Mercury Meltdown Remix PS2

Taking 1 part excellent PSP puzzler and adding superior analogue controls and two new stages is an obvious formula for an excellent PS2 puzzle game experience. As a “remix” of the PSP original, the main improvement is the use of the PS2’s analogue sticks, ridding the game of the only thing that worked against the portable version – the horrid “nub” that plagues most PSP releases.

The gameplay has made the transition completely untouched, thankfully. Essentially a glorified version of the classic Marble Madness, you guide a blob of – surprise surprise – MERCURY around a series of increasingly difficult stages full of pitfalls and obstacles that hinder your progress against tight time limits. Making sure that you don’t lose any of your fluid off the side of the stage, whilst hitting switches, splitting up into smaller blobs, changing forms from liquid to solid and changing colours to pass through different sections are all part of this deceptively complex puzzler.

One thing that the PSP title had which meant it was a huge improvement over the original Mercury – a launch game – is the slightly more forgiving difficulty level. Sure, it did get to a stage that could be described as “bollock-hard”, but it had a much better judged learning curve beforehand. This is still the case with ‘Remix’, but with the added extra ease provided by a decent analogue stick.

With the extra storage space provided by the DVD disc, Ignition Banbury have added two new “labs”, full of new stages taking the overall total to over 200 – adding these to the plethora of minigames available and you are talking serious value for money. Unfortunately, the entire multiplayer mode has been lost in the ether somewhere, not even the smallest part of it appearing in this port. Not a total loss, as it was very rare any PSP owners got to experience it (needing two copies of the game didn’t help matters) but it’s always nice to have options. The excellent WiFi features implemented on the PSP release are also sadly absent – how difficult could it have been to have left in online scoreboards?

Blown up to the big screen, the stylized graphics still look excellent. The star of the show – the blob of mercury – looks even better than before, with all the reflections of the world around shimmering across its morphing surface and the near-perfect movement animation still being an absolute standout moment. The cel-shaded stages look solid and the various traps stand out nicely, giving you ample chance to avoid them – if you are good enough, of course.

Which is what the Mercury games have always boiled down to – control. The feel and “weight” of the blob as it slides around the levels is just right and the most essential part of the gameplay. If Ignition got that wrong, the entire game would fall apart. You never feel cheated for a loss of life and skill is rewarded – something I rate very, very highly in ANY video game.

The only real complaint is that the very nature of this game is perfectly suited to the handheld consoles. Being able to play on a journey or finish a few stages on the bus is far more enjoyable than sitting down in front of a home entertainment centre and playing it, even with all the improvements (The same could arguably be said about Tetris). However, saying that, the forthcoming Wii version (with the long rumoured “tilt” controls) could push Mercury to the top of the puzzle league. In the meantime, you now have the choice of TWO excellent versions of an excellent game.

Not quite as essential as its little brother, but still one of the top puzzlers out there.

8.0 out of 10