previews\ May 10, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Mercury Meltdown - PSP - Preview

E3 2006 Hands On Preview

The first Mercury was a great game, but it had its problems. The fine folks working on Mercury Meltdown listened to their fans and read the reviews, so this time around they’ve really improved on the first game’s flaws.

Mercury Meltdown is planned to have over 160 levels. These levels are broken down into “labs” where each level shares a similar theme. You no longer have to complete every level to open the lab. Now all you have to do is accrue a certain amount of mercury, which is built up using the amount of mercury you finish each level with. You can also unlock bonuses by completing levels within a time limit (but this time it isn’t required) and collecting bonus items. Each level’s completion is represented by a test tube full of mercury. When you’ve completed everything in a given level the tube is corked.

There have been a lot of gameplay upgrades as well. You now have a free look mode by pressing select, so you can check out the whole level in detail and plan your route. The goal of each level is also easier to see, and is constantly pointed out by a floating arrow.

The puzzles have also been creatively expanded. There are now objects in the environment that will alter the consistency of your blob. Things like heat pads that will make the mercury more runny, objects to cool your blob and make it a little thicker and sticky, and now your mercury can even turn into a solid ball to roll down rails. There are still levels that call for color mixing, and this time around a color palette in the corner will help you remember what colors make what. Aside from colors, I saw in the trailer that you can also mix numbers, so math may come into play in some of the later levels.

There are also a handful of party games this time around, in case you feel like taking a break from the puzzle-solving. I played a couple of these party games; the first was called Paint. The point was to cover a canvas with paint, using my blob of mercury as the brush. At the same time another player is trying to do the same thing. You can paint over the other players trail, and there are random powerups that appear that may help or hurt. I was only playing a bot, but I can see that game getting very competitive with a human opponent. The other one I played was basically shuffle board. Powerups appear in that game too, and to get them you have to plan your rebounds off of the wall to try and stop in the target.

Mercury Meltdown is also taking a lot of steps towards multiplayer. It will support up to two players in the party game mode. Meltdown will also have the gamesharing feature, so a friend without the game can download a demo off of another friend’s copy.

A few other changes include the addition of autosave, a graphical shift into a more cel-shaded look, and a huge reduction in load times. I never really had to wait for the game to load – it was great.

Mercury Meltdown still has until September to come out, but it already looks and plays wonderfully. Even at this stage it’s a significant improvement over the first. We’ll post more info as we get it, and keep an eye out for Mercury Meltdown for the PSP this fall.


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