Clever are the games that can take a familiar theme and put their own, unique, spin on it. For those who like their puzzlers, titles such as these are worth their weight in gold, able to pull players in with play they recognise, but also able to keep them hooked by putting something fresh before their eyes. Mercutio is one such package, falling back on the staple themes of match-three puzzlers, but letting them play out within its own, novel, framework.
It's a framework that doesn't take long to grasp, either. Rather than simply grouping balls of squares of the same color, Mercutio is all about bunching opposing colors together, the aim being to match-up combinations of discs in both lines and square formations that tie in the four colors on offer; red, blue, green and yellow.
Playing out on a 7×7 grid, Mercutio comes with tight-knit rules regarding just where you can place your discs, the first one you play setting out the stall for the rest. Only the grid squares directly in contact with the last disc you played can be used in the following move, Mercutio's games snaking across the screen as you go, the trick being not to forget combos you've set up at the beginning of the game as you get dragged away from your starting point.
The discs themselves come along in groups of four, initially with one disc of each colour, but as the game moves forward the selections become more random, making planning ahead – placing matching coloured discs apart from each other for later set ups – essential.
Placing the discs is no more complicated than using your finger to slide them into play, dragging them in any order across to your chosen square and letting go. Mercutio then highlights the squares available for your next move, white circles appearing in the associated squares.
The trick to completing each level is to generate enough points from match-ups to reach the target, each tile caught up in a group adding one point to your total. Making use of each disc more than once is naturally the aim, groups that overlap each other multiplying each disc's individual score and sending your total soaring.
But with 200 levels available, managing to successfully tackle any levels beyond the opening few is no easy task, Mercutio increasingly chucking awkward sets of discs at you that are ever harder to use successfully, the fact you can only place them in certain squares making keeping to any plan you might have formed especially tricky
It all makes Mercutio the kind of game that needs to be played several times before you can begin to master it, repeated attempts at levels – learning the order the discs pop up in and adjusting your strategy to accommodate them – the only way to move forward.
Such repetition is by no means a bad thing, either. With no clock and no competition (besides an online leaderboard via social network service OpenFeint), Mercutio is the kind of puzzler you can take at your own pace, dipping in when you like and taking time to consider before you make each move. Like an old fashioned board game for the current age, Mercutio has charm enough to ensure your first match-up isn't your last.