A timeless masterpiece
Lemmings is puzzle game with a hint of real-time strategy, and was one of both the most successful and most
innovative titles of the early 90s.
The goal of the game is to lead a group of mindless lemmings safely to the exit in each of the 120
levels. The lemmings enter the level by falling through a trap door, and will stoically march onwards,
whatever lies in their way. They change direction if they walk into an obstacle, but they won't stop from traps,
fire, pits and falls from deadly heights, for example. To make sure the lemmings reach the exit, there is a number
of tasks the player can apply to the lemmings. This includes digging in different directions, building
a stairway, playing "blocker" to repel other lemmings or even making a lemming blow up itself. All the
tasks must be used at the right time and place to create a path to exit for the lemmings. However, there
is always a limited number of times you may use these functions, so you need to use them carefully.
To make matters more complicated, there is also a time limit and a given minimum number of lemmings
to be saved.
While the graphics are just average all in all (see below), I want to point out that the animation
of the lemmings is superb. All of their movements are funny or cute to look, and the game is splendid
example of you can do with just a few pixels and colours.
The game has a really ease to use mouse interface. The bottom of the screen shows all available tasks
for the lemmings, and the number of them left. You just mark the task of your choice and then click on
a lemming to perform it. You can pause the game to plan your strategy with another button, and you
may adjust the drop-out rate for the lemmings (though cannot go below the starting rate). Finally,
you can "nuke" the level by letting all remaining lemmings explode at once. All levels can be accessed via
a password system.
Like with most puzzle games, the gameplay is the program's strongest point by far. As with Lemmings,
the fun and addictiveness can even compare to Tetris. The designers did not only frame a great concept, but they also created excellent levels. While the later levels are
really hard and can be quite frustrating, the motivation and the addictiveness are always very high. The designers
also did a good job with introducing the different skills and game mechanics in the earlier levels.
The game is surprisingly flawless and perfected (many other games don't reach this state in the third sequel), so there is not really that much to complain about. As I already hinted at, the presentation of the game is not very outstanding. The environments are colourful and look okay,
but are no highlight as well. The music contains some nice, cheerful tunes, but they can get
a bit tiresome over the time. You can also mention that the game is focussed on the actual gameplay in the sense that you do not have any
introduction sequences, cut-scenes or bonuses, you "just" play the levels. Though it is questionable
how much a game like Lemmings needs such things.
Apart from these minor issues, the only problem might be the strict minimum number of Lemmings to
save in each level. If you really play the game all by yourself, and do not look up the codes in
a book, magazine or nowadays the internet, then you are in danger of being forced to play a level over
and over again, because you could save enough Lemmings, even if you know exactly how to solve the
level. After numerous repetitions it can be really frustrating to notice that the lemming, which has just fallen
to its, was just enough to render the current trial futile. However, the game is far too addictive to
let go on it in the long run.
The Bottom Line
I would call Lemmings nothing less then a timeless masterpiece. It has got a great idea behind it, and the execution was so well done that the gameplay has easily passed the test of time. It's an addictive, original and brilliant game that is just as much fun as it used to be in 1991.