Mercury Meltdown

Mercury was one of the initial launch games for the PSP, as every launch lineup needs some puzzle games. They're ideal for handheld play, especially thanks to the PSP's sleep mode enabling you to dip in and out whenever you wanted. It threw you into a world of mazes, varying in complexity. The way it played was a combination of manual and mental dexterity, requiring you to not just work out which route to take your mercurial blob through but also requiring gamers to have a nimble enough thumb to actually get through it. What with there being all kinds of obstacles in your path doing their best to disrupt your little blob, if you lost too much mercury or ran out of time, that was it, try, try again.

There were a few problems with the game though, which is something that even the developers have acknowledged - they were after all though under a tremendous amount of pressure to hurry along the game's launch. The sequel, Mercury Meltdown addresses the originals' issues and adds not only a whole new batch of levels to play on but also new ways in which to play on them. They've added a whole host of new, easily unlockable features, including a selection of multiplayer modes. You can now play through the levels as a race against an opponent.

Minigames have also been thrown into the mix for good measure. In rodeo mode, one player must their best to cling onto the level while the other player manipulates the environment trying to get you to fall off. Paint mode gives the two players an arena in which they do battle by coloring it with their respective colors. In shove mode you're pitted against your opponent in a game akin to the icy game of curling. Metrix mode is a puzzle in the traditional sense, where gamers must align shapes and colors. The final minigame is a straight-out race game, with your blobs flying around as if they were the craft in a Wipeout game.

Downloadable content is also planned this time around and will consist of a selection of new levels, not to mention the levels from the original Mercury.

The graphics have also bee given an overhaul. The original had a rather quirky look about it, often compared to older games. Mercury Meltdown has been designed with much more appealing, brightly colored levels, backgrounds and objects. The mercurial blob itself now has a cel-shaded black outline, presumably to help highlight where your wandering blobs are. The music is also more varied, with the familiar beats from the first game now joined by happier tunes to accompany the new graphic style.

The original Mercury caught a lot of flack for simply being too damn hard. Even I found my progress halted by some quite infuriating levels. The problem was that the learning curve of the game, at times, seemed to be far too steep in some sections of the game. Meltdown's difficulty has been adjusted with the help of rigorous playtesting, and should help prevent us fat thumbed ones from becoming quite so furious this time around. The load times between levels have also been reduced considerably and an autosave has also been added. Yay!

Many new mechanics have been introduced to keep the Mercury experience fresh. The state of the mercury can be changed from its normal state by going through a little changer cube. These little cubes have a symbol next to them denoting what kind of change you can expect. You'll be able to change to change your mercury to become near solid, solid, or slippery as hell! The near solid state, for example, making navigating some particularly dangerous areas slightly less troublesome. To make use of the solid state, developers Ignition introduced pinball table-style rails,which allow your blob to roll from one place to the next. If only more videogames featured pinball-style rails...

So what's in it for us then? For people who enjoyed the first Mercury title, this is going to offer you new levels full of interesting new challenges, modes of play and a much smoother experience in general. For those of you who chose not to indulge in slippery metallic fun first time round, you'll find that this time it'll be much more welcoming than before. The game is currently scheduled for release towards the end of August in America, with a European release following a little later.