Mercury HG Xbox 360 Review
Back when I was a kid I used to love playing with mercury. My mates and I used to crack open thermometers just to watch the silvery liquid roll around. Of course that was before the powers that be (read: science) decided it wasn’t good for us. Now if you want to play with mercury you’ll have to make do with the virtual variety, but it’s still just as fun as it used to be.
If you’ve never played any of the Mercury games before, you’ll find the premise to be simple, even if it’s not original. Just guide your blob of mercury around a course by tilting the scenery. It’s not a new concept, before Mercury came Monkey Ball, and before that there was Marble Madness, all doing basically the same thing. But if it’s not broken why fix it? A question Sega perhaps should have asked before they started tinkering with their franchise. Mercury doesn’t make that mistake though, and is essentially the same game as it was when it first appeared on the PSP six years ago.
Of course it’s not as simple as just rolling your little blob of Mercury from Point A to Point B, that wouldn’t be much fun. There’s plenty of hazards dotted around the levels to contend with, and these come in a wide range of varieties. Conveyor belts, magnets that attract or repulse your little metallic blob, moving walls to avoid, shifting platforms that require you to stay aboard, and plenty more too. Perhaps not as many as in previous games in the franchise, but considering they were full retail games on discs and this is only a download (and a pretty damned cheap one at that), this is easily forgiveable.
There is one thing that differentiates Mercury HG from other similar games franchises though, and that is your little blob of mercury itself. Unlike a marble or monkey in a ball, when you get close to the edges you don’t necessarily fall off the edge, but instead just lose a portion of your Mercury. This makes it a little more forgiving in the ‘game-over’ department, but also makes for some big differences in gameplay. Push your mercury up against a sharp corner and you can split it into two or more bits. This can become very handy if you need to be in two places at once, but even handier when it comes to the games use of colour. Read on to see exactly what I mean by that.
Colour plays a large part in this title. Around some of the levels you’ll find gizmos that change the colour of your Mercury. You’ll also find floor panels that activate if you run over them with a certain coloured blob of Mercury, and coloured floor panels you can only pass over if you match their colour. Sometimes there won’t be a colour changing gizmo with the right colour needed to activate a panel or pass over a barrier. This is when splitting your Mercury really comes in handy.. Split your blob in two and change them to different colours, then recombine them to make a new colour. Simple, but much more demanding on your dexterity and grey matter than simply rolling a ball to your goal.
All these ingenious obstacles and mechanics would be nothing without some decent level design. Mercury HG doesn’t disappoint in this department (levels vary from the deceptively simple to the mind bogglingly complex). You’ll find some pretty tight time limits for the levels also, but only if you want to get the full bonus. There’s no death penalty if you don’t beat the clock. It’s definitely one of those puzzle games that is more about scoring high than dying a lot. This suits me just fine. I love a game that challenges me sans frustration.
There’s only one downside to the game really, and that takes the form of a very small level count. You don’t get very many levels (only 60 really), and the game reuses them all in extra play modes. Despite this, it’s still only a third of what you got in the previous installment in the series. There are a couple of download packs scheduled for the near future that will bump things up a bit, so all is not lost for level variety. As long as they don’t cost too much I predict that they’ll be worth it.
Mercury HG is not exactly a full blown successor in the series, but there’s enough here to keep fans happy. And at the ridiculously low price of 400MS points it’s definitely worth a try, even if you aren’t a fan.