Before the PSP was even released, I knew I liked the look of Archer MacLean's Mercury…but didn't like the look enough to buy the game right off the bat. In fact, I guess I should confess and say that I basically bought every PSP game I was even halfway interested in before buying Mercury. It didn't seem exciting enough to gamble $40 on, and had the look of something that would soon be available secondhand. My first impressions were basically correct (and my thanks to the person who traded in their used copy). But after having put the game through its paces, I was a little bit regretful I didn't give it a whirl sooner.
I'm in agreement with Andrew's review on most counts, especially his characterization of the visuals as sleek and spit-polished. I found myself quite drawn to the smooth graphics and abstract style once I got past the wonky white box. The little blob of mercury is also strangely compelling as the focus of play; it's not quite a character but still possesses an odd sort of charm. The physics of the mercury itself really sell the game, and I admired the quality of the simulation.
However, after reading Andrew's take and then writing this review I found myself wondering whether or not Mercury was actually a "puzzle" game. I don't think there's a concrete definition of the genre, but most levels in Mercury were very straightforward despite initially appearing to be convoluted or confusing. From start to finish, I'd say there were perhaps two levels that really teased my brain. The rest were challenging, but in a tactile way. The game is more often about having a rock-steady hand and a light touch than the ability to solve mindbenders or evaluate spatial relationships.
Another reason I find myself questioning the "puzzle" classification was that once I figured out how to finish each stage, there was no strong incentive or appeal in replaying them. To me, replaying for the joy in replaying is a hallmark of what a good puzzle game should be, and it's lacking here.
The requirement of reflexes and lack of staying power make me question whether Mercury deserve to be lumped together with things like Lumines or Tetris, though I suppose it's really a moot point since the puzzle genre seems to be something of a catch-all in the first place. In any event, I'd agree with Andrew about the game's difficulty being overstated, though the game might drive a few people insane in an "I-hate-this-but-I-have-to-try-one-more-time" Super Monkey Ball sort of way.
When all was said and done, and regardless of whether it's a puzzle game, an action game, or some hybrid of both, I have to say that I did enjoy my time with Archer MacLean's Mercury, and found it to be a good addition to the PSP's currently-anemic library. I definitely recommend it…but I recommend it used.