Spiritualists and healers in the Far East who used to attribute mercury with healing properties would have been run out of town if they’d cited this game as evidence. After a few levels on Mercury Meltdown Revolution, they’d have been ready to club each other to painful death with a ritualistic bell, only realizing too late how damaging and toxic this slippery little element can be. Specifically, this is the first game to make us actually throw the Wii remote hard at the wall in real anger.
Primarily, what makes this puzzler unique is the mercury ball itself. Imagine playing Marble Madness with The Blob. You use the remote to tilt the board under the loosely-held-together gloop of liquid, waiting for it to inevitably split apart at the first available opportunity: on a corner, off an edge, under a large pointy hammer.
And, impressively, your blob moves around exactly as mercury should - flowing slowly at first, then gathering momentum and bending around corners, breaking in half when there’s too much strain put on it. Of course you won’t notice how good it is, as you’ll be too busy insulting the blob of mercury’s mother when it starts to spill over a ledge into oblivion. You’ll instinctively tilt the board in the opposite direction to pull it back, but as it’s already been caught by momentum, it’ll thin slowly before breaking off, leaving a few drops dribbling away forever, and your remaining blob careering off in the opposite direction to certain death and a quick level restart.
This sort of thing happens pretty frequently, too. Each level is composed of lessons you can only learn the hard way, building up a sequence for yourself to follow rigidly in order to get through to the end. Whenever you come across a level that can be completed in just one or two attempts, you’ll be more amazed than a felt hatter with mercury poisoning.
And there’s more to the game than running along a board, avoiding various pitfalls - it’s not just Monkey Ball with gelatinous gloop. Revolution takes advantage of the blob’s unique, changeable properties to introduce more puzzly elements into the gameplay. You can change the blob’s state - cooling it down makes it hard and able to cross rails and move faster, while heating it up liquefies it again. You can run through color rays to change color, and to access different areas. You can also split your blob into numerous different balls, changing each one into a different color. For example, one level starts with around 16 different balls each in different sections of the board, which was almost enough to make us throw a second remote out of the window.
Each level steps up, introducing a new challenge: fans that blow you off the board or helpfully up over barriers; pressure points that can only be activated with a full, heavy blob of mercury; exploding blocks that follow you around the board; not to mention moving carpets, transporters, lifts, slides, crumbling blocks and all kinds of gameplay specifically designed to drive you quickly and effectively insane.
Because of the high occurrence of puzzling elements, you’ll frequently need to pause with the Minus button to look at the board and think through every move before continuing your journey. With the D-pad, 1 and 2 changing the camera view during play, it means you can always approach problems from a new angle.
So while some buttons are involved, the Wii remote handles the action, held gently lengthways in your fingertips in a frequently frustrating balancing act. Oddly, you can also use the Classic Controller, tilting the board with the analog stick. Although it’s more clinical, it is effective; some of the hardest levels were easier to complete with controlled analog flicks, largely because you’re no longer at the mercy of your own occasionally-flailing sense of balance. So why are we using the remote at all then, if an analog stick can be more effective? Easy: the remote connects you more closely to the board, which makes it more fun. What - did you mistake us for people who play Wii Sports sitting down?
To sum up though - and it’s important to be clear - we really, really hate this game, and the main reason is that the ball’s made out of mercury. It feels like the worst, slippery ice sections of other marble games, and is capable of inducing more rage in us than a weekend at home with mother. Some of the levels are painfully difficult, and even when you eventually work out the right solution, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get through it fast or without a hundred restarts.
Still, just because it made us want to destroy the world and everything in it, it doesn’t mean it’s not actually a good game. By mixing together the puzzling and racing elements, with over 130 levels (unlocked in stages of 17, mercifully, not by individual level), this brings a substantial and immensely hardcore game to the Wii that we expect will suck in as many addicted fans as it spits out irate remote-smashers.