Can it get any hotter or does it just melt?
Archer Maclean's input into the original Mercury is plain for all to see on loading up the sequel Mercury Meltdown - bright colours, thick black outlines, an upbeat and bouncy soundtrack - all at complete odds with the polished venire of the original game and serving as a stylistic smack in the face for anyone who played the original. The effortless cool of the original is gone, long live the ridiculously cheery garishness.
Other than this most obvious of differences, the core play element of Meltdown is more or less identical to the first game, with players having to control a blob (or blobs) of mercury around a maze-like stage, getting as high a percentage of the blob as possible into the exit. Various traps, switches and obstacles need to be overcome and interacted with to finish levels, and the simple controls of tilting the stage via the analogue nub keep the action accessible without ever being too easy.
There's another point which is at odds to the original, actually - the difficulty is a fair whack lower, with less smashy-smashy-PSP thoughts floating through the minds of players as a result. This doesn't make the game easy mind, not by a long shot - it's just by not forcing players to finish levels within a strict time limit (more, this is an optional bonus in Meltdown) it makes things fairer, with many levels still presenting a fine challenge to even the most hardened of liquid metal fans.
Multiplayer in Meltdown has been done up somewhat, with a number of unlockable party games available for some ad-hoc fun times. Whilst none of the minigames on offer are spectacular, they're all good distractions and serve to increase the longevity of the game for those with PSP-owning chums and chumettes.
A few other new features come in the way of changing the state of your blob - it can be solidified into a hard ball, for example - reminding us even more of the majesty of Screwball Scramble. Other than this there really isn't a huge amount of difference, aside from expected new enemies and challenges, leaving an experience that is welcoming to newcomers but familiar - gameplay wise at least - to old hands.
Meltdown is a decent game and manages to address many faults with the original, but with Ignition trying to stamp their own feel on the game they have managed to kill the atmosphere that made the original so unique - whilst the black outline can be turned off on the blob, the garishness of the game can't. This is purely a stylistic issue, mind, and shouldn't serve to alienate too many people.