a game by Psygnosis Limited
Back in the early '90s, at a time when the Amiga was still a viable gaming platform, DMA Design released Lemmings to a surprisingly acclaimed response. Critics applauded its excellence as it scooped up many a Game of the Year nomination and it made the conversion to as many formats as was profitably possible. Then came the inevitable data disk, the sequels, and - the mark of most high-selling games - a spin-off, which was far removed from what made the original good in the first place. Mario may have the magic touch when it comes to this area, but playing paintball with lemmings wasn't most people's idea of a good time. So the series began plummeting in popularity and dying an early death, a bit like (ha ha) a lemming diving off a cliff. Shame.
But, wait! No! Who'd have thought? Nine years after the original, they're back. And we're back, in familiar territory, that is. Take 2 Interactive readily admits (well, in so many words) that the aforementioned sequels weren't exactly good and its new developer, Tarantula Studios, has thus put it upon themselves to capture the essence of what made the original special.
So how does it play, then? Before I answer that, let's take into consideration those unfortunates who've never had the chance to play the original. Well, I'm hoping that's someone's case, otherwise the next part is rather pointless. If it doesn't apply to you, feel free to skip (in time-honoured paragraph-skipping tradition), to the next paragraph -it's nothing you haven't heard before. But, before you do, just bear in mind, that it does relate in some way to the final score. OK, then. Let's go.
What Be This Lemmings?
Lemmings fall from trapdoor. Lemmings don't stop walking. Assign tasks to lemmings to keep them out of danger. Guide them to safety. All of which makes it sound more simple than it actually is. Oh, it starts out easily enough. Almost insultingly easy, in fact. But getting towards the later levels, the difficulty factor starts to shoot up faster than Speedy Gonzalez on crack. You can start a level, stare at it for ages and still not figure out the best route to take, even though, as with most great puzzles, the solution is often found staring you in the face. Sometimes, you'll methodically plot a long complex strategy only to find it's distracting you from an extremely simple solution elsewhere. It's always perfectly logical, but try saying that when you have a wall to get past and all you've got is a blocker. It wouldn't surprise me if the level designers had 'poking baby chicks in the eyes' under the interests section of their CV. Despite all that, it's still addictive and the feeling you get when you do actually manage to get the required number of lemmings home, can often be one of extreme satisfaction and accomplishment. There are 102 levels in all, although I've been told the bonus levels purported in the previews have been abandoned. Still quite a challenge, though.
Go On, Tell Me How It Plays, Then
Almost exactly the same as the original Lemmings. Except in a tower (Nebulus, shouts someone). By holding the right mouse button and moving left or right you can rotate your tower through 360 degrees. It's a nice idea and one that allows for easier scrolling as you try to perform the correct action at the right time. One small complaint though, is a tendency for foreground objects to sometimes obscure parts of the screen. Although this is more of an annoyance than an actual detriment to play, as the tower can be scrolled to achieve a different view. Apart from that, it's business as usual. Except that's a bit of a lie too. As well as the new dangers of boxing kangaroos, giant birds, and crabs, which are exactly the same as the old traps (strategy: don't walk into them), there are now three new types of lemmings to contend with. Water, lava and what looks like acid lemmings (manual... missing) can all walk safely across the respective surfaces. They all seem to blend in so comfortably that it strangely feels as if they've always been there.
Later levels aside, the developers really have gone back to basics with this one, adhering to the original's template as closely as possible. And if you've played the first one you'll remember its faults. Namely, the pixel-perfect positioning and difficulty in selecting an exact lemming, and the 50-50 chance of picking one going in the right direction. Rest assured that the developers have listened, and attempted to rectify the situation, refining the improvements of All New World Of Lemmings. Firstly, you can issue commands while the game is paused. Secondly, because of the curved nature of the platforms, it's possible to pick out the direction of each lemming even when two walk past each other. By moving the cursor to one side or the other you can highlight the lemming heading in your desired direction. Last of all, there's a zoom function, which allows you to pick out your lemmings far more easily among the confusion. While all this seems unnecessary at first, the latter levels positively encourage it for those whose reflexes aren't exactly at their sharpest.
But even with all these aids it's still mostly a matter of trial and error, and now the game's earned the title of royalty in the computer games world. You see, many's the time people have been heard to shout 'King Lemmings!' at the computer screen as they restart a level for the 15th time.
Out With The Old, In With The, Er, Old
So what to make of the game? It goes without saying that the original was a classic. There was a reason why it picked up so many commendations, and that's not going to go away anytime soon. To the uninitiated, since Lemmings Revolution is so similar to its roots, anyone who wants to experience the phenomenon would be perfectly happy with either. Personally, I'd go for the older one, as apart from the jolly title tune, the fantastically warped music of the former has been replaced in this version with a handful of uninspiring tunes, which do nothing to complement the game. Shame again.
But for those people who have played before, this comes across as nothing more than a data disk with slightly nicer graphics. For the most part, you're playing the original all over again. If you haven't already, your best bet is to seek out a copy of Lemmings 2: The Tribes (not Lemmings 3D, mind), as that game contains a more distinctive advance on the series than what's on offer here. It's a tricky game to score, the Lemmings fad seems to be at the stage where the franchise hasn't quite faded into obscurity, but also isn't part of any nostalgic revival, either. It's possible that the game may have gone down better if it was released a couple of years later, but it seems a little unnecessary for most. Thus, I'm going to take the series' history into account and mark it accordingly.
One last note, there's only one save game slot, so (if you don't resort to messing around with files in the operating system) expect the not-so-hilarious consequences when someone else decides to start a new game without telling you.
2018-11-02 Lemmings Revolution game added.