What is it with the Wii and balls? First Super Monkey Ball, then Kororinpa, and now Mercury Meltdown Revolution, have all found their home on the Wii, with varying degrees of success. Tilting the game world using the Wii remote, as you glide a blob of liquid as in Mercury‘s case, evidently seems as obvious as using the remote as a baseball bat.
This is now the third such puzzler to base a game around such a simple premise since the Wii’s launch well over seven months ago. But before you fret and kick up a fuss over the idea that it’s just another PS2 port with added waggle, you should probably take into account that despite being a port, Mercury fares far better than its older incarnations. In fact, it’s far more suited to the motion-sensing shenanigans of the Wii remote than its digital pad equivalents.
Much deeper than the aforementioned titles (thanks in part to the fiendish level design), gliding your blob of liquid to the end goal is the least of your worries. Along the way you’ll encounter all manners of road blocks, determined to drain your blob to nothing more than a tiny drip. Switches need to be activated, platforms need to be climbed, and zappers need to be avoided, with coolers, heaters and other obstacles in place to hinder and/or advance your progress; at times it almost feels like trying to navigate a field of landmines. All of that is not even to mention the clock, though thankfully, should the seconds fade away, you’re still allowed to complete the course, but with a lower score and fewer rewards.
The complexity doesn’t end there, as the colour of your blob has to be changed and mixed to finish certain levels. For instance, one will start off with a generic silver liquid blob, which then needs to be divided into three smaller blobs; these blobs in turn must be carefully guided into paint stations so they can be mixed to create a different colour to bypass one or more barriers, and then the whole procedure needs to be reversed to cross the finishing line.
If it sounds complex, then that’s because it is. Even so, it never becomes daunting—all you really have to do is watch the opening video that scans the level to realise what needs to be done. This is probably Mercury‘s greatest asset: It’s a puzzle game that is challenging, rewarding, deep, and genuinely tests the old grey matter, without ever being off-putting or scary for a newbie to the genre, which I imagine many Wii owners are. In short, it’s a perfect pick-up-and-play game for the perfect pick-up-and-play console.
The time and effort lavished on the Wii take will be apparent to anybody who has played previous versions. As mentioned, the game seems far more natural on the Wii. Hard work and care has gone into nailing the controls, meaning that within seconds you’ll be tilting and swirling, and you’ll almost forget the analogue stick ever existed. The controls never feel tacked on or forced, but for those of you that are still showing resistance to the Wii remote, or have simply run out of batteries, then the classic controller works fine and is as intuitive as the wand. It must be said, though, there does seem a greater sense of connection using the Wii remote, as if your hands are actually in the game physically tilting the world that can’t be beat by any standard pad. Throw in some extra Wii-specific levels and refined objectives and structure, and you essentially have the definitive version of Ignition’s puzzler.
The controls outside of the titling remain as simple and as responsive as you’d desire. The directional pad rotates the camera, buttons 1 and 2 zoom in and out allowing you to survey your landscape and plan ahead, while the minus button accesses the free-look mode, which further adds to the strategy.
However, there is a ‘but’, one that has plagued the series since its PSP inception. Despite the accurate controls and the welcome bright and cheery presentation, the difficulty level ramps up far too quickly. For puzzle fans, the challenge represents longevity and a test of skill, but for the casual and less dedicated gamer, the patience required to endure the frustration may prove to be too much. Never are the controls at fault; it’s more a matter of the unforgiving level design and the obstacles you’ll encounter. Within a few hours, the learning curve takes a vertical turn, which is a shame considering the ridiculous amount of content included, which will probably remain locked for all but the most dedicated gamers.
Secondly, where’s the multiplayer? The Wii is the social console of choice at the moment, and Mercury could have added to its ever increasing roster of party games. For reasons unknown, party play was omitted, a tolerable decision on the PS2, but unforgivable on the Wii.
Thirdly—and this is a gripe more for us poor, neglected, downtrodden Europeans—While the Yanks have Mercury available at a budget, we’re expected to pay full price for it, £39.99, a whopping $50.00 in American dollars for a game that’s been available for months on other formats. We all know the Wii is hot, but it seems utterly unfair to so highly price a game that many may just turn their nose up to when they hear it’s a puzzle game.
Gripes aside, Mercury Meltdown Revolution remains one of the few genuinely fresh and innovative puzzle ideas of recent years. The usage of Wii remote is no gimmick, and other developers looking to port their games to the Wii can learn a lot from Ignition. It’s just a shame, then, that the Wii demographic wasn’t taken into consideration, nor were the flaws of previous iterations. Hopefully future versions will iron out the creases and we will be able to fully enjoy everything that Mercury has to offer without resorting to cheat codes.