"Lemmings for Windows" was first released in 2002 and combines two classic PC games - the original "Lemmings" and the sequel "Oh No More Lemmings" - in one inexpensive package that will appeal widely to retro game fans. I succumbed to a nostalgic urge to play lemmings again when I saw it included in a 3 games for £10 special offer in GAME. "Lemmings for Windows" is a wonderful antidote to many modern games that prize slick graphics and fancy sound above all else; it is aesthetically very basic, easy to learn and easy to play, and puts originality of design and addictive gameplay first and foremost. It kind of has to though, given that the original lemmings dates from 1995 (positively archaic in PC terms) and has the pixellated graphics and synthesised soundtrack to prove it. The appearance of lemmings will come as a bit of a shock to those gamers used to more recent releases, but within the space of a couple of levels I was enjoying myself so much that I soon didn't care how basic it appeared. This is usually the point where I would list the specs needed to run such a game - but this is such a simple one that there aren't any, other than to say it will run on Widows 95 and later versions on pretty much any PC, no matter how basic.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the lemmings games, let me explain. It is an elegantly simple 2-D platform game based around the myth that lemmings are stupid creatures, best known for hurling themselves off high cliffs en masse for no better reason than they were all following each other. The lemmings in the game are fuzzy and cartoonish, simple creatures with bright green hair that will march across the landscape of each level, not stopping until they either reach safety or die. The player therefore has to act as a god-like figure, interceding in the march of the lemmings to save as many as possible before they walk to their doom - you will need to save a certain quota of lemmings to pass each level. The lemmings drop into each level through a mysterious trapdoor, and immediately begin wandering to the right; your task is to guide the relentless creatures to safety, represented by a doorway that might be unassailably high, splatteringly low or behind a series of obstacles. So how do you save such stupid creatures? The answer is that you need to give your lemmings skills and instructions so they can forge a safe passage to the exit doorway. There are a range of skills you can attribute to your lemmings - climber, floater, builder, basher, digger, miner, blocker and bomber - that are available in limited supply at the start of each level (for example, you might only have 5 climbers available when you have 20 lemmings in the level). Clever use of these skills mean you can utilise lemmings to bash tunnels through walls, build bridges over ravines, block unsafe paths, and dig towards safety, so that fellow lemmings can walk blindly through a safe path across the level. Some lemmings may have to be sacrificed for the greater good of lemming-kind, but you will need to be careful how many lemming martyrs you create, because if too many die, you will need to reply the level again. It sounds quite simple doesn't it? Yet as the levels grow more complex and the number of times you can use each skill lessens, the challenge increases and you will need to scheme quite carefully to be able to save these strange little creatures from themselves.
This increasing challenge is reflected in the way the levels are grouped. The first few are "fun", the next ones "tricky" and later ones are labelled "taxing" and "mayhem" in the original game - in the sequel, you get "tame" followed by "crazy", "wild", "wicked" and "havoc". It is possible to cheat and skip through levels if you find you absolutely can't solve the puzzle, although I wouldn't recommend using this tool too much as it spoils the challenge of solving the levels for yourself. Each level is timed and only lasts a few minutes, but with over 200 levels available in this game, there is considerable longevity to be had - in fact I keep on going back to it several months after buying it, and still have many levels left to solve. The challenge of solving the puzzle with limited resources and limited time is surprisingly addictive!
The interface is as simple to pick up as the gameplay. Below the level there is one button for each skill (simply click on the skill and click on your chosen lemming to activate it), an overview of the level so you can see the bigger picture, a fast forward button to move through the slower parts of the level, buttons to speed up and slow down the lemming drop rate, and a "self destruct" button to kill all lemmings and end the level if you have messed it up beyond repair. You can also use the menus to chose a different level, pause, action replay, turn the music and sound effects on and off, restart the level and to access help menus (good for hints and tips if you have never played lemmings before). All control is with the mouse and so can be picked up very easily, although you can also use keyboard controls if you wish - these are listed in the help menus. The game has an ELSPA rating of being suitable for ages 3+, as the lemming "deaths" are so cartoonish it is suitable for children. In the hours of gaming fun (and frustration) I have had since buying "Lemmings for Windows", I think I have more than got my money's worth from this title; great value for money, and I just hope that the other games I bought in this offer are as good!
Price and availability:
Currently on Amazon Marketplace for less than £1: http://tinyurl.com/449ygm
Currently on WHSmith for £4.99: http://tinyurl.com/3k8c2b
What's green-haired lovable and looking for trouble? Sounds like a Lemming and you've got your hands full of 'em trying to rescue thousands of the clueless little critters from gaping chasms roaring furnaces and swirling rivers. Keep'em climbing floating mining bridge building and digging--anything to keep them busy--and alive! You've gotta think fast and move even faster or it's curtains for the whole caboodle!