Mercury Hg hands-on preview

A liquidy take on Marble Madness, or, if you prefer, Monkey Ball

We have to admit that we’re suckers for clean, geometric worlds like those found in Marble Madness, Super Monkey Ball, and evenSnake Rattle & Roll, so we find the aesthetic of Mercury Hg rather appealing. An update of a PSP (and PS2, and Wii) game, Mercury Hg puts the world in the player’s hands – you tilt the entire play field as in Monkey Ball, except instead of a ball, you’re directing a blob of mercury. This might not seem like an important difference, but it actually makes the game unique thanks to some creative thinking by the designers.

At the start of each level you have a single, silver blob of mercury. Tilting the world sends the blob slipping along channels and bridges, with increasingly narrow and perilous pathways to navigate with a time limit – you will be falling to your death a lot in this game in the later levels. Sometimes you’ll encounter a gateway of a certain color, so to get through it you need your mercury to be that color. At first the solutions are dead simple – e.g. paint your blob blue for a blue gateway. But then there are colored tiles on the ground that can only be passed over if you’re the right color (there’s a cool “invisible wall” effect where your blob pours around the colored tiles as if they’re protected by a force field). So you have to swap from one color to the next to access certain areas.

Yet, being a blob, you can also split the mercury by tilting the world and guiding the blob into a sharp corner that slices the puddle in two. Now you have to watch both smaller blobs while titling the world. You may need to get both blobs through different pathways, or you may need to figure out how to do some color mixing. You might be presented with a green gateway, but only blue and yellow colors, so you have to find a way to split your blob, then color the two blobs separately, and then remix them to get the green color you need.

We got to play one of the slightly higher levels and even though it was challenging, it was short, which means the game can be played in snack-sized bites. Of course, it also means you’ll probably end up getting sucked into “just one more level.” It seems like a fun distraction on XBLA and PSN for a mere 5 bucks, and we saw enough levels to know that it’s not a one-trick pony – each level presented some new kind of challenge. We should note that we played the 360 version, but we’re told the PSN version is the best because it utilizes the Sixaxis in what is surely the one way that motion control is perfectly suited for – tilt the controller to tilt the world. Mercury Hg is aiming for a late 2011 release.

Jul 26, 2011

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