15th October 2011 - Mercury HG is a XBLA puzzle game that fuses music, time trials, frustration and science. Fortunately, it’s not as I feared and an attempt at teaching you the periodic table, but Mercury HG can teach you that a solid balance between patience and speed is the key to life’s problems. Assuming life’s problems lay with trying to get a ball of mercury from point A to B. And for a few hours, that might just be so...
You play Mercury HG by manoeuvring a ball of mercury (the mineral, not the Planet) over a series of increasing difficult mazes and stages, avoiding the edges and making sure to score big while you’re at it. It’s similar to the popular Monkey Ball series in that you are seemingly tilting the stage, allowing the ball to roll, or slide, its way around. While it starts off fairly simple, with just getting your mercury from point A to point B, as you progress, the levels and puzzles that you must solve get increasingly difficult, and at the same time, frustrating. That’s entirely subjective though, as simply completely the levels can be as easy as anything, but getting a good score is whole other ball game (no pun intended).
Much like Trials HD’s success in getting players to replay levels over and over, Mercury HG provides its own experience of that type. Sadly, its nowhere near as successful in generating that ‘one-more-go’ feeling as the aforementioned title is, but once you get hooked it’ll keep you wrapped up for hours. Each mission has 4 different scores it gives you upon completion, and to truly best a puzzle, players must go through hell and back in replaying and perfecting runs to best each 4 objectives.
The physics of the ball of mercury plays major part in the game, and it’s probably the most impressive technical feat Mercury HG displays, actually it’s arguably the only technical prowess on display here. In some of the more difficult puzzles, you must utilise a range of different physics effects, such as momentum, speed and most specifically gravity, in order to overcome the challenges. The ball of mercury can be split into any numbers of smaller balls through sharp corners or misplaced jumps. This is a required event for many of the more difficult stages.
Overall, the visuals in Mercury HG are not breathtaking. Levels look stale, and colours are fairly plain, but you won’t soon be complaining or calling out for stunning graphics when you’re held up playing the puzzles over and over to top the leaderboards. They suffice enough to keep the gameplay interesting, and that’s the most important thing.
Audio is another major part of the game experience. Not so much gameplay, but the experience as a whole. While the game has a set of recorded trance tracks, it suggests players use their own music from their harddrive to fully get the experience. As music plays, the games backgrounds, and in some cases the playing surfaces, change to the beat of the tunes. Playing fast, heavy music can make the game feel completely different, giving it a rushed feel that can either ruin your runs or help you beat your times with adrenaline. Alternatively, playing softer, slower music can really help with patience in some of the more tricky levels. Sadly, towards the end of the game’s main campaign, the levels are affected a lot less by the music you play. Apart from music, audio here is utterly scarce, with no need for any other types of sounds, other than the usual menu beeps.
There are a surprising amount of levels here, with the main game mode having one for every element on the periodic table, plus a range of extra challenge maps, which are a lot more of a challenge and give far less room for failure. Unfortunately, the main game mode can be beaten in under 2 hours, and unless you manage to get sucked into the leaderboard features and have some mates you want to best, it’s going to be hard to get you back into it. That said, for a good few hours of somewhat unique gameplay at only 400 Microsoft points, Mercury HG is hard to fault for value for money. A few hours for a few dollars? Sounds like a good deal to me.
Mercury HG isn’t a groundbreaking puzzle game. It doesn’t really do anything new in the genre, apart from a great musical feature, which sadly, ends up being executed rather poorly. But it is still a lot of fun. If you can get sucked into the inching of the leaderboards and online community, it can last for hours upon hours, but either way, it has some cool features and you can enjoy yourself in some light entertainment without breaking the bank.
+ Cheap asking price
+ Music implementation
+ Neat mercury physics
- Short main mode
- Later levels lessen musical features
- Friendless leaderboards are lacking
Reviewed and Written By John Elliott