"Ultimately, what makes Mercury Meltdown Revolution such a great game is the game design. Igntion Entertainment have crafted a superb example of player versus environment."
Sit back, relax, take a chill pill. It's not all about the hustle and bustle, you know? Sure, flailing your arms around wildly is fun. Nobody is questioning this. After all, you have gone out and bought the Wii in your millions. You enjoy motion-controlled gaming. We understand. You LIKE the waggle!
But then, is there not room in the Wii catalogue for some games that don't carry the risk of dislocation of the shoulder? Do we really need to jump up and down, swinging our Wiimote like a bat out of hell all the time? Is there nothing more easy-going? More calm. More cerebral, even?
Yes, there is. And it is called Mercury Meltdown Revolution.
This is a game you may have already played. You may even have already played it twice. Originally released as a PSP launch title, Archer Macleans Mercury was one of the more unusual titles for the Sony hand-held. The game was designed for an add-on that never surfaced, but was well-programmed enough that the lack of tilt-sensing technology proved to be no hurdle. It did well, and proved popular enough to warrant a sequel, such was the quality. Mercury Meltdown was not just tied to the portable, though, and the big boys got to join in. It seemed that regular controllers were good enough, and that tilt-sensors were just not needed.
Only, now, there is a big boy without a regular controller. Now, tilt-sensing technology not only exists, it is a selling point of the console in question. And so, it should surprise NOBODY that Mercury Meltdown Revolution has been bought to Nintendo's 'little box that could!'
The concept behind the game is a simple one. You have a blob of liquid metal, the titular Mercury, in a level, and you are charged with getting the blob to the goal in order to 'save' the mercury contained within. You achieve this by tilting the level, so as to make the blob roll. Think of it as one of those little puzzles you had as a kid, where you had to roll the little steel balls into the holes. You hold your Wiimote sideways, and it acts as the stage on which you play. Tilt it forwards, backwards, any which way, and the on-screen stage reacts exactly as you would expect. Reach the goal, avoid the obstacles, don't lose your mercury, collect your bonuses ... it is very straightforward fare. Each 'lab' contains 16 stages, with bonus stages unlocked as you complete the standard ones. Little here will catch you by surprise.
Of course, it is not all plain-sailing. Since your blob is made of mercury, it has certain properties that balls don't have. Such as, the ability to change colour. Many of the puzzles involve you splitting your blob into several smaller blobs, and mixing the blobs together to form blobs of different hues. Coloured blobs can open gates, and activate switches, and often you need to be a certain colour to exit the level. Colour-based levels can quickly get very confusing, even with the handy on-screen mixing guide.
Another problem that the player must face is enemies that eat your mercury. Or, blocks that squash you. Or, bumpers that literally push you off the level into the abyss of space itself. Whilst these start off as a fairly ignorable annoyance, they soon become the focus of your attack on the level. In the early stages you simply have to get pretty much any of your blob to the exit, but in later labs you have minimum amounts. Sometimes, these targets are pretty tight. 100% levels are always tricky, but extremely rewarding when you do find the way to do them.
These tightly designed limits could have been a problem, as they were in the previous games. However, this is quite niftily side-stepped by the game determining that amount of mercury saved throughout the earlier levels is the key to unlocking new ones, rather than amount of levels solved. Furthermore, even though each stage has a time-limit, failing to complete in time simply means you won't get the bonus. If you overshoot the par time, don't worry. The game wants you to see all it has to offer, and remains relaxed. You will never find yourself forced to attempt a level that you just can't beat purely to get the next one opened up.
In fact, it is this lack of stress that really shines through in the game. It would have been easy to have made the game punishing, and a chore to play. Instead, Ignition Entertainment have created a game where the challenge level is set by the player. If you want to go back and do a stage faster, you can do. If you are stuck on a stage, then just skip it. Try the next one.
As you play through the game, at your own pace, you will slowly unlock more and more. From new skins for your mercury, to new labs, to party games. These party games make for a fun diversion if you need to escape the often head-scratchingly difficult puzzles for a while. These party games are fun challenges in themselves, although they lack the substance of the main game.
Ultimately, what makes Mercury Meltdown Revolution such a great game is the game design. Igntion Entertainment have crafted a superb example of player versus environment. You are not playing against an opponent, you are instead stepping up to the challenge placed by the stage itself. When done properly this kind of gameplay is both timeless, and very hard to beat.
It has certainly been done properly here!
From the moment you load this game up, you are moved by its' polish. The futuristic look of the earlier games has gone, to be replaced with cel-shading. Sadly, this is something you will either love or hate, but the game does look better for the more cartoony approach. The music is catchy without being over-bearing, and the spot effects are nicely done. All of the menus are laid-out logically, and you can navigate quickly and easily to any point from any point. The presentation really is first-rate.
Such great presentation would of course be for nought if the game engine itself lacked. Well, it is my happy duty to report that the physics are perfectly implemented. You will lose your mercury, a lot, but you will always blame yourself. You will get slightly frustrated at times, but never so much that you curse the game. You will wonder how on Earth you are ever going to collect that bonus star, but you will keep on trying.
Most of all, you will enjoy.
Freelance review by Lee Weedall (June 18, 2007)
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