Reviews

Mercury Meltdown Revolution

Azmol Meah

Mercury Meltdown Revolution is a perfect pick-up-and-play game for the perfect pick-up-and-play console.


Publisher: Ignition
Genres: Action
Price: $29.99
Multimedia: Mercury Meltdown Revolution
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Ignition Banbury
US release date: 2007-06-26
Developer website

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.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

 
9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.


 
8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

 
7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

 
6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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