Archer Maclean’s Mercury
Developer: Awesome Studios | Publisher: Ignition Entertainment | Release Date: 2005 | Genre: Puzzle | Website: N/A | Purchase: Amazon
Mercury or quicksilver as it is also known as is the only metal that is in liquid form at standard temperature and pressure conditions. It is also highly toxic so don’t even think about playing around with it. For all the fun of rolling around blobs of Mercury without any lethal consequences the PSP puzzler, Archer Maclean’s Mercury comes highly recommended.
The goal of the game is to maneuver a blob of Mercury across a maze-like playing field in order to reach the goal area. The game was originally supposed to use the never released USB tilt sensor but it actually works just as well with the analog nub. The style is very similar to classics such as Marble Madness and the Monkey Ball series. The realistic movement coupled with the fact that there are no walls around the edges of levels means you will need precision control to guide your blob.
Levels are filled with all kinds of environmental hazards and to make matters worse you sometimes have to split your Mercury into multiple blobs and keep track of all of them to hit the required switches. Some levels even require Mercury blobs that are a specific color to activate switches which means you have to reach the sprayers to first change the color and then prevent the blobs from merging and mixing again. Things start off easily enough with a tutorial showing you the ropes but halfway through the seventy-plus levels, things become very tricky.
Levels either require you to reach the end within a certain time or with a specific percentage of Mercury intact. Then there are levels that require a certain amount of switches to be activated and even boss levels to top things off. The game is addictive but requires a lot of patience as some levels involve a great deal of trial and error. You have to take risks and remain calm under pressure if you want to succeed in this game so be prepared for some frustration.
The visuals are good but not spectacular. You can rotate the camera as well as zoom in or out but it can feel a bit fiddly when you are on a tight time limit. The Mercury blob is the real star of the show as it flows around realistically, clinging to corners and reflecting the environment. The audio, on the other hand, is rather unremarkable and once you switch off the game you will be hard-pressed to remember any of the tunes. The multi-player is not worth writing home about either as you can just compete against ghosts of other players in a race.
The steep learning curve and high difficulty are bound to scare away some players but once you are hooked you’ll find a decent amount of content available. The level designs are good but it is a pity that you cannot save mid-level which is a feature I think all portable titles should have. It might not be as eye-catching as Lumines but this game should definitely not be overlooked.
*Review originally published 2005.