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Oct. 25 2006
Mercury Meltdown - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
5/10/2006QV SoftwareIgnitionIgnition Banbury
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One of the best puzzlers returns...
The PSP launch last year saw many wonderful titles. One title which generate much interest and excitement was Archer MacLean's Mercury - a puzzle title which was not only one of the most visually impressive games on Sony's handheld, but offered unique gameplay perfectly suited to the analogue slider stick and short gameplay burts associated with portable gaming. A year on and Ignition have released a sequel. While Archer MacLean has left Awesome Studios following it's buyout to Ignition Entertainment work on the sequel continued and Mercury Meltdown is the result.

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... with an all new graphical style.
Essentially this game plays in the same way as the original. Your task is to guide a mercury (that's a liquid metal) blob through a maze to reach a goal in a level. Each level has different obsticles to overcome. Not only will you be facing a time limit and need to keep a percentage of your blob intact, but also possibly need to activate switches by changing the colour of your blob, avoid enemies, avoid traps and edges of the game world among others. Movement is handled with the analogue sliding stick by tilting game world making the blobs roll around the game world. As with the previous game the controls are extrmely accurate and you have full control over the camera to give you the best view at all times.

As expected Mercury Meltdown includes 168 entirely new levels (double that of the 84 in the first game), free look and replay modes as well as some party games. One of the key changes to this game is the number of levels that are opened up at a time. Rather then having to progress through levels with only a couple opened up at a time the developers now open up 16 levels at a time with progress into the next work made by saving as much Mercury as possible. Each level also includes bonus stars which go toward unlocking the bonus party games. Fortunately it's possible to go back at any point to retry previous levels to achieve higher scores, obtain the bonus stars or conserve more mercury.

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Heading through the maze...
The party games include 'Paint' - where you have to paint more surface then your opponent, 'Metrix' - a puzzle game where you have to match up colours, 'Rodeo' - where you have to remain on a platform being blown by wind as long as possible, 'Shove' - which is like curling and 'Race' which is, well, a race.

Another of the changes to Mercury Meltdown is the inclusion of different types of mercury blobs. As well as the same state as the previous game there is now a fast blob, a slow one which is easier to control, and a solid one which won't break up into smaller parts. Interestingly the developers have reduced the number of enemies within the levels and put more emphasis on puzzle solving rather then racing away from someone ready to suck away your mercury.

The developers are using the PSP's Wi-Fi functionality for 2-player multi-player action and have also included game sharing so two people can play from a single copy of the game. Sadly this is restricted to only 8 levels. Downloadable content is also promised - although this is a feature we haven't managed to check out. Finally it's nice to see that Ignition have managed to squeeze the save size down from a rather large 2MB in the original to a much more reasonable 832kb. Sure, it's only a small thing but nice anyway.

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Levels are much more complex.
In terms of problems the only one I have is that for newcomers to the series there is a bit of a steep learning curve. I had friends playing the game struggle a bit, but when I gave them the original they eased into it a lot quicker. Having said that this game will offer more of a challenge to seasoned gamers, but also seems to have eliminated some of the infuriatingly hard levels thrown into the first title. Another of the minor annoyances is the small amounts of loading between levels. It's less then 10 seconds, but still something I would have liked to see eliminated prior to release.

Graphics are one area that really has my mind divided. Technically the game is very polished. The levels are very large, quite varied and include a wide variety of different traps, obsticles and scenarios. The engine is silky smooth too with wonderful liquid animation. Where this game loses marks with me graphically is with the artistic style. I really enjoyed the original game for it's clean metallic look - it seemed to suit the liquid metal theme perfectly. The use of a cel-shaded graphic style doesn't sit well with me. It makes the game too childish, too non-lifelike. I much preferred the metallic stylings of the original game.

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Another impressive screenshot.
Audio in the game was never going to be the most exciting ever. There's only so much you can do with blobs of liquid metal rolling around a level. With that in mind the music is solid enough not to annoy, but there's nothing here that you'll remember as soon as you turn off the PSP either. The effects do the job well enough.

Mercury Meltdown is a fantastic puzzle game that expands greatly on the original. I feel though that the game should have retained the original graphic style, and that newcomers may find the game a little on the difficult side with a steeper learning curve then the original. Still, a fantastic title worthy of any puzzle fans collection.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSIt's gorgeous with not a glitch in sight, but we prefer the original.
SOUNDThe game includes adequate music and effects throughout.
GAMEPLAYThe puzzles are fantastic and will have you addicted to the game.
VALUETonnes of levels, steep learning curve for newcomers to the series.
OVERALLIf you like your puzzle games then Mercury Meltdown is a title worth picking up. Many of the stages are quite challenging, there are tonnes of them to complete, and it's highly addictive. Even if you own the original this is a game worth picking up.

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