This is a guest review by Shadow
I love fun games and I'm going to start by telling you that really, this game isn't my type of game that I'd usually pick. That said, I can also tell you that Mercury Meltdown is a great little party game for the PSP that now holds a special place in my heart.
And it's also the sequel to Archer Maclean's: Mercury that was a PSP launch title. The developers have however given the game a big boost in terms of look and feel compared to the original. Gone are the realistic themed levels and graphics, replaced by a colourful selection of colours, with cell-shading and cartoon effects.
And in my opinion it doesn't hurt the game one bit to change to this format.
You play single player pretty much like the original, there are labs to conquer, each more fiendishly designed than the next. The labs are divided into levels and you need to finish several of these to progress to the next lab. The more mercury that makes it to the end the more score you'll get.
There are also bonuses that will unlock party games, and these are definitely worth it.
There have been some changes to the gameplay from the first game, like now there's no timer that counts down. You have a par score, a bit like golf really, that you can try and beat - beat it and you'll get a nice high score.
There's a nice free look mode activated by pressing select, this makes it a bit easier to see what's going on around you. There were a lot of complaints from previous Mercury reviews that discussed the camera. Now it seems that every face button on the PSP actually controls the camera in some way, this does make it a lot better to see where you're going and plan an effective route.
The blob that you control has four states. It can be normal, cold, solid or hot and this changes the way it reacts as well, providing an extra level of puzzle complexity and strategy.
They've made you mix colours as well, with a handy colour chart at the top of the screen you can see what you need to mix. You need to mix these colours to get past a checkpoint and continue on. You might also need to split the mercury into pieces as well, this makes it a lot harder but it's much more fun trying to solve these kinds of puzzles.
These kinds of games remind me of old classics like Marble Madness and you need to be just as good now to play them. There are hazards to be avoided and of course you have to make sure you don't fall off the level area as well. You need to keep an eye out for the forty or so objects (I won't tell you what they do) that help or hinder you in the game as you try to complete the levels.
Level loading has been improved dramatically over the other game and it's no longer a case of thumb-twiddling-y-long waits.
For people that don't just want to play SP there are a few options. You can play online; setting up a game is easy enough and fairly painless. You can use gameshare, so if only one person has a copy of the game then you can still play against each other. There's an extras area for downloadable levels and hopefully we'll see some absolutely cracking levels turn up for the game.
I found the Playground in the extras section, spending a lot of time there really helps to learn the form and function of some of these objects in the game and how they work. The crumble block and the grav bender were two that I played around with most and its fun just experimenting, there are few games where you can learn about in-game objects in an interactive manner and I feel that Mercury Meltdown gets bonus points from me for allowing it.
What fun game would be complete without a party mode? Well, if you play well enough in the single player and collect the various bonuses, you'll be able to unlock the five party games (these can be played SP or MP):
Rodeo: You're in a level and you have to make sure you can stay stable as long as possible. The tray tips and bucks around trying to get you to fall off. There's a fan as well to spice things up that tries to blow you off the level. Thankfully there's a power up that slows the fan down, but the choice to try and get it is up to you.
Race: You race your mercury blob around a track, simple as that.
Metrix: A puzzle game that sees you trying to line up coloured blobs to create a row of three, a bit like Connect Four only with three.
Shove: You push (shove) your mercury blob to the centre of a target, do it right and you'll get a whopping score. Get the highest score to win.
Paint: Your blob leaves behind a coloured paint trail and you have to cover more area than your opponent can.
All of the party games are fun distractions from the single player and they have been implemented very well. If you're bored of the single player give them a go, you should really love playing the Paint and Metrix modes.
The graphics in the game are bright, colourful and they really make a difference from the previous title. Objects stand out more than just a little, the cell shading will attract younger gamers I feel and it lends a more party atmosphere to the whole game. The feeling of being in a cartoon style (Dexter's Lab) lab is great and it runs at a fair old lick, the frame rate doesn't suffer once.
There's not much in the way of audio, but that's ok since the game's so fun and addictive you don't actually miss it. There are a lot of frequent audio loops though and it does feel like sound was a last focus for the developers. It does have a good up-beat and bright feel to it though, just like the game.
Unlockables and features:
5 party games, online play, gameshare, downloadable content and replay save. It's all in there and the longevity of the game is increased by the bonuses you have to collect in single player as well as being able to download content.
Mercury Meltdown is a great game and I am sure it would be fun at parties, there's something about those bright and colourful graphics that are really pleasing to the eye - at least for me. I see it being a hit with younger gamers and it's a bit of a change from recent games that have blood and gore in them.