Lemmings

Review

posted 5/22/2006 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel

Lemmings on the PSP is exactly what it sounds like, it's a port of the original Lemmings spruced up and released on Sony's PlayStation Portable.  This is a faithful recreation of the classic computer game brought to life on a portable game system in desperate need of high-quality puzzle games.  Lemmings manages to perfectly duplicate the fun and excitement of the fifteen year old source material while adding enough new to the mix to make this PSP puzzler easy to recommend.

Regardless of how many years you've been gaming the chances are good that you've come to the aid of these adorable rodents at some point in your life.  Lemmings has been released on dozens of computers and game systems, from the Genesis to the CD-i to the Commodore 64 to the Atari Lynx, these little guys have been on just about every major console … and a few obscure systems, too.

But not everything about this version of Lemmings is how you may remember it; while Team 17 (the makers of the popular Worms franchise) has managed to recreate the original computer hit in every way (from levels to jobs you can assign your lemmings) there is one thing that did get a major overhaul -- the graphics.

The fancy new graphics will likely be the first thing you notice about this PSP Lemmings, with its use of 3D rendered polygonal graphics this game looks sharp, regardless of how old the source material is.  But fear not nostalgic gamers, even though the characters (and backgrounds) are rendered in 3D the game plays exactly as you remember it on the Super NES, 3DO, Game Gear, NES, etc.  This is still the same old 2D puzzler you grew up on, only now it looks better than it ever has before.

The goal of Lemmings hasn't changed much in the last fifteen years; it's still your job to lead a group of suicidal rodents from one part of the level to another part before they off themselves.  To do this you need to assign the lemmings with one of eight different jobs.  You will be able to make them bash through walls, dig straight down, mine (or dig in a diagonal direction), climb up walls, float (with the help of an umbrella), build stairs, block other characters, and even blow themselves up.  It is imperative that you assign these eight jobs in order to guide your lemmings to safety.

All this may sound easy (and for the first few levels it is), but with 150 levels to its name Lemmings has a whole lot of challenging puzzles in store for you.  The level designs can go from tricky to downright unfair, with all sorts of obstacles ready to halt your travels.  It's going to take everything you have to guide your little lemmings to safety … heck; it will probably require you to attempt each level multiple times before beating this game.

Thankfully the game is never difficult because of the controls, although the PSP's button layout may not seem like the ideal set-up for a game like Lemmings it works surprisingly well.  You control the little cursor on the screen with your D-pad and cycle through the various jobs using the left and right shoulder buttons.  You can quickly scroll to any point in the level with the analog stick, a feature that becomes very useful in the later levels.  Along with the basics you will find a handy fast-forward button and a button that zooms you into the action (for precise micromanagement).

This control scheme may take a few minutes to get used to, but it ultimately works perfectly for this type of game.  Mapping the jobs to the shoulder button makes this puzzler that much easier to control; you will never need to move your cursor all over the place in order to assign jobs.  Purists may dislike the idea of not having a mouse to control the cursor, but this PSP version is hardly the first to suffer with the D-pad as your main control.  This game has been done on many consoles before now, and as far as I'm concerned this PSP port is one of the easiest to control.

But while we can argue about the perfect control scheme there's one thing that is not up for debate, and that's just how good this game looks.  Every aspect of this port has been completely remodeled from the ground up; even the smallest details from the classic game are recreated with sharp looking 3D polygons.  Couple the new graphics with the PSP's large widescreen display and you have a game that manages to stand out despite being based on a 15 years title.  Sure we've played these levels before (on many different game systems), but the graphics in this PSP port feel fully realized in a way that is new to this series. 



Every level found in the original computer version of Lemmings has been faithfully recreated in this PSP port, everything from the various layouts to the names of the levels.  You will find all 30 levels of Fun, 30 levels of Tricky, 30 levels of Taxing, and for the experts, 30 levels of Mayhem.  That's 120 levels of hardcore lemming saving; enough to crack even the most dedicated puzzle addict.  But just when you feel like you've mastered all of the levels Team 17 has tossed in an extra 36 stages.

Chances are that the 150 stages found in Lemmings will keep you busy for months, but let's say you're the type of puzzle fan that can whip through these complex levels in a single weekend.  Well buddy, you're in luck.  Not only does this PSP version of Lemmings allow you to make your own levels but you will also be able to upload your creations to Sony's online server, which allows anybody who owns the game to download and play your masterpieces.  Assuming the Lemmings community comes together and offers a lot of content this could mean that fans of the game will always have new levels to content with.

Downloading new levels is quick and painless; you can access them from the main menu at any time (assuming you have the right memory stick plugged into your PSP).  Unfortunately creating the levels is considerably more difficult, requiring you to overcome a bit of a learning curve before you start developing stages on par with what Team 17 packaged in the game.  But if you're the creative type this level editor will do everything you want it to, and may ultimately keep you coming back to this game months (maybe even years) after you've beaten all of the single player stuff.

Some may scoff at the idea of reviving a 15 year old puzzle game, but there's certainly enough in this updated Lemmings to recommend it.  The graphics are surprisingly sharp, the game play is spot on, there are plenty of challenging levels, and a map editor just waiting for you to learn its intricacies.  And if that's not enough for you, you will be able to download hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of user-created levels.  If you're looking for the type of portable game you can pick up and play for no more than a few minutes at a time, then Lemmings on the PSP is a great choice.

This version of Lemmings won't change your mind if you hated the original computer hit, but if you were a fan this is one update worth checking out.  It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it does manage to get every element of Lemmings just right.  I could have asked for more levels, but what Team 17 has given us is one heck of a comeback for our favorite suicidal rodents.






B
Lemmings on the PSP gives you everything you could have asked for -- new graphics, good control, plenty of levels, and a robust level editor. It may not reinvent the wheel but this brand new Lemmings will make you forget that you're playing a game that is fifteen years old!