Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/03/06 | Genre: Puzzle
After the launch of the PlayStation Portable, Sony’s handheld went through several software droughts. When a game was released, it was largely unpopular and lacked anything that made people want to purchase a PSP. The original Mercury was one title that proved to be different from this though. Offering a unique take on the puzzle genre, players were given a difficult game that proved to be very satisfying. While it was not without its faults, if there was a title that deserved a sequel, it was Mercury. Now these wishes have been answered.
Instead of just giving us a Mercury rehash of the first game, with varying difficulty modes, new levels, new colored, and the same visual look, Mercury Meltdown has gone back to the original concept to attempt and refine the concept and make things a little easier for players of all skill levels to pick up. This is largely seen in the changes to the difficulty modes.
While the prior Mercury title offered an extreme challenge after completing the initial series of levels, Meltdown has modified the system to keep players from breaking their PSP units in frustration. That isn’t to say that Mercury Meltdown is a walk in the park. Levels are still large and require some exploration and strategic planning to complete. But with the ability to complete a level without worrying about the timer reaching zero, players have a little more luxury in taking their time to complete a level. The challenge is beating a level with time on the clock. This will provide you with bonus points needed to have the top score on each level played.
Not content to remain the same visually, the Developers have opted for a slightly new look to Mercury Meltdown. This time around the environments are much more colorful and not bland like the original Mercury. The blobs of Mercury that the player guides around are also different in Meltdown. Now the Mercury are cel-shaded. By making these changes, Mercury Meltdown is less realistic looking and has an animated cartoon look and feel to it that makes it very unique in the genre of Puzzle titles.
Despite the cosmetic and difficulty changes made in Mercury Meltdown, the Developers did not stray from the great gameplay formula that made the original so special. You still control the world with the “analog nubby” and attempt to move your Mercury around the screen to the goal. Along the way you will run into several types of obstacles: narrow paths, crushing blocks, a multitude of puzzles (where you need to split up your Mercury into different color groups), etc. As soon as you feel like you have a grasp of the concept, the Developers slap you in the face with a level that seems so impossible that you will never be able to guide the Mercury to the end of a level.
I do not have any scientific proof for what I am about to say. However, it seems that sales of the PSP began to rise upon the release of the original Mercury. Is there a direct link between the frustration of the Mercury and players throwing their PSP consoles across the floor and snapping them in half due to anger? Further data will be needed to prove this as fact.
Besides the 160 levels found in the singe player mode, players can now participate in several multiplayer modes. Some of these include a racing game and a puzzle game called Metrix. As you can probably guess, Metrix is based off of Tetris. In addition to these party games, you will also find a battle mode that is similar to what was seen in the first Mercury. In this mode, players try to beat a ghost opponent to the finish line. For Mercury Meltdown, the formula has been changed just a little bit. You can now interfere with your opponent by using power-ups all throughout the level. While this is a minor change, it makes this mode much more fun. As the name suggests, the five multiplayer games are best when played with other people. Of course, these would all be much more enjoyable if there was support for online play. Unfortunately all we find here is ad hoc multiplayer.
With almost double the amount of levels from the first Mercury, Mercury Meltdown is a great addition to the franchise and provides the PSP with yet another great puzzle game. While the game does have some extremely challenging moments, Meltdown is never repetitive as each level feels fresh and exciting. While it may not be a completely new experience, Mercury Meltdown brings enough new elements to the table to deserve a spot in your PlayStation Portable library. I highly recommend Meltdown for all PSP owners.