“Hey, remember that nearly impossible but incredibly fun Marble Madness game for the Atari ST/NES/Game Boy/Sega Master System that you had? The one with the marbles? Yeah, I had that awesome game on my home PC, the Apple IIe/IBM CGA/Tandy 1000/Commodore 64! It used to be an arcade machine, too! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could capture the feeling of playing that game all over again!?”
Sadly, this is not the game where that happens. While Mercury Meltdown Revolution does hark back to the days of the old Marble Madness in some aspects, it fails to take in the perspective of the modern gamer.
The premise is simple. You play as a blob of mercury. Roll through the stage by tilting the Wii-mote back and forth without losing large gobs, and make it to the finish line. Various devices have been inserted to stall your progress: color filters that you need to use paint sprayers to get through, creatures that conveniently feast on the usually poisonous mercury that is you, and that old chestnut the “moving platform.”
The visuals are very highly contrasted but well done. Some stages look like they walked out of a 70s disco, but, for the most part, the graphics are interesting to look at and add to the general enjoyment of the game. The mercury blob looks like a blob of mercury, and, when it is the main character for the entire run of the game, that is a good thing. In terms of audio, there’s a different soundtrack for nearly every stage, which keeps things fresh and even aids thematically for fun levels and harder levels.
Controlling the mercury is remarkably intuitive. Tilt the Wii-mote (held sideways for the duration of the game) forward, and the stage is tilted forward and your mercury rolls forward. This simple mechanic offers an immediate grasp of play, and the rest is left up to you and your fine motor control. Sorry to break your hearts, sufferers of Parkinson’s, but this game is not for you.
So where does this game fall short?
Other buttons on the Wii-mote control the camera, which suffers greatly when a slice of your mercury is lost. The camera pans out to include both pieces, making it much more difficult to focus on your main blob. When the small piece falls off the level, the camera quickly refocuses and zooms in, which becomes disorienting and functions more like a hazard than a feature.
The most fun you will have playing this game is in the early stages, where the obstacles are few and the fun and challenge comes from trying to beat your own score and time. There are several additional objectives in a level: collect all the hard-to-reach bonuses, complete the stage with no mercury loss, beat the clock, and become the first-place record holder, none of which have to be completed in a single run, so replaying the levels is fun and enjoyable. The advanced levels string together an endless succession of obstacles and difficulties that make completing any of the objectives nearly impossible, if one can even make it to the finish line. Later levels become an exercise in patience and frustration suppression as you fall off the edge repeatedly and restart only to make it past the first obstacle and fall to the second one. Knowing there are more beyond forces you to question why you even bother in the first place.
To encourage players to complete more objectives, the developers of this game did include unlockables such as new skins for your mercury, like a tire or a soccer ball, and several party games. The party games seem sad and pointless, as they only use one player at a time, so why bother when the Wii has actual party games that everyone can play? With unlockables this weak, the only thing left pushing you to complete the more difficult levels is your own mettle. (HAHAHAHA!)
Most modern gamers do not have the attention span or fortitude to play this game to completion, which makes it a niche game at best for hardcore puzzle gamers. Although this game has excellently maximized and integrated Wii hardware into an already existing PSP title, the overall title falls short and leaves you wanting more simplistic levels and some real multiplayer options. It does serve a function that all Wii titles serve at this point in time: a way to kill time until Super Smash Bros. Brawl is released. Definitely rent this game for five days at least, since it is worth playing initially, but you will most likely be ready to return it in three.