Mercury Hg Review
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On 10/03/2011 at 09:00 AM by Chessa DiMola
What can I say? It's just fun.
For everyone, especially leaderboard fanatics. For five dollars, you can't go wrong.
It’s been a long time since I found a game to play that was simple, challenging, addicting, and just plain fun. For months now I’ve desired an uncomplicated gaming experience that was lighthearted, didn’t require a membership, was devoid of long, drawn-out cutscenes, and could be played within my very limited free time. So, thank goodness for the arrival of Mercury Hg. Thank you Ignition, for allowing me to escape the reign of epic titles for a few solid and incredibly fun hours.
Most gamers are at least somewhat familiar with Ignition’s Mercury series at this point, though many veterans of the series may not recognize the latest entry. Mercury Hg sheds the cartoonish look and character it picked up in Mercury Meltdown in favor of a sleek presentation, which reinvents the series, giving it a more sophisticated look and feel.
Like its predecessors, players will have to tilt the game world in order to direct a blob of mercury to the finish line of each level. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, generally just getting from point A to point B isn’t too hard. No, what’s difficult is completing all of the different challenges while avoiding various obstacles like bumps in the floors of wall-less levels, conveniently placed holes, moving platforms, pull-and-push force fields, and many others.
What separates Mercury Hg from similar puzzle titles, like Super Monkey Ball, is that the blob of Mercury is not solid nor is it fluid like water. Instead, the mercury blob is a viscous liquid that will remain intact when handled delicately, split off when stretched too far, and slice apart when pushed against sharp edges or corners. The physical property of this mercury blob is the key ingredient for making the puzzles so strategic and dynamic. Without its unique behavior, turning corners, being scooped up by rotating circles, rolling across bends, avoiding holes and trying to keep from slipping on a moving platform would all be uninteresting.
In addition to directing the Mercury blob past, over, and around obstacles, players will also have to tackle splitting and coloring it, a staple of past Mercury titles that is used more infrequently in Hg. Players will usually have to color their mercury blob in order to touch certain platforms that open new pathways, or create a new color by splitting, coloring, and mixing two or more colored mercury sections. While I thoroughly enjoyed the more basic levels that required me to split the mercury into two sections, my favorites were those that forced me to navigate a level as two or more separate portions.
As you can imagine, directing a viscous blob of mercury through numerous hazards requires precision and just the right rolling speed. Thankfully, Mercury Hg controls like a dream, though only with the joystick (Sixaxis is better suited for a personal challenge). With this wonderful technological creation, even the lightest pushes are translated into smooth, precise movements on-screen, allowing me to experience the challenge of the game rather than the challenge of overcoming controller shortcomings.
Mercury Hg is split into three main sections: Discovery Mode, Challenge Mode, and Bonus levels. Discovery Mode is the main area in which players will take on challenges, 60 to be precise. The levels are separated into five groupings and represented by an element on the Periodic Table.
Every level in Discovery Mode only requires players to reach the finish line, but offers three additional objectives to complete (though thankfully not all at once): finish in a set time limit, gather all of the atoms, and finish with 100% of your mercury. Four very simple tasks made not so easy by the multitude of level variations.
Every time a player completes a level, their stats are uploaded to two leaderboards, one for overall score and one for the time it took to complete a level. Personally, I've never cared for leaderboards, but because each level in Mercury Hg can generally be completed in about 30-45 seconds, redoing a level over and over again to beat someone’s speed goal was actually a lot of fun.
While getting the highest score on an online leaderboard doesn’t really earn a player much more than bragging rights, completing the in-game challenges will. Mercury Hg’s second section, Challenge Mode, is comprised of levels unlocked by earning points gained by completing the objectives in Discovery Mode. Here players will have to play through a series of levels back-to-back, all while trying to accomplish certain goals, such as meeting a time deadline and collecting a set number of atoms. After playing through the entire game, Challenge Mode took some of my favorite levels and allowed me to go back through them with new goals, forcing me formulate new strategies.
The bonus levels, on the other hand, were not anything particularly intriguing. Whereas Challenge Mode put a fun and unique spin on the original stages, the bonus levels are almost no different. The only change is that players start with only part of their mercury and need to collect additional mercury vials to build it back up to 100%. Lose any mercury and you’re back at the beginning. While this is slightly different, it’s not different enough to be interesting.
So now that we’ve maintained that Mercury Hg is a bunch of fun, controls great, and has a great amount of variety in terms of gameplay, what else could this seemingly tiny game have going for it?
Well, for one, players have the option to import their own soundtrack, which is pretty cool, even though it won’t do much gameplay-wise other than allow the level to pulse to your music’s beat. Considering the brief length of many levels, I’d suggest importing songs that are between 30-60 seconds, or else you’ll only be enjoying the beginning of your beloved songs.
Despite having fairly short level lengths Mercury Hg takes around 6-7 hours to complete 100%, which is pretty awesome for a $5 game. Even better is that Mercury Hg will offer two DLC packs (the Heavy Elements pack is available now for $2.99) that will include thirty new levels each in addition to new bonus and Challenge Mode levels.
Don’t let anyone fool you, Mercury Hg may not be revolutionary and is by no means an awe-inspiringly artistic title, but it is a ton of fun. Somehow in recent years the gaming community has forgotten to appreciate the most important and basic element of gaming: enjoyment. Games like Mercury Hg bring us back to our early gaming roots and show us how a simple level-based puzzle game can leave us happily and hopelessly glued to our controllers.