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Smile if you love Lemmings
Member Name: Excelle
Date: 04/06/01, updated on 04/06/01 (460 review reads)
Advantages: Simple, Innovative
Disadvantages: Pixel sized gaps, Lack of sleep ;)
Lemmings is one such classic game. It's addictive, it's fun to play, and it's been around longer than my underwear (ahem). As you'll often hear me say, the simplest games are often the best – Tetris, Puzzle Bobble, Breakout, Asteroids – and while Lemmings isn't necessarily the easiest game on the face of things, but once you get down to playing it, it's just a simple case of choices. But we'll come to that later. This op is mainly going to deal with the general phenomenon of Lemmings, but I'll specify the differences between Amiga Lemmings and Windows Lemmings too.
Lemmings was first released in 1991 (yes – that ago! Almost makes me feel geriatric) to an adoring public by one of my favourite software houses of the time – the unpronounceable Psygnosis. Designed by DMA Design (who a lot of people will recognise as the developers of Grand Theft Auto), it's an interesting puzzle/strategy game which has been released on just about every conceivable format, and is known to many as one of the great classics. Popular with both sexes, Lemmings certainly had the lions share of the market, and I suppose this is the kind of attention that such devout originality brings with it.
- Let's go!
Ah, the immortal sound effect heralding the start of a game of Lemmings. Haunting your dreams and dominating your days. I swear, I've heard that high pitched squeal more times than most things in l
ife, and it's something that'll live in my mind forever. So, how does Lemmings work? Well, the view is side on, and the aim is to get your cute but terminally dumb Lemmings from the start point (a trapdoor) to the end point (an archway). While the Lemmings aren't exactly suicidal, they don't exactly hold their lives sacred – they have no problems with walking into the centre of a burning furnace, or hurling themselves from great heights! If you don't stop them, they'll just keep on walking until they reach the exit or reach their deaths. This movement of the Lemmings is quite predictable – they fall out of the trapdoor, and then keep walking in the direction they were going. If they hit a solid vertical object (i.e a wall), they'll turn around and start walking in the opposite direction. If they find a hole in the ground… well you know what happens next!
- It's good to be in control…
The level starts off and you're told how long you've got, and how many Lemmings you have to save out the total. If you think it's going to be easy – think again! It's all to often you'll be dealing with one part of the map while Lemmings are disappearing into a hole somewhere else, or being pulverised by some unseen danger. But you learn, and you'll get it right in the end.
So, how do you control the Lemmings? Well, you have no direct control over them, but you can define their 'class'. This tells them their purpose in life, and they'll do it until they escape or meet their (typically gruesome) death. So what can they be?
» Climber. When this bloke hits a vertical surface, he's start climbing up it. Don't ask me how. He just does.
» Floater. Chuck this one of the edge of a cliff, and he'll fall a while before pulling out an umbrella and floating down Mary Poppins style. You just have to hope there's some floor further down! <
» Exploder. Kind of self explanatory – select this and your Lemming begins a 5 second countdown before vibrating a little and exploding in a tasteful shower of pixels! Quite useful for dealing with trapped Lemmings, ones that are getting in the way of the rest, and ones that are just plain annoying you.
» Blocker. Probably one of the most useful classes, this makes your Lemming stand stock still and block the path of all the others. Hopefully this will prevent them meeting a gory death while you decide what the hell you should be doing.
» Builder. This nice construction worker one will chuck a bag of tiles on his back and start laying them down one after the other creating a diagonal bridge the Lemmings can walk across. The bridge appears at about thirty degrees to the horizontal, and the Lemming will stop either when he hits something solid, or runs out of tiles.
» Basher. This one is basically a horizontal digger – set him going next to a wall and he'll pound it thoughtlessly with his hands creating a tunnel for his follow Lems.
» Miner. Same as a basher, but uses a pickaxe to go diagonally down in the direction he's facing.
» Digger. Same as a basher, but scrabbles away at the ground and works vertically.
As well as this, you can increase or decrease the flow of Lemmings using the plus and minus buttons (unless this option has been limited by the level you're playing. And you can 'paws' the game (groan), and nuke all the Lemmings on the level is all is not going well, or you're just getting a bit annoyed :) Lemmings fireworks ahoy!
- This is the one where…
Each level is different, and you'll need to use different skills of the Lemmings on each. The first few levels teach you how to use the different skills, and you're limited to just using those skills. Later levels give you access to all the classes, but individual ones may be ex
cluded to make it that little bit harder for you! In fact, being given the choice is sometimes a lot harder, because you have to sit there and try and decide exactly what you have to do to get the Lems to the exit. It's not always as obvious as it seems. As sometimes it's MORE obvious than it seems! My advice is to pause the game and survey the level properly before making any rash decisions that might wreck your chances.
- Aw, doesn't he look cute?
The graphics are great on Lemmings. The Lemmings themselves are only about a few pixels tall – 20 at most – but they are surprisingly animated for their size. They wear full-length blue sweaters and have green hair, and you can see that hair bobbing around as they walk along, and its amazing the animators managed to cram so much life into such a small package. The level graphics are quite random – bridges and pillars arranged around lumps of rock and other structures that wouldn't look out of place in some modern art gallery. It just means that you'll never end up with the levels looking particularly samey, and it all looks quite nice anyway!
- Whistle while they work
Sound also plays a part in Lemmings. The sound effects consist of the initial 'Let's go!', the 'Yippee!' when they reach the end of the level, and variously incidental effects when they run out of bricks when bridge-building or explode or whatever. The music in Lemmings is always annoyingly catchy – a mixture of medleys of well known songs and some nice new tracks which were composed by the musicians themselves. It all works very well and fits the game to a tee – light-hearted throwaway ditties that make you smile and you'll most probably be whistling them for weeks to come.
- Oh no – it's more players
On the Amiga version at least, you could play two player Lemmings. This basically involved plugging two mi
ce into the Amiga and playing Lemmings split screen – generally with one person starting from one end of the level and the other from the other – crossing over in the middle. It was mayhem after a while, as both teams sabotaged each other's bridges with exploders and blockers appeared in inconvenient places. Although you inevitable ended up punching your fellow player in frustration, it was great fun and the aim of getting the most lemmings home in one piece was generally forgotten in favour of the 'cause your mate as much trouble as you possibly can' approach :)
- Let's go! – Windows stylee
So what's the difference with the Amiga version and the Win95 edition of Lemmings? Well, very few in essence – you get a game called 'Lemmings Paintball' bundled with the Windows version, although after 5 minutes play you'll wish they'd just left the remaining part of the CD empty, because it's patently crap. The music is done in MIDI, so unless you have a good sound card (like me :) ), it'll sound pretty dire, and it does sound the same as the auditory glory of the Amiga version anyway. The biggest downer is the lack of a two-player mode, probably because Windows has the inflexibility of almost exploding at the thought of using two mice!
The graphics look pretty much the same, which is a good thing, and the menu screens are a lot slicker. And there's no writing down sheets and sheets of passwords, as the game saves your position. The biggest bonus is you get the extra levels from the 'Oh No! More Lemmings' data disk bundles as part of the game, which is a nice add on. And the extra function of a fast forward button for when you've set up the level for the Lemmings to walk through and you don't want to wait forever for them to finish is always handy (although don't use it too liberally – you never know what's going to happen next!) The gameplay is
exactly the same, although now you can hold down the arrow keys to select only the Lems travelling in that direction – which is a godsend.
- Oh no!
As with everything though, there is a bad side. Those without a keen eye will not notice the pixel sized gaps you sometimes get in the floor that the poor Lemmings can fall through, which can be a pain, and the game is essentially the same all the way through (although you'll be too addicted to notice). Some of the music tracks can get a little grating too, but there's no problems turning those off. Other than that, well, it's great! Oh, maybe I should include lack of sleep too :)
Lemmings is both a classic game and a milestone in gaming history. It is original, interesting, addictive, and pretty tense sometimes too! I've played it since I had the demo on my Spectrum, both on the Amiga and now the PC too. It's long life is welcomed by me, and I always now I can dig out my copy of Lemmings and have a go and still enjoy myself. It's brilliant, and I strongly suggest people buy it today!
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