The original idea behind the first Mercury for PSP was that it would ship with a tilt sensor, allowing the PSP to be wobbled back and forth to control the liquid metal blob on its journey. One sequel and two consoles later and Mercury Meltdown Revolution finally delivers on that idea, replacing the tilt-control handheld console concept with the Wii remote. It's the exact same game as last year's PS2 version, and one in a nearly identically-playing crowd on the Wii, but if you can't afford Marble Mania then Mercury Meltdown provides some good, if bland and somewhat frustrating, maze/puzzle action.
A wobbly blob of liquid metal traverses a maze comprised of sharp corners, dangerous ledges, and all sorts of devices designed to either help it on its way or send it flying into the void. Being liquid, the blob can divide when pushed into an edge or reform when the separated pieces touch. On the down side, getting too close to the edge of the maze means that bits of mercury will fall off, turning your nice large mass into a smaller, faster, and lower-scoring one. Each level has four different goals to attain, but the only way to nail the high score goal is to earn both the par time and no-lost-mercury objectives in a single run. The last goal of picking up all the bonus items can be done on either a second attempt or, for the perfectionist, a single clean run to get all four at once. Oddly enough, the score for getting all the pickups rarely equals the points lost in the time bonus.
Nailing that high score is pretty easy for the first several levels. New items and concepts are introduced slowly, and a bit of minor practice and patience is all it takes to clear levels that seem to promise a fun challenge once Mercury Meltdown gets down to business. Then, slowly, one level at a time, aggravation sets in. Maybe it's the level that's divided into a series of small rooms connected by covered pipes, and you have to guess which way the path goes because you can't actually see it. Maybe it's the level where the blob is divided into multiple colors, and have to not only be specifically combined so that, for example, red and blue make purple to trip the purple switch, but also have to be rolled carefully in unison so as not to lose one of the blobs over the edge before they join up. It might even be one too many uses of slowly moving platforms or rolling blocks that leave you waiting while the clock ticks down, feeling every wasted second while you sit and watch and do nothing. Eventually, though, the feeling of “screw this!” will win out, as the annoying levels slowly outnumber the fun ones.
Up to that point, Mercury Meltdown is a clever and fun little maze game that uses the Wii remote well, and is better than its PS2 counterpart because of it. The controls are subtle and precise, and mazes that gave me nothing but trouble before now seem almost simple. While many games have suffered from being shoe-horned into the Wii's controller, Mercury Meltdown has benefited tremendously. It's really too bad, then, that it all turns to frustration at the end. Being a little bit better just isn't enough to overcome a clever but still sterile design that, bit by bit, turns into a challenge that's more trouble than it's worth.