HIGHLIGHT: Lemmings are Back, and Falling into Smartphones!
Lemmings - The Official Game
Sad Puppy and Sony Interactive
iOS and Android
Lemmings are back, which means you’d better get those fingers tapping and saving as many as you can...
Just what did they bring to desktops when they were unleashed onto dodgy PCs back in 1991? Like many cutesy but ground-breaking games, developers took something familiar and twisted it around, harnessing the current tools of the average gamer (ie. mouse-clicking). Whereas most games involved either blasting things arcade-style, here you actually had to rescue something, or else your lemmings were doomed from the start.
It also gave PC players some freedom to plan their rescue tactics in various different ways, and also consider how many lemmings might have to be sacrificed in order to save the majority. In just the same way Angry Birds was tailored and conceived for mobile devices, Lemmings was designed for point-and-click accuracy. So how could this be adapted for mobile? Hopefully, without losing any of this.
And it hasn’t. Sure, they’ve had to re-invent it a little, and the result will be divisive but in our opinion it achieves something that ticks enough boxes. There’s a lot of the original Lemmings game-play and personality still in tact. There’s a lot of the freedom and strategy too. Obviously, the sheer scale of the original games has gone, but also a lot of the difficulty and patience that were demanded too. In the classic, you’d reach a new level and realise very quickly it was going to take ages to complete, so you began (just as quickly) not to bother. Maybe this was why many further Lemmings titles never could recapture the magic or success of the original. People just got overwhelmed. So, who’s not fine with them making it more accessible and well, more fun?
What do we get?
‘Thousands’ of mini-levels (in portrait mode only, which is fine). Lovely backgrounds and nice graphics. Motivating or quirky music. And tribes of groovy-marching lemmings, with some special ones to collect.
Luckily, the navigation menus have big buttons so are not confusing or impeded by extra pop-ups, add-ons and such. Interestingly, there are so many levels because the content includes procedurally-generated content, but that's then been curated by the designers.
It’s free-to-play, and this model comes without intrusive ads to interrupt the game. In fact, they're well-integrated. After a while, you’ll suddenly find you’re running out of energy to accomplish things, so you can choose to watch or try a demo game, but it’s no big deal. All the other items and upgrades never interest us much, as we'd rather just buy a game up front. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on your Gold, as this is important for buying more work Energy to get through levels. The in-game store gives you a range of options to makes things easier, with access to more of both.
The levels are called missions, which you need to ‘claim’ in order to receive your rewards, while the stages are represented by planets to explore. It seems like there are a good deal of these stages, broken up to retain interest. They can be populated with horribly positioned rotor-blade cutters and cliff-edges, confusingly placed portals and falling scenery. Don’t worry, you’ll find many of these could be decoys. Another hint is to see how the doorways are connected by looking at the edge of the screen, which can save time.
The command of your Lemmings now involves tapping on squares to reveal available options. You can still single out individuals and assign them tasks, which you can then adjust once active. It’s not too fiddly and can still be quite precise. Thankfully, there’s no zooming in or out.
What’s especially great is the ability to tap a series of squares in succession, to make up a strategy for saving the green-haired chaps, then seeing how it all unfolds. Pretty neat, for looking out of the window a bit more during car or train journeys!
As you progress, you re-invigorate and unlock Lemmings worlds. For successfully completing levels you can also spin a daily wheel to win more Gold.
There’s a Tournament Mode once you reach the Level 4 world, which allows you to win more prizes for saving more lemmings than other players, which might add an extra layer of challenge.
There is also something called Tribes and Seasons, with a countdown for completion. This looks to be about finding and unlocking unique groups of Lemmings (by playing well) that coincide with seasonal events or holidays. They have special names and appearances which I’m sure adds a good deal of extra motivation for younger players. It's fun to spot one when they suddenly emerge from within a mob.
With mobile games, you can’t have people squinting at their devices to assign overly detailed tasks. Thankfully, this port to mobile makes things simple and more fun. If you want more strategy, you’ll have to dig out one of the earlier Lemmings titles, created for other gaming machines, PCs or consoles.
For now, this version admirably allows a mobile generation of gamers to get some decent, and more thoughtful entertainment. It’s a nice comeback for our clumsy friends. As ever it may push the resources of smartphones (that are not at least fairly new), leading to some predictably negative reviews, so make sure you’ve got any other apps closed in the background.