Lemmings

Platform(s): PSP
Genre: Action
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Team 17

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PSP Preview - 'Lemmings'

by Reldan on April 11, 2006 @ 2:01 a.m. PDT

Controlling an army of lemmings, the aim is to get as many of these cute characters as you can from the entrance point to the exit point of a level within a time limit. Easy to learn, difficult to master; Lemmings is a test of strategy and fast thinking as you make 'on the spot', life or death decisions for your band of trusting little creatures.

Genre: Action/Puzzle
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Team 17
Release Date: May 23, 2006

Honestly, it's been years since I've even thought of Lemmings, let alone played a Lemmings game. Those brave little green-haired dudes hold a special place in my heart. They never see it coming, and then BAM!, they're plummeting to their dooms, being crushed or chopped. I suppose that's what they get for relying on a guy like me to save them. Suckers.

It occurs to me that many in the newer generation of gamers, who have probably never played Chrono Trigger – shame on you – or seen an SNES or NES, may have never even heard of it. This game has been around since what feels like forever; originally a PC title in 1991, it's been ported on just about every imaginable platform. Even the Lynx and Commodore 64 have had their versions. To my knowledge, the last Lemmings game was Lemmings and Oh No! More Lemmings for the Game Boy Color back in 2000 ... until now.

The gist of Lemmings is that each level consists of a variable number of spawn portals and exits. Your goal is to direct a specified number of the lemmings from the spawn portals to the exits. It sounds easy, but the lemmings have one of the worst A.I.s since Trespasser, although, at least in this case, that's intentional. They single-mindedly march forward, only stopping if they die or bump into an obstacle they cannot get past, in which case they simply turn around and march the other way ad infinitum. Your only control over them is that you can assign any lemming a job, such as to be a digger, blocker, or builder, which they then do until you assign them to do something else. There are eight different jobs in total, and you only get a finite number of assignments per level, so you need to make them count. Each level is designed as a puzzle, with a variety of pits and traps that you must direct your lemmings to navigate despite their innate tendencies.

So is it good? It's Lemmings; games like this go beyond the concept of good or bad. Like Tetris, it just exists, and you accept that fact and enjoy it for all it's worth. Everyone should get the chance to play this title at least once, because there really isn't anything else out there like it. This would almost fit in as a Peter Molyneaux title, except that he was spending the late '80s and early '90s on Populous. Can't have it all, I guess.

Titles like this are best played on portable systems because you can pick them up and play at leisure. The gameplay is such that you can jump right in, and while it isn't frantic or ridiculously demanding of your attention, it still manages to be both challenging and fun. They aren't trying to reinvent the wheel here; this the classic Lemmings that captivated gamers over a decade ago, only with better graphics and on the hottest portable on the market.

You get 150 levels, ranging from easy cakewalks to hair-pulling insanity, and I would be willing to bet there will be some extras and unlockables to extend the challenge beyond even that.

This isn't to say the port is perfect. I occasionally would get into a situatuon where I'd have lemmings stacked on top of each other, and it became almost impossible to select a specific one to which to assign a job. This can be the difference between winning and losing a level, and it is frustrating when you lose at a puzzle game because the controls get in your way. The title was originally designed to be played with a mouse, which is obvious when you see the floating cursor you use to select lemmings – essentially a mouse pointer, only without the precision of a real mouse behind it.

Lemmings brings a classic puzzle game to life on the PSP, slowly adding to a list of great titles ported to Sony's fantastic little system. I think it's a good fit. If you're a fan of Lemmings and have a PSP, you'll probably pick this one up. If you've never played it and it's new to you, give it a go.


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