The Average Gamer

Mercury Hg Review (XBLA)

Nothing makes my gamer glands glisten quite like a puzzle game. First person shooters and RPGs do arouse me but not quite enough to bring my interest to a peak. Thankfully, one of my favourites has made its way to XBLA and for an outrageous price of 400MSP. Isn’t it just awful that they’ve charged that much? Mercury Hg (that’s Mercury Mercury to those who know the periodic table) is the current-gen reincarnation of a PSP and PS2 series I poured way too much time into.

The Mercury series first made it’s way onto systems back in 2005 under the guise of Archer Maclean’s Mercury on PSP. The aim was to guide a blob of mercury through a series of colour-based puzzles by tilting the levels rather than controlling the blob directly. Check the below video to see what I mean.

The basic premise of Mercury hasn’t changed. Your blob can still change colour via the circular paintshops and moving too close to an edge will frequently see some of your precious juices fall into the nether. I loved the complexity of the original games. It wasn’t just a matter of making sure not to lose all your mercury and suffer the taunting retry menu. They were clever; so many tools and obstacles came together to produce challenging and beautiful levels. Sadly, some of this seems to have been lost in translation. Level design in Mercury Hg seems to focus more on just navigating the course than solving a puzzle.

It’s odd. Everytime Mercury Hg introduces a new mechanic it immediately hides it again, almost as if not to scare the player. Throughout the 60 level campaign only a handful of levels made use of anything other than holes in the middle of a path or gaps to jump over as a challenge. It almost felt like Mercury Hg was designed to be a motion controlled game on 3DS or iPhone.

Once the main campaign is complete there is plenty more to do. You can play through the various sets of challenges. These are the same as standard levels but with set time limits and required amounts of mercury or sparkly bonus pickups collected in order to complete the level. Bonus levels pose an even greater challenge; collect all the vials of mercury on your way around the level and get to the finish without losing a single drop. Compulsory leaderboards exist if you want to test yourself against the 14,000 other people playing around the world.

I want to love Mercury Hg. It reeks of nostalgia for me and regardless of that, still shows hints of its potential. The clean graphical style and synth music are lovely and being able to play along to my own music helps keep me interested but just doesn’t feel right. Something is missing.

Perhaps UTV have saved the best for last. Two DLC packs sit teasing you on the level selection screen with just a “Coming Soon!” to generate any excitement. Perhaps these 2 prophetic packs of DLC will restore Mercury Hg to its former glory as one of my favourite puzzlers. Complexity and sheer twisting of physics can be added. What’s more it can be fun.

The question is though, is it worth the 400 microsoft points? Well, yes. Despite all my sadness as to what the series used to be, 400MSP is a ridiculously low price for an XBLA title. I easily got 4-5 hours of gametime out of the main campaign and if you are the type of person who enjoys grabbing every collectable then the horde of pickups will certainly keep you busy. It isn’t going to get any cheaper so check it out.

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