Review: Mercury Hg

Mercury Hg • PSN (version reviewed), XBLA • £3.99 / 400MS Points • Out Now

Science is present in a lot of games. We all know about physics-based games such as Portal, while there’s enough physical contact biology, as well as whole sets of new species in various present in RPGs and mainly fantasy games to take the information given and write your own wiki about it as if the traits and sizes mentioned are real – oh wait, there already is. However, there are relatively few games that use Chemistry as a base  (tee hee, Chemistry joke), despite the possibilities and combinations possible being nearly endless.

This is why I was interested in Mercury Hg, named because it’s a HD update of two PSP games from 2005 and 2007 of the same name and whoever named the game really likes periodic table-based jokes. Which I also do, so kudos for that.

Real mercury – not that different!

The basic premise is that you are a blob of mercury and you go through each of the levels, named after the elements on the Periodic Table by titling the world, a la Super Monkey Ball to reach the end goal. Nice and simple concept for a puzzle game. Other things you can do as the blob when the time is right include changing colour and splitting, and it’s the latter concept that is one of the game’s better aspects. On an edged surface, the blob is effectively sliced into two smaller blobs, and usually the game makes you do different things with them to complete the level.

There’s a whole menagerie of effects that Felix (I thought he deserved a name) can undergo too thanks to the level design. This includes conveyor belts, moving platforms and magnetism, which is great fun when you’re a liquid (read: not fun as you keep being pushed off the edge), and are well utilised through each puzzle. The levels themselves are well-designed, but be aware of the intrusive and frankly awful tutorial levels. Games shouldn’t stop halfway through an action where you may fall off something to give you even more simple instructions you could have either worked out yourself or be told at the beginning of the damn level.

One of my favourite touches is being able to use your own music as background tracks to the game. This doesn’t hugely effect the gameplay, but it adds a sense of personalisation rarely seen in a lot of games, as the background, level and sometimes blob vibrate to the chosen track. And even saying that, the music on offer is great anyway; either way, you win.

The pulsing backgrounds work well and look good

That said, there are some difficulties. For a start, it’s a bit easy – each level requires you to get four bonus points to unlock more levels, but these bonus points are independent of each other and thus make this aspect far too simple, especially the speed and 100% mercury retained points.  And while there’s some variety in effects on the mercury, it’s not really enough – there are far more ways a liquid metal can be exploited that just aren’t explored.

I do think they missed a trick when making the puzzles though. The bonus points I mentioned unlock new levels, with each new set of levels being based on a group of the periodic table; it would have been an interesting touch to incorporate properties of the elements in these groups into the levels, especially considering the levels are named after the elements.

And no god-damn timed levels!

However, this game is fun, no doubt. It’s a good concept and for around £4 on both platforms is staggeringly good value. I just wish they’d worked with the concept a bit more.

+ The splitting mechanism works well
+ Well-designed puzzles
+ Excellent sound options

– The execution of the concept hasn’t been fully realised
– A bit too easy to unlock everything
– Timed levels

Verdict: 7/10

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