Perfect for anybody looking for a challenge.

User Rating: 8.6 | Mercury Meltdown PSP
Mercury Meltdown is made by Ignition Entertainment and is the sequel to one of last year’s most overlooked games, Mercury. While critics acclaimed it, Mercury never got the fanfare it deserved. Mercury Meltdown is bigger and better than its predecessor. Ignition augmented the difficulty, added a new cell-shaded look, and increased the replay value tenfold. However, the core gameplay remains virtually identical to the first game.

The premise in Mercury Meltdown is simple, maneuver a blob of mercury through a series of obstacles that test one’s mental and physically abilities. There are over 160 levels that are organized into ten “labs.” This cannot be stressed enough; Mercury Meltdown is a hard game. The later levels will make even the smartest video game players want to snap their PSP’s in half, especially during the later levels. The high difficulty is not because of the controls or the camera. The blob of mercury is controlled by the analog nub and the shoulder buttons rotate the camera. While it is not perfect, the control scheme is adequate and does not impair the gameplay. Instead, the high difficulty is caused by the ingenious level design. Blocks, ramps, hammers, gates, and other obstacles obstruct the mercury from getting to the finish line. Later levels add even more obstacles like teleporters, force fields, and creatures that eat mercury. The high level of difficulty adds another dimension to the core gameplay.

One of Mercury Meltdown’s greatest achievements is its superb presentation. Gone are the gray environments from the last game. Mercury Meltdown’s cell-shaded graphics bleed with bright colors and special effects. The physics in this game are some of the best seen on the PSP and make Mercury Meltdown that much more enjoyable. When the blob of mercury falls from a great high or hits a wall at high speed, it explodes into a colony of tiny balls that fly every which way. The music in Mercury Meltdown is not nearly as impressive as its graphics or physics; it sounds like something an ice cream truck would play than a video game would. On the technical side of things, this game does not disappoint. The framerate is consistent and almost never drops to an unplayable status. Mercury Meltdown has an additional blessing: short load times. In a time where everyone and his brother complain about PSP load times, it is a relief that this game’s load times rarely exceed five seconds. Mercury Meltdown’s excellent presentation makes it easier to enjoy the gameplay itself.

By no means is Mercury Meltdown over when somebody unlocks all the levels. In this game, all the levels are unlocked when only about 60 to 70% of them are completed. What makes this admirable is that somebody playing this game will never hit a wall. If he cannot complete a level, then he can just try another one, or another one, or another one. It will probably take the average gamer around 15 hours to unlock all the levels and at least double that amount to complete every level because some of them will literally take 20 tries just to figure out how to get to the finish line, yet alone actually accomplish this. The replay value is strengthened even more by the presence of several minigames. None of them are Oscar worthy, but they are all fun (especially the Tetris-like puzzle minigames) and can serve as a satisfying diversion for an hour or two each. To add a cherry on top, Ignition will have extra downloadable levels online by the time of the holiday season. There is certainly not a lack of things to do in Mercury Meltdown.

Mercury Meltdown combines addicting gameplay, a near-perfect presentation, and an enormous amount of replay value virtually flawlessly. At the end of the day however, the only people that will truly get immersed into the game are people who are not afraid of a challenge. The insane difficulty will be an immediate turn-off for gamers who like things to come easy; the later levels are migraine-inducing even for the geniuses out there. Despite that, Mercury Meltdown is still a great game.