Yes, despite lacking a numerical giveaway, Mercury Meltdown is a sequel to one of the PSP's best early titles, and it's in nearly every way an improvement.

Whereas Mercury was worthy but somewhat nerdy, Meltdown – essentially the same game – is funky. It's fashionable in more than looks: there are skins and mini-games to unlock (merely adequate, though the Tetris-like Metrix could probably be fleshed into a full game), and a diverting multiplayer mode where you challenge a rival's ghost, with the crucial caveat that you can grab pick-ups to scupper their play.

With two PSPs and copies, you'll have less fear of long train journeys; equally, one niggle with Meltdown is the lack of multiplayer game-sharing. Another is that while the developer has strived to give the game personality, a blob is still no Mario or Sonic, let alone Sega's cunningly simian retrofitted Monkey Ball.

More importantly, there's only so many ways to mix up a tiltable maze, and while Meltdown's creator has done all we could imagine and more (upside down play, stages where you begin as multiple blobs, stages that demand you activate different squares at once, and so on) it can get samey. We played the bulk of Mercury Meltdown before even considering our review, but we could probably have written it with some confidence after 20 minutes.

Still, that's common to all puzzle games. Played a little and often – not a chore, given the speedy loading times – this is a UMD you'll carry whatever else you're playing.

Hardly a shocking verdict, but not too cheesy either.
 
Mercury Meltdown
Reviewer photo
Owain Bennallack | 19 October 2006
Thanks to plenty of tweaks and additions, Mercury Meltdown boils down to a bit more than more of the same. An excellent pocket puzzler
 
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