Archer MacLean's Mercury was an innovative puzzler that pushed your quick reflexes and sanity as you guided blobs of mercury through various, obstacle filled levels. Although in theory this might seem like a simple process, a game fit for toddlers... you would be mistaken. There are many things that stand in your way, obstacles such as gates and gaps, evil creatures and electrifying barriers. It was an excellent game but did not have much to offer in terms of multiplayer and playability length. Meltdown was to rectify these problems along with a few others and thankfully, though not perfect, it has succeeded.
The basics of Mercury still remain, and your goal to reach the end of the level with as much of your precious liquid metal as possible is the same. Building upon this, new gauges have been added along with new obstacles and better level designs to add to the experience and offer a more worthwhile game. You of course still have the metre that shows the amount of mercury you have left and the markers that indicate to you the lowest amount of mercury you need for all obstacles in the game. In many of the levels you will also have the countdown timer that adds more haste and can sometimes be the key to hair-raising, hectic levels. A record will be kept on how quickly you complete each level, earning bonuses by keeping within a certain time limit.
Such bonuses will be added to the score at the end of each level, made up of how much mercury you have left, along with other extras collected throughout the different levels of the game. However, these will not be easy to acquire, you will have to have a high level of skill and quick reflexes to navigate across narrow paths or through many dangerous obstacles to get to them. There are also new gates, ones that will directly effect your mercury; you have heaters that will give your blob an orange glow and speed it up, coolers that will, of course, freeze up and slow your blob down and also solid gates that will actually turn your blob into a solid metal ball that will roll rather than run. These effects can then be used to solve certain obstacles and puzzles or to simply add a new degree of difficulty to the game. There are also different surfaces within the game too, such as grates or ridged surfaces that will slow you down or slippery floors that will make your blob run at faster speeds.
Within Meltdown you will also interact with new objects and "characters" within the levels. The first you come upon is a blob within a square or jelly known as Stan who rolls around in the direction you wish him to when you perform directions in front of him. Next is Huebrick, a coloured block that you can push around towards switches and other objects by literally bashing into it. Although these "characters" do not really add much to the game in terms of personality, it is another aspect to get involved in.
The demo we received was a little sparse, having just a few different laboratories to play through, although there were a lot of levels locked and inaccessible, in the final game there should be around 170 levels. Along with the single player mode there will of course be the usually multiplayer modes via wireless connection and downloadable content through the internet. In addition there are also party games, similar to ones found in the Super Monkey Ball series that involve rolling - but there are a few more original ones planned too. Although the original Mercury was not to everyone's liking, the improvements in Meltdown will hopefully make the experience more enjoyable and therefore more appealing, something we'll know for sure next month.