Who is Archer Maclean? Unless you're a fan of pool and snooker-based games, chances are you haven't heard of him. Considered to be a gaming icon in the UK, Maclean's portfolio can be traced back to the Atari ST era. Yup...definitely well before my entry into the wonderful world of gaming which originated during the 8-bit boom.
Historical notes aside, I was pretty hyped to get my hands on the game. At a glimpse, it reminds me a lot of Super Monkey Ball, sans the lovable personality and charm. Should you play it? Well, if you're exhausted from playing Lumines and you're looking for an alternative, sure. But I warn you, unless you have lots of patience and drive, you're bound to lose interest rather quickly.
The premise is pretty simple: navigate a liquid-filled blob of mercury through a 3D maze before time expires. A short tutorial will help you get familiar with the mechancis, but after that, you're on your own. Things get tricky and complex early on as you're challenged to reach the goal while retaining a preset percentage of mercury intact; combining with other mercury colors to activate new switches, among other traps, do-hickeys and challenges. And to think, there's over 70 levels in all -- pat yourself on the back if you become skilled enough to reach level 10.
There's no disputing the game's visuals as a solid testimony of the PSP's awesome graphic prowess. Peppered with an array of lighting effects and colors, Mercury oozes with a unique sense of style. The game almost seems more like a tech demo, as the mecury animates and moves about the 3D environments in a convincingly lifelike manner.
Although the game offers some sensational effects for the eyes, your hands and personal satisfaction will feel a bit short-changed. Ultimately, navigation proves to be problematic due to the analog nub's lack of precision. It just doesn't measure up to the level of say, the PS2 Dual Shock. This is particularly critical since you're not offered an abundant number of "lives" to complete a level. As a result, you'll end up going through a series of trial-and-error before discovering a workable solution to complete the objective. Personally I grow tired of repetition, so you can imagine that there weren't too many smiles of my face. I need solid, responsive controls. It's still unknown to me whether the developers scrapped the idea to release a special package which would convert the PSP into a full interactive unit ala Yoshi Topsy-Turvy.
Mercury also boasts a sweet selection of ambient tunes and an optional multiplayer mode that I haven't had the pleasure of exploring yet. As it stands, Mercury is quite the mind-bender for casual players. However, hardcore types should find the game exceptionally enjoyable as they endeavor to conquer all the challenges packed within.