Anyone pick up Mercury (or Archer Maclean’s Mercury) this week? I’ve been playing it during about every free moment today so I figure I’ve played enough to write a little review. If you haven’t heard of Mercury, basically the idea is to navigate a blog of the title material through a series of obstacle courses. It starts out pretty easy, but it gets insanely difficult in the later levels. Check out videos here.
First of all, the game just oozes cool. Everyone I’ve showed it to had a similar “whoa” reaction. The visuals are very cool, especially the mercury blobs themselves. The levels are also very interesting to look at.
The sound is great too. The music is just OK (though I may be spoiled by the superior music in Lumines), but it’s passable. The sound effects from the mercury and the world objects it interacts with is very cool though.
The game starts you off with a series of tutorial challenges designed to get you used to how the game works. There are four kinds of challenges: Time, Percentage, Task, and Combination.
In time, you merely have to race through the maze as fast as possible. Usually you only have to have a tiny bit of Mercury left at the end on time challenges.
In Percentage - you have to get through the maze with as much mercury left as possible. There is still a time limit, but it’s usually higher so you can take your time getting through.
In Task, you have to complete several tasks to complete the level. Usually this involves lighting up several beacons using your blob of mercury. Often it involves using several blobs of mercury.
And lastly, there are missions that combine requirements from the challenges above to up the difficulty. These are usually the hardest levels in each world.
And it gets hard. Really hard. This could be a problem because while we’ve all thrown a super nintendo controller in Mario-induced rage, we probably don’t want to wang our $250 PSPs off a wall, so be careful.
One negative: It’s not really as big as it sounds in some of the reviews I’ve read. My save file says I’m 75% complete and while I don’t know for sure how much I played it so far, it couldn’t have been more than about four hours on and off. There are something like 80 levels, but some of those you’ll blow through in 45 to 60 seconds, so you progress pretty quickly.
However, with the difficulty ramping up as I get closer to the last world (I’m five levels away from it now) I think it’ll keep me busy for a while. Plus, once I got the hang of it I’ve enjoyed going back and replaying completed levels to try to get better scores. A coworker and I have been passing it back and forth today trying to knock each other off the scoreboards on a few levels.
Speaking of high scores, one of the coolest things about the game is the fact that there are almost always little tricks and/or shortcuts to help you get though the maze faster to earn a better score. If you make it though a level and score 5,000, and notice the high score is 30,000, take a closer look. There’s going to be something there to discover.
The other complaint isn’t the game’s fault, but the PSP’s analog nub is pretty uncomfortable to use for long periods. I was concerned that this game was going to hurt me, but it’s not as bad as I had anticipated. There have been a few levels that were a little uncomfortable - usually the speed challenges where I’m jamming the nub to one side and the other a lot. Overall it’s actually OK though, because I find myself tapping it more than grinding it around.
I haven’t had a chance to try the multiplayer, but it’s pretty straightforward apparently. Just a race through the level, with your opponent depicted on your screen as a shadow. Nothing too fancy, but it sounds fun. I appreciate that (IIRC) every PSP game so far has had some form of multiplayer included, even if it’s not much.
Overall, I give it good marks. If Lumines scores in the mid-to-high nines, I’d put Mercury in the low eights. It’s definitely an above average gaming experience, especially to those of us who crave something new and interesting.