In the early part of the 1990s it seemed like the Lemmings were everywhere. Developed by DMA Design, Lemmings was a unique puzzle game that had you doing your best to save as many of the furry little characters as possible. With its cute graphics, intuitive game play and inventive level designs, Lemmings was an instant hit that ended up on just about every game system of that era. These days those suicidal lemmings aren't nearly as popular as they once were, but that's not going to stop Sony from releasing a brand new version for their PlayStation Portable. This new Lemmings might not come out until May, but I've managed to get my hands on an early build of the game and found myself pleasantly surprised.
Lemmings wisely ignores many of the more recent Lemmings titles (such as the dreadful 3D Lemmings) and sticks close to the original entry. This is a 2D puzzle game that has you assigning one of eight skills to mindless lemmings that are doing nothing more than walking forward (until they hit something, then they walk the other direction). These skills -- climber, floater, bomber, blocker, builder, basher, digger, and miner -- will help you work your way through each level and ultimately find a safe passage for your blue rodents. If you fail the lemmings will find a way to commit suicide … and nobody wants that.
While nothing has changed to the overall game play, the same cannot be said about the presentation. This may still be a 2D puzzle game, but careful attention has been spent on getting the foreground graphics just right. Every pillar, fire pit, and staircase looks amazing, with well placed shadows that certainly give off the impression that there's some depth to the visuals. The levels I've had a chance to sample were all sharp looking, and each area took full advantage of the PSP's widescreen display.
The game controls a lot better than you might expect. The D-pad controls your cursor, which you can use to assign tasks to your individual lemmings. You can cycle through these skills by using the L and R shoulder buttons. If you want to survey the entire level you're in luck, the analog nub can be used to quickly access any part of the puzzle. And if that wasn't enough, you can speed up time and zoom in on the action all with the push of a button, all adding up to a useful and intuitive design.
This PSP Lemmings boasts over 150 different puzzles, each offering new obstacles and challenges. In some levels you may be burrowing through walls and pillars, yet in another puzzle you'll be forced to deal with fire. You will have to use all of your wits if you're going to save these lemmings and beat all of the levels packaged on this UMD.
But as I played through the preview levels opened up for me I started to have the sense that I have been here before. Although sharp looking, these levels felt like the ones I remember playing 15 years ago. To determine if I was going crazy or not I pulled out my Super NES copy and verified that these PSP levels were indeed the exact same puzzles. I was slightly disappointed to learn that this was more of a port than anything, I wondered if it was too much to ask for 150 brand new levels.
But never fear; Sony is prepared for this obvious criticism. Brand new to this version of Lemmings is a level editor that will allow you to build your own worlds and share them with friends. Best of all, you will be able to upload your user-created levels and share them with everybody else that owns the game. If the community works as promised then you may never run out of new levels to play through.
Whether you're an old fan of the series or somebody who has never heard of them before, Lemmings is an addictive puzzle game that makes you think and has plenty of content. The franchise has never looked better than it does on the PSP and the ability to download new content will keep the game fresh for months to come. Based on this small preview I am excited to get my hands on the final version, which should show up towards the end of May. We'll be back with more information about the game in the upcoming months, all leading up to a full review of this puzzle resurrection.
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