Archer Maclean's Mercury


posted 4/18/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PSP
Archer Maclean is no stranger to the world of addictive games, so it probably shouldn’t come as any surprise that the back of the Mercury box boasts it is “possibly the most addictive game you’ll ever play!” As a fan of Mr. Maclean’s work, and a guy who doesn’t mind being addicted to a game, I was ready to see if Mercury would really be more addicting than games like Tetris, Lumines, and so many others.

Mercury is a quirky little game that requires a lot of patience, a steady hand, and more than a little time on your hands. At first it seems almost too easy, your goals being nothing more than to get your blob of shiny liquid metal to the checkpoint before the time runs out. But soon you have to do more than negotiate tough corners, you’ll have to mix colors, solve puzzles, and work with several blobs of metal at the same time.

Instead of actually taking control of the blobs of metal you control the table they are sitting on, which means that you have to tilt the board in order for any movement to occur. You tilt the table using the PSP’s analog nub with the face buttons manipulating the camera angle; this set up works extremely well and takes full advantage of just about every button found on Sony’s handheld. Since few games require players to use the analog nub some players may have to get used to the control scheme, but with a little practice you’ll be controlling the board like a pro.

The levels are split up into a few different types of games, most of which revolve around the basic goal of getting to the end before time runs out. In the race levels you generally don’t have to worry about how much of your blob you lose, just as long as you get to the end in time. In contrast, the percentage stages require you to keep your blob intact, because if you lose too much before crossing the finish line you won’t move on. The task levels are slightly different, generally requiring you to solve a puzzle before you can finish the level. Beyond those three, there are combo stages and boss stages, all of which will require you to be a master of speed, timing, and problem solving.

Mercury is split up into six different worlds, each housing 12 separate levels. These different worlds are all represented by a theme, from snow and ice in Xero, to water in Aqua, to fire and lava in Nano. In each of these worlds the designs use different tiles and types of obstacles, giving some personality to the stages. Each world also offers a rather interesting cinema for you to watch, one that you can view at any time thanks to the theater option (something that seemed awfully strange for a puzzle game).

The real reason to continue playing Mercury is not to see some CGI effect or what the next level’s gimmick is going to be, the real reason to keep going is to see what kind of crazy maze they are going to come up with next. It might seem like it at first, but Mercury has some of the best level designs you will see for this type of game. In some of the later levels you really are dealing with some massive tasks that reminded me a lot of old Rube Goldberg inventions. With nearly 100 levels, if you really get into the puzzle solving and precision that is required to complete the game you will have plenty to keep yourself entertained for months to come.
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