Archer Maclean's Mercury

Archer Maclean's Mercury

Written by Cyril Lachel on 4/18/2005 for 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.
Unfortunately I didn’t find it all that appealing after awhile. Even with the large amount of levels and variety, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that this was all very repetitive. To me Mercury had a lot in common with Lemmings, where the theme is a lot of fun, but since you are always doing the same thing in every level it just starts to feel futile after awhile. This is the type of game I can see somebody picking away at over a long period of time, but not all at once.

There is a two-player mode that allows you and a friend to race against each other on any one of the game’s levels. While this mode can lead to some tight races, most of the levels don’t really feel like they were designed for this in mind, and something about the theme don’t rub off with multiple people. Part of the problem is that this mode feels tacked on, like it was a last minute feature to take part of the whole Wi Fi excitement. It’s worth noting that the box suggests that the game can be played online via the Infrastructure mode, but that is not the case, as Ad Hoc is the only mode I found in my copy.

We already knew the PSP is capable of amazing graphics, but I was still impressed with the visual look of Mercury. Not only are the backgrounds interesting and unique, but each table features a lot of extra detail that gives it a very stylish look. As you move from one table to the next you will find all kinds of effects and obstacles that really shine on the PSP screen.

It’s easy to see how somebody could really get into Mercury; it’s a challenging game that always seems to offer something new and original in every level. I enjoyed the way the game played, but found myself growing tired of it before too long. For me it would seem that it was not the most addictive game I have ever played, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have an audience that will appreciate it for what it is. I got sucked in for awhile, but the trial and error game play and non-stop mazes wore me out.
Mercury is the type of game that has enough of a challenge to keep you coming back to it for months to come … if you don’t get worn out of the game play before then.

Rating: 7.5 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

It's questionable how accurate this is, but this is all that's known about Cyril Lachel: A struggling writer by trade, Cyril has been living off a diet of bad games, and a highly suspect amount of propaganda. Highly cynical, Cyril has taken to question what companies say and do, falling ever further into a form of delusional madness. With the help of quality games, and some greener pastures on the horizon, this back-to-basics newsman has returned to provide news so early in the morning that only insomniacs are awake.
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