Any puzzle game fan worth his salt may recall the underrated Archer Maclean's Mercury that was on the PSP. Recently during E3 2011, we managed to test out the PSN version of Mercury Hg, the latest in the Mercury series published by UTV Ignition Games.
For those not familiar with the 2005 title, you are given the task to move a blob of mercury to reach the finish line in the shortest amount of time possible while keeping the blob 100 percent intact. To do this, you have to tilt the board to move the blob around. You can also collect atoms on the way to unlock levels laid out like the periodic table of elements.
Of course, it wouldn't be much of a challenge if there weren't any obstacles to get in the way. Ridges and edges of a map can make the mercury blob split into tiny increments. Color-coded barriers require you to paint the blob to match the barrier's color by passing under a paint shop. Some switches that create bridges out of thin air can be triggered only by painting the blob with a different color. You should also factor in hazards like splitters that split the mercury blob, magnetrons that pull a blob to its center, and anti-magnetrons that push it away. Later on, other levels forsake walls on the edges of the board, which means that you will have to be precise and gentle in tilting the board.
A few other features creep into this sequel. You can press a button (in this case, the X button on the PSN version) that helps reemerge split blobs together at the cost of a few extra seconds on the clock. You can also line up a custom soundtrack from your respective console's hard drive that reacts in sync with the backgrounds and floors. The reactive backgrounds add a sense of style while you're navigating each different map, and the fact that you can listen to your own tracks adds a bit of variety to it.
While our initial playthrough of the first few levels was a breeze, we'd shudder to think how tricky the game could get with its level designs and hazards. The tougher ones required us to purposely split the mercury blob into two to activate certain switches simultaneously. Since the game is touted to have 60 new levels, there should not be any shortage of levels for puzzle fans to tinker and experiment with. Furthermore, you can race against your own ghost data with your previous best records, adding further incentives for replayability.
Fans of the first game will see this as a long-overdue return since its core gameplay is intact, and if you're hankering for something akin to Sega's Monkey Ball but with a science feel, you may want to keep an eye out for this puzzler. Mercury Hg will be out this August and will be available on XBLA and PSN.