It’s easy to forgot how much of an important part Mercury played during the PSP’s launch. Praise was almost universal, with Sony’s Japanese arm so impressed with it that they snapped it up to publish themselves. Having the name of a respected developer – Archer MacLean – on the cover certainly didn’t do it any harm when it came to sales figures either. Archer doesn’t have anything to do with this downloadable affair, but worry not – it’s still a good effort.
The Xbox 360 version has two choices of control method – in both you guide your blob of mercury to its destination by tilting the maze with the analogue stick, but you can choose to have the camera mapped onto either the triggers or the right analogue stick. We found the latter a lot more intuitive. The PlayStation 3 version, on the other hand, uses the accelerometer in the Sixaxis controller for movement.
Completing a maze is all well and good, and will bag you an atom to unlock a new set of levels, but there are three additional challenges to also beat. As well as a target time, each maze has a number of collectables placed in often precarious places and you’ll get a bonus for finishing with 100 percent of your mercury. Beating all four challenges is tricky to do on a first attempt, but thankfully they don’t have to be beaten in one go. It’s possible to whiz through a level to beat the clock and then go back and get the collectables at your own pace.
As you progress through the discovery mode – which is the main bulk of the game – you’ll come across magnets, ramps, moving platforms and rotating floor tiles. A few mazes have devices that’ll change the colour of your blob in order to activate switches of a corresponding hue. Levels where you have to split the mercury in two and mix colours are perhaps the most entertaining. The trickiest? There’s nothing here that’ll have you scratching your head, although it’s very hard to finish the mazes with narrow paths with all of your precious consignment.
Once discovery mode has been licked, there are challenge and bonus rounds to play. The challenge mode more than lives up to its name – here you have to beat multiple levels in a strict time limit as well as grab a set number of the collectables. The bonus levels put a different spin on things, starting off with a tiny blob which eventually gets bigger by collecting vials of fluid.
Presentation impresses with stylish menus, leaderboards and the ability to download ghosts. During the tutorials you’re shown how to get music from your HDD playing in the background. The backdrops are reactive to music, like a graphic equaliser, you see. The in-game music is some of the best we’ve heard in a while – including some very upbeat tracks from Sugar Jesus – so there’s no need to fret if your hard drive is tuneless.
For 400 Microsoft Points, Mercury Hg is something of a bargain. It’s not as taxing as we thought it might be, making it feel rather casual in places, but it manages to grab your attention instantly and refuses to let go until you’ve seen and done everything.