Title:

  • Lemmings

Genre:

  • Puzzle

Developer:

  • DMA Design

Publisher:

  • Psygnosis

Release Date:

  • 1991

System(s):

  • A whole slew of 'em

Box Art Credit:

  • MobyGames

Systems Used:

  • Windows running on MacBook

Note on Box Art:

  • The Mac version had different box art,
    but I liked this one better.

On Wikipedia:

Like many of the games featured on this website, Lemmings is a legacy title, and for long periods, it was often unavailable (it was originally played on a Performa 550, but I found that newer computers didn't work properly, as the music was broken in newer updates). But now, once again, thanks to the magic of emulation, I can once again revel in the awesomeness that is Lemmings. But years later, how does it hold up? Surprisingly well, actually, which is sadly a rarity for games of this vintage.

Get this...the thing to the right is the goal, which looks far worse than the start point.

Obviously, in terms of graphics and resolutions, it remains trapped in resolutions far out of date (640x400) but it works well, as it includes some 120 levels in four ever-increasing difficulties: "Fun", "Tricky", "Taxing", or "Mayhem". Of these, the early Tricky levels seem the most "Fun" (the first half of the "Fun" levels are basically tutorials). I won't try to explain all the tools you can use, but basically the Lemmings come at a certain rate and in a direction, and you use tools to change direction, build over pits, dig through obstacles, or otherwise prevent their death, as per the popular myth that lemmings will jump to their death.

Well, I won't bore you with stories of playing this when I was younger (and I won't get into the Software Dispatch demo either), but I remember that for this level (just an image hosted on this server, I'm not going to spring a YouTube video on you), there would be three different styles that my siblings I would use to solve the problem. The games that all three of us played (my older brother, mentioned in the Spectre review, and my older sister, who wasn't much a games player) were few, but the ones that we did all did had our idiosyncracies (on a Link to the Past ROM, our names were Link, Lynk, and Linky. Guess who was who?) So for this level, you were trying to build over a pit, but the level includes no way to hold them back, so if you only sent one to build a bridge over the pit, several would fall in. My sister would attempt to build the ones that fell in out (after all, the level provided you plenty of Builders for that level), while my brother didn't waste the time and nuked them (after all, the percentage you needed to rescue wasn't 100%). I went with the most complicated but still high road by assigning every one (about 7-8) that approached as builders, which prevented them all from falling in. All three would work, of course, and that was one of the great things about the game...many puzzles had multiple solutions.

I admit, I still get a cheap thrill when those little buggers walk into a slicer, letting them give off a high-pitched "Eep!" as they're sliced to death. Then again, when you consider that it's the exact same studio who would develop the Grand Theft Auto series years down the line (yes, DMA Design is the old name of Rockstar North), such sadistic pleasures tend to be their nature.

One of the major downsides of the original release was copy protection. I seem to remember that the full version with at least some sort of photocopy (they were really small, with about dozens of tiny codes on a piece of paper only about 3x3 inches big) about 9 of the codes was given to us by one of my dad's friends (though really, in the last 12 years, I've only met him again twice).

Within a few days I completed about 30% of the game, but that's when they started getting tricky (hence, the "Tricky" levels rather than "Fun"). Usually I could figure out what to do, but then have to repeat it because I couldn't get enough of them in time (margin of error is slim). I finally eventually got stuck on a Taxing level (over halfway through the game), which was just a "harder" version of another level (there's "harder" versions of many the levels once in "Fun", using far limited options than you used to).

For instance, that one where you build over a pit? A later level has the same design but not enough Builders (only one builder instead of several), so you have to send one to scale the ledges, turn him around by digging then building up, then mining (diagonal digging) horizontally at just the right place so that the Bashing (horizontal digging) Lemming leading the rest can climb up the ramp created by the Miner but not in any other place since he'll just keep mining down to his doom (the bottom of the screen).

I do intend on finishing up the game (I am over halfway through, after all) and seeing what happens when I finish the last level (probably nothing more than a still screen announcing a non-broken English variant of "A WINNER IS YOU" then just going back to the title).

October 28 2015

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