Mercury Meltdown, the follow-up to the PlayStation Portable launch title Mercury, established itself as a successful puzzle game on the handheld and was ported as Mercury Meltdown Remix to the PlayStation 2.
UK-based Ignition Entertainment is now bringing the liquid-metal-based puzzler, in the form of Mercury Meltdown Revolution, to the Nintendo Wii. The game was originally intended to be a launch title, but a lack of development hardware has meant that it's now scheduled for a March release in Europe. We recently got an opportunity to play a preview build of the game at Nintendo's "Wii House" in London.
The basic gameplay of Mercury Meltdown remains unchanged in the Wii version; you are in control of a blob (or blobs) of liquid mercury and must guide it/them safely through each level by tilting the world and letting gravity do its thing. However, the challenge of the game exists in the obstacles that lie between your mercury and the chequered flag at the end of each world, as well as in keeping your mercury on the world itself. You gain extra points for finishing within the target time and with the maximum amount of mercury (tracked via a test tube on the left of the screen), as well as for picking up the 2,000-point bonuses that are placed around the worlds.
You'll need to use "paint shops" for changing colours and merging colours (a handy guide is always onscreen), unlock gates, split the blob and control the pieces separately, solidify the mercury to run along rails, deal with gravity-reversing sections, and much more. If you tilt the world too far or too little, your mercury can fall off the edges (or leak out through gaps), which means that you have to start the level all over again. It sounds complex, but actually it's pretty easy to pick up once you start playing.
While you can use the Wii's classic controller if you want, it's far more rewarding to use the motion-sensing Wii Remote. We played through about five levels using the Wii Remote. As a controller, it seems very well suited to MMR's gameplay; you hold it sideways, with the D pad on the left. To move your blob, you tilt the Wii Remote in the direction you want the gameworld to move, and your blob responds by rolling the same way. After a few minutes of playing, using the controller this way seems completely natural. Although precision can be tricky, it feels as though you are in control of the world and that any failure to get the mercury where it is supposed to be is utterly your own fault.
The 1 and 2 buttons are used to zoom the camera in and out. The D pad also rotates the camera angle so that you can see the board from all sides, which is necessary to see around obstacles or plan your path. You can also view the board in a free-roaming mode to get a good look at the path you need to follow, which is something that was missing from earlier versions of the game. A reasonably steady hand is required to keep the mercury on track, and getting distracted can easily have level-failing consequences. We did try playing one-handed, for novelty's sake, but we did not have the time that was required for more practice.
One level we played, which will be familiar to anyone who has played the PSP or PS2 versions, had an X-shaped barrier in the middle; we had to manoeuvre two different-coloured blobs to arrive simultaneously on their (colour-specific) finishing points. This required precision tilting of the world so that both blobs moved in sync, and this was more intuitive with the Wii Remote than it previously felt with an analogue stick.
Another level showed off the multiple colour-changing requirements the game can throw at you. Three different-coloured gates--using the base colours of red, green, and blue--could be passed through only by splitting the blob into three pieces, putting the pieces into the appropriate paint shop, and rolling them through the correct gate. Once through, the blobs had to be merged into the secondary colours (yellow, light blue, and purple) to unblock the route to the finish. Because the finish was the silver colour of the original blob, more colour trickery was required; a blob of a secondary colour had to be merged with a blob of a base colour that hadn't been an ingredient. (For example, purple is created with red and blue, so when merged with green, it becomes silver.) This involved (especially after control mishaps) going back and forth over ramps to use the paint shops to create the correct colours.
Ignition says that the game has "all-new environments, adversaries, minigames, and multiplayer modes," but we only had the opportunity to play levels within the first three labs, which are basically the same as their PlayStation 2 equivalents. As with the earlier PS2 and PSP games, you unlock labs (each containing about 16 levels) and party games as you move through the action. The Wii version of the game has had some technical enhancements. Bump- and gloss-mapping improve the look of the gameplay, and support for widescreen and 480p display has also been added.
You can choose to play any level within any lab you've unlocked, which means that a failure doesn't force you to play the same one over and over again. You can also go back to try to pick up more points bonuses, which are spread over each world, or beat the target time and get extra points. Achieving top scores can unlock additional features throughout the game. You can also save your successes and either watch the replays or have a "ghost" of your previous success guide you in future attempts.
The game looked smooth on the high-quality television we used. Although it may never win any awards for graphics, it seems to have improved a little from its PS2 days. In any event, the zoom-camera function meant that we could sit a fair distance away and still see clearly what needed to be done onscreen.
Mercury Meltdown Revolution is shaping up to be a puzzler ideally suited to the Wii because it is graphically undemanding but provides compelling gameplay that works well with the Wii Remote. If you've already played through all the stages in the earlier version, you may not want to play them again. But even so, you might find it a good addition to your Wii game collection. We'll bring you more on the game as soon as we have it.