Lemmings Review—A Neglected Classic
Lemmings may not be a popular game franchise these days, but back in the day, it was almost the Angry Birds of its time. Well, except it was original and innovative as well as being addictive. The original designers, DMA, went on to design something else popular, Grand Theft Auto, and Lemmings was left in the hands of its original publisher, Psygnosis, gobbled up by Sony in the PlayStation 1 era.
This version of Lemmings is essentially a port of the PSP version, which was a 2006 remake of the original game, only with 3D graphics. It’s technically a “free” title on PlayStation Mobile, but it’s really more of a demo; you only get 8 extremely simple levels (tutorial levels, really) and have to buy the rest of the game’s original 120 levels for £1.99, with an additional set of 36 levels (created for the PSP) for £.79. Unfortunately, there is no support for the level editor the PSP version had, nor does it support any of the additional packs of levels, which I believe were made available later.
Lemmings is essentially a puzzle platformer game. You must guide a pack of lemmings from the entrance to the exit on a level. The difference is that you don’t have much control over the lemmings themselves, because you can only assign them certain jobs, which give them special powers or actions. But otherwise, they simply march in one direction, no matter what, just like the proverbial lemmings who march off cliffs.
These jobs range from letting the lemming fall safely (using an umbrella) or climb, directing traffic, to blowing themselves up. They also can let the lemming dig either horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally. One type also builds stairs, though sometimes you need more than one to build stairs long enough to reach where you want them to go.
Controls are a mix of touch and buttons. To assign a job to a lemming, you simply touch him, then touch the job icon. But the menus and such work with buttons as well as touch, though the menu items are so close together, it’s a bit tricky selecting them with touch.
There is usually a decent margin of error, as you don’t have to get every lemming to the exit. Sometimes most, sometimes just a handful. It varies from level to level. Maybe this was missing in the PSP version, but there also used to be a thing where if you were frustrated with your progress, you could blow up all the lemmings at once. Perhaps a little violent, but a great stress reliever when you got stuck.
This has to be the best-looking version of Lemmings, with the possible exception of the PS3 version (also a port of the PSP version). It looks really, really nice. While it’s somewhat zoomed out and thus kind of hard to see the lemmings, you can zoom in by double tapping the screen. On a more subjective level, though, I miss the charming, if pixelated, 2D of the PC version. I would have loved to have seen those graphics as an option. The sound effects seem unchanged, though, and they make cute little noises.
It’s really hard to rate something like this, because it’s literally one of the all time great video games, easily in the top twenty, if not top ten. But at the same time, it’s also simply a port of the PSP version, minus features, like the level editor. And being a classic game has its downsides, as it has the same levels. Granted, it’s been a while since I played the original game, but some seemed familiar. People who were bigger fans than I or those that own the PSP version will surely remember them.
Why not some new levels? Heck, why not leave the level editor in and let people trade them online, like the PSP version did? This is the future, where things should have more features than they did 7 years ago, not less. It also has that annoying thing where it checks for an online connection every time you load. I understand Sony is concerned about piracy, but isn’t it more important to be concerned with those people who spent their money on the game?
So while Lemmings is still a great game, a true classic, this is a casebook example of a game that could have been better. And probably should have been.