by Bane Williams
reviewed on X360
Fun with Balls
Mercury HG is a familiar game to me. It’s not just that UTV Ignition has done similar games on other platforms before, but that it harkens back to a part of my youth which I spent playing around with marble maze puzzles. There has always been something about them that has fascinated me, so much so that when I saw Marble Madness for the first time, I was instantly hooked. For those that aren’t aware, Marble Madness is an old arcade game where you had to control a marble through an obstacle course in a time limit. Simply put, I loved it.
In Mercury HG, however, instead of controlling a marble or a ball like in the Super Monkey Ball games, you control the stage itself, tilting and moving it around so that your blob of mercury can make it to the goal. Obstacles will try to stop you from getting there, such as changes in the surface of the level which can cause your blob to teeter near the edge, or repulsers that will push your mercury away.
The danger is losing your mercury before you reach the end goal. Thankfully, mercury being a liquid, you aren’t going to lose all of it if you get too close to an edge, which can make the game awfully forgiving at times. However it also adds an interesting mechanic, where you can split your mercury up and then have to make sure you keep both halves (or in some cases, 4 or more parts) on the board at all times.
The game approaches difficulty in an interesting and free flowing way – You are given rewards based on your performance in any given level, and can unlock new levels by completing certain objectives. This allows for people having difficulty with any specific level to just push through it with as little mercury as possible, while also allowing those gamers looking for a challenge to push themselves to complete everything.
Naturally, as you progress through the levels each gets a little bit harder, but they approach even this in an interesting way. Instead of just upping the ante and adding more and more obstacles, frequently the design of the puzzle itself changes so that you have to think in completely different ways to solve it. While some might focus on terrain negotiation, others might be mazes, or focus on guiding your liquid through various moving objects. There are even fast paced reaction levels where you start on a downhill slope and need to think multiple actions in advance.
The campaign mode, titled discovery mode, is presented extremely well, with each level representing an element on the periodic table. There are also challenge modes and bonus levels, where a lot of the replayability comes into focus – they offer harder challenges to complete, or in the bonus levels, an entirely different way of completing the levels.
Mix in leaderboard support (which for once I actually felt like competing in) and hidden quirks to each level and you have a game that can keep you coming back for a long time. The fact that the game is designed to add your own music to it is excellent. Watching your little liquid blob shiver to the beat of the music while the entire level pulses in time to the base is just another part of the wonder and innovation this game offers.
The game could also use more deadzone – the amount you can move your joystick without anything happening. As it is, it’s too sensitive – the slightest twitch can send your mercury flying. Sometimes a level will seem to lag to incredible levels, but you can notice this straight at the beginning and quickly hitting retry seems to fix it all up. Achievement hunters might be annoyed with the fact that the game has an achievement based upon playing your own music within the game, which can be difficult to impossible depending on how you store your music (or if you listen to music at all).
Overall, Mercury HG is a fun physics puzzler that will keep you entertained for hours on end. It’s stunningly designed levels show a game that has incredible polish, as is to be expected when the producers have made the game work several renditions before. If you enjoy a good challenge, you can’t afford to look past this wonderful title.
Great design elements which make it truly fun to play.
Difficulty level can frequently be too easy or too hard.