• Project Mercury

    65 minutes playtime

    3 of 3 achievements

Platformer. Left/right move, A jumps, X shoots, down ducks. You can shoot in the cardinal directions, but since left/right also move, you need to hold the “aim” button to stay still. There’s also the “wpn” button which switches your weapons, but only two of the four stage-select levels give you a new weapon when you beat them. Also of note is that not only is your jump arc a trapezoid, but you fall faster than you rise. Lastly, your character has the ability to climb walls, but unlike Little Samson, you can’t just grab onto any wall (not that the game makes this clear or anything); only the walls that have gradients next to them are climbable. If a wall is just a thin line, you can’t grab it.

The game has you play one level before taking you to the stage select, and it’s bland. The only reason I took damage is because the speeder-bike part in the second half doesn’t give you a clear hitbox, and when you have to jump over a wide boss moving across the ground, intuitive hitboxes are kinda necessary.

In fact, the level design throughout the whole game is quite bland (every platforming section is either flat planes or a row of single tile platforms above a pit), and at first, I thought the dev was being extra careful to introduce enemies in ways that wouldn’t result in cheap hits, but then the miniboss of the green level comes at you and shoots a fast horizontal laser quickly while ALSO introducing flying enemies that’ll beeline to your last known position, so maybe the dev just really sucks at level design. For the record, this level is second from the left in the stage select, and the miniboss doesn’t show up in the far-left level, so if you go from left-to-right like I did, this is your introduction both to the miniboss and the homing enemies. Ironically, all the other times the miniboss shows up (including later in this same level!) put it on a platform below you, allowing you to shoot down at it and kill it from safety. THAT should’ve been how the enemy was introduced, but the game got it backwards. The boss of the green level is a spiderbot that walks left/right and abruptly jumps high and shoots lasers down, but once you learn its pattern, you can avoid damage by just waiting on the edge of the screen and only jumping when it comes near.

The far-left level is another speeder-bike level and isn’t really noteworthy beyond the hitbox issue mentioned earlier (the boss is a giant flying bug with little bugs around it like a shield, and like the first boss, I could never jump over it without taking damage). It does introduce an enemy that flies overhead and drops a hazard on you that can only be avoided if you’re moving left cuz it falls so fast, so the game has some trial and error as well. The center-right level (the yellow one) introduces a scorpion that shoots fast horizontal lasers, but it’s introduced on a platform above you, so the game actually got it right this time. The boss is a snake thing that’ll fly above and shoot fast lasers down, but even though it’s random where it’ll shoot, I got lucky and was never hit (also, you can shoot enemy lasers to cancel them out like in Mobile Astro, so that helped). After it’s done flying, it’ll come out of the holes in the ground and shoot lasers down at your platform, but even if you can’t jump away to another platform, you can still jump over the lasers, so it’s not a bad boss.

The far-right level was when things started to go south. The platforming parts weren’t anything different, but this level also has auto-scrolling parts where you’re wall-climbing (until now, that mechanic was only used to get over slightly-higher-than-you-can-jump platforms). Thing is, even though you’ll slowly move down while staying still, your up and down movements weren’t adjusted to account for the scrolling (like a conveyor belt that shuts off while you hold a direction), making it unnecessarily more difficult to avoid enemies since you have no true “staying still” state; you’re either moving up, moving down, or slowly moving down. The stage boss stops the scrolling, but it has a fast 3-way shot, and since you’re on a wall for the fight, you can’t jump. This was the first time it felt like the game wasn’t designed around its controls, that forced damage was intentional, and it didn’t get any better later.

The first level after the stage-select levels are beaten is another speeder-bike level, and it’s only notable for two reasons: 1) the hazard-dropping enemies that can only be avoided if you’re moving left are combined with enemies that spawn from the left without warning, and 2) it reuses the first boss, except now when you kill it, it splits into two smaller versions of itself, and those split into two smaller versions of themselves, so on top of your unintuitive speeder-bike hitbox, the arena can get a bit crowded with enemies flying around in random directions.

The next level is a downward-scrolling level where you can move anywhere on screen, but it’s also this late in the game where the dev decides to introduce an enemy that uses the exact same sprite as the flying enemies that just go straight, except these enemies will instantly bank 90 degrees and come straight for you when you get beside them, so not only is there some more trial and error for you, but due to your tall hitbox, it’s really difficult to avoid them even when you know they’re coming (especially since they spawn from both the top and bottom of the screen in different locations with no warning). Plus, unlike you, the flying enemies are small enough to slip between your 3-way lasers. The boss is the large bug with bug shields again, though it does have a new attack where it just shoots its bugs away from itself for a while. After shooting it a bunch, it went to the right side of the screen and started going up and down; I think it was supposed to do something when I got in front of it, but since I already happened to be on the far right side of the screen, I was able to stay behind it without taking any damage.

After this is a level with more bland platforming, though I’ll give it credit for this one part where a scorpion was on a platform below some stationary floating hazards, and the platform before it was on-level with a pit between them, so you had to fight the scorpion head-on and remember its cue for when it’s gonna shoot its laser. Yup, there’s actually some level design here, finally. The boss’s weak point bounces around the screen slowly, but it has one of those ball-necks that’s always attached to the center, so you won’t know if the neck itself is a hazard. The boss can also summon enemies from the sides of the screen, and it shoots more of those really fast lasers you won’t be able to dodge.

The final boss is its own level and is composed of two enemies: a floating soldier that just floats in random directions and shoots you not only with fast lasers, but sometimes with fast 3-way lasers as well; and the weak point, which just fades in and out of existence every several seconds and shoots 5 shots in the cardinal directions, so there’s no way to hit it without being in its line of fire yourself (I tried shooting them down like before, but it didn’t work this time; maybe the lasers just barely missed each other). The boss’s second phase happens very abruptly after its first, and while it’s way easier than the first phase (it just moves across the ground and jumps occasionally), its jump isn’t foreshadowed, and since you’ll need to jump over it when it doesn’t jump, that could also get you hit. The ending implies postgame content (or at least a sequel), but I didn’t see any evidence of either.

Not recommended, not even if it goes free again.