Gamers that have been around for awhile are no doubt familiar with Lemmings, DMA Designs' classic puzzler that has seen release on nearly two dozen platforms in the last 15 years (it's been on the Amiga, the PC, the Phillips CDi, Atari's Lynx, etc, etc). But why is there such widespread saturation for a title that does little else except follow a collection of dimwitted munchkins from one point to another? The answer, quite frankly, is that there's a lot more to it than that. Lemmings is a puzzler that doesn't involve falling gems, rotating blocks, or some other adaptation of the classic Tetris formula. More importantly, it's a puzzler where the requirements for success change drastically from level to level and where quick thinking and fast reflexes are always rewarded.
The problem you run into, of course, is that like other great puzzlers such as Tetris and Bomberman, Lemmings has been played a million times before. It's hard to get excited for a product that's readily available in older and cheaper incarnations, so justifying a full-priced purchase for the thing is difficult to do. With that in mind, "The Worms Crew" at Team17 Software has tried its best to create a new Lemmings experience without drastically altering the elements that made it fun to begin with. For the most part, they have succeeded.
But before we talk about how the team has done its job, here's a quick refresher as to what Lemmings is: Players control a horde of green-haired weirdoes with a death wish as they amble around endlessly. As their master, it's your job to guide the little buggers from whatever section of a level they begin in and march them along to a much safer point. The trick here is that most of the stage in which the Lemmings are found is riddled with traps and obstacles that mean permanent imprisonment or certain doom.
Naturally, it's your job to help them through this danger by assigning multiple characters unique jobs that allow them to advance. "Floaters" can fall from great heights without dying, for example, while "Bashers" can smash their way through hard materials and "Diggers" can shovel their way through the ground to new sections. There are eight types of Lemmings in addition to the standard guys in all, and each of them has their uses at one point or another.
Luckily this classic formula works pretty well on PSP. Boasting more than 150 levels (120 of which are from the original game and nearly 40 all-new selections), Lemmings has more than enough variety to keep puzzle fans on their toes. Plus, because each stage only takes a couple of minutes to complete at the longest, it's easy to pick up and play without worrying about being rushed. The game really is an ideal handheld experience despite its mouse-based roots, and it's still surprisingly fun.
Fans of the older games should also be pleased to know that in addition to the 30+ levels added exclusively for the PSP version, Team17 has also redrawn the visuals. Though challenges are still played from a 2D perspective, each stage has been rendered in 3D with a deeper color palette and new animations. The end result looks great and Lemmings PSP is the best looking Lemmings title released thus far. Another big plus for veteran players is a built-in level editor that benefits from an enormous amount of customization with maps that can be uploaded online or shared via ad hoc to create a potentially limitless pool of stages. Other important PSP bonuses include a new "lock-on" feature for easy troop navigation and an automatic completion option if you don't want to wait around for all your remaining Lemmings to detonate. Good stuff here.
Now as fun as Lemmings may be, it still falls short of becoming the puzzle classic on PSP that it was on other platforms. Its biggest and most obvious detraction, for example, is the obvious lack of a multiplayer mode. The game has been out for more than 15 years after all, and the fact several Lemmings console ports (Atari ST, Genesis) and shareware clones have used two-player features before make it harder to forgive. Another obvious issue is with the default level selection. It's great that there are more than 150 stages to choose from before downloading any extras, but we've already played more than 100 of them several times before.
If you're a solo gamer or never played Lemmings before, then the two hitches above are easy ones to get over. But two issues that take away from the final product no matter who you are are the weird control mapping and the easy difficulty. Lemmings just isn't that hard anymore and completing a stage shouldn't take more than two or three tries at the most (which isn't long when you consider how quickly they pass). The aforementioned control is what's truly bizarre though. Rather than simulate a mouse with the analog stick (as you'd expect it to do), Team17 has used the directional pad as the crossfire navigational tool instead. To make things even weirder, the analog stick is used to control the camera (which only barely moves the screen from left to right or up and down). Shouldn't it have been the other way around?
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