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September 4, 2005
Mercury - Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
14/9/2005QV SoftwareIgnitionAwesome Studios
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The mercury looks stunning when moving.
It's the original games that are going to make or break the PSP in our opinion. I mean with tens of millions of PS2's in homes people aren't going to be attracted to a system what only offers ports of older games they already own. Fortunately Sony and many third party developers realise this and almost a third of the PSP's launch titles are platforms specific. Archer MacLean's Mercury is one such title from legendary coder Archer Maclean and his development team at Awesome Studiosin the UK.

The aim of Mercury is quite simple - although mastering it may take some time. Basically you have to guide a blob of mercury (think liquid metal, like Terminator 2), through a maze to reach the goal. Each level has a different emphasis - either a tight time limit to beat, puzzles to solve or enemies and tasks to overcome. This is done by tilting the level using the PSP's analogue stick. The control really is remarkably accurate and easy to get to grips with. The levels aren't just simple mazes - that would be too easy. Not only can your blob can fall off the edge (resulting in level failed) but you will encounter dozens of different obstacles such as directional pads, spikes, rotating doors and so on to overcome.

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Careful crossing the bridge!
While it sounds hard with a single mercury blob it won't be too long before you reach levels which require you to control several different coloured blobs which each need to trigger different switches. At times you will even be required to mix different coloured blobs to create yet another colour and so on. This really is a game which requires some thought.

Mercury starts off in a Tutorial world allowing you to slowly ease your way into the game and get used to the controls and the environment. It won't take too long however to figure out what's happening, but completing the games 6 worlds and 72 levels is certainly going to be a challenge. Each world consists of three timed levels, three percentage levels, and three task levels. Following these you then have two combination levels and a final boss level which will certainly test your skills.

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You have to love the reflections.
The biggest issue I have with this game is the camera, well actually, itís more the need to know the layout of the larger levels in order to reach the goals. Fortunately you do have full control of the camera to either rotate it or zoom in or out however this take precious time off your very strict time limits. Another annoyance is that the game doesn't have an auto save when you complete a level and must be done manually. Occasionally we forgot to do so for a while and lost our progress when we returned to the PSP's menu system.

One thing you won't be able to appreciate from the surrounding static screens is the brilliant liquid motion on the blobs of mercury. They bend and deform with every interaction in the game world and really have a weighty feel to them as they gain momentum and take time to slow down. We've already spoken about the camera issue and this really was an area which needed to be fixed. I'm not sure how, perhaps putting the smaller insignificant blobs into separate side windows was an option? Finally the levels themselves, while not stunning, certainly serve their purpose with traps very clear and targets highlighted well.

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The switch turned on the laser.
Mercury's audio is fairly minimal with some cool dance beats dominating the soundtrack. Effects are fairly minimal with a whistle as mercury falls over the edge, and some sounds from obstacles in the levels. Overall, the game is fairly solid in the audio department.

In my preview for Mercury I stated that "It's when you see games like Mercury running that you realise why you love games so much. The graphics, sound and most importantly gameplay promise so much and there is little doubt this launch title will sell far fewer copies then it ever deserves." Having played the game extensively that statement holds truer then ever. This is game design at its peak with simplicity the key, but mastering the game a challenge. If you're looking for a game that will use some of your grey matter then Archer MacLean's Mercury is your game. Highly recommended.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSThe liquid Mercury blobs look sensational. Good level design.
SOUNDMercury includes some background music, and the odd effect.
GAMEPLAYNear perfectly gameplay which occasionally frustrates when stuck.
VALUE72 levels is quite a bit, although even more would have been welcome.
OVERALLThis was one game I was keen to get my hands on. In fact it was one of our first PSP games previewed and the final game doesn't disappoint either. It's original content such as this that will ensure the PSP is a hit. Well worth a purchase.

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