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Lemmings first appeared on the Amiga back in 1991 and was developed by a company called DMA Design, who would later become Rockstar North; known for their excellent Grand Theft Auto series and many other popular titles.
This fairly simplistic-looking adventure puzzle game was a huge success and was practically ported to every possible system you can imagine from around that time. In my research it amounted to over 25, without including the remake on PSP and PlayStation 3. In this video, quite predictably, we’re going to look at the Sega Mega Drive and Genesis version, which was the first I ever got to experience and still enjoy playing today.
In this game it is your job to help guide as many lemmings as possible to the exit by assigning abilities to specific individuals. There are eight in total, which range from climber, digger and bridge builder, to a stopper and self destruct. Yes… you heard me right, but more on that in a minute.
These creatures literally have no mind of their own and will walk in a set direction until they reach a wall or worse. If you don’t stop them they will fall down a hole, drown in water or melt in lava. It’s horrible and you don’t want that to happen, do you? No!…
… If you do though, there is a “self destruct” button that causes them all to explode!
This mindless following is based on the popular misconception that Lemmings commit mass suicide in the real world, thanks to false information in the media such as “White Wilderness” – a documentary by Walt Disney Productions in the late 1950’s which staged footage of them walking off a cliff to their own demise.
The game characters bare no resemblance to the cute real life rodents, who do in fact migrate in large volumes when they become overpopulated to seek out a new habitat. Unfortunately this can result in death when crossing strong rivers and difficult terrain, but not quite in the same way the media built this myth.
But anyway, back to the game!
As you can tell from the video, the graphics aren’t terribly impressive. Don’t let this put you off though as in this case it really isn’t that important. They work well enough to do the job and the backgrounds have quite a nice style to them. The main draw for Lemmings is how incredibly addictive and enjoyable the gameplay is! Things start off simple enough, introducing you to abilities and challenges, but it’s not long before you’re going to start scratching your head to try and think of the best way to save as many of your little friends as possible.
There are well over 100 levels to sink your teeth into and whilst there isn’t a save option, there is a password system in place to help continue from where you last left off. The difficulty curve is just about right and you will be playing it time and time again to get past that next level, or to improve your efficiency in a previous one.
The controls are easy to pick-up and use, especially considering that you are using a game pad instead of a mouse. I can’t think of many examples where a conversion was handled so well. You can even pause the action to look around the level, plan your strategy and select the appropriate ability and Lemming.
The music consists of cheerful midi versions of classic tunes that may feel similar to some, depending on your age or exposure to such things. There’s certainly nothing to complain about here.
Fun with a Friend
Whilst replaying this game I discovered a two player mode. To think I owned this game for so many years and didn’t try it or just plain forgot about it. Well, I gave it a quick try and found (much to your surprise I’m sure) that it’s great fun!
There’s around 20 levels that are more or less symmetrical in which you and a friend must save the most amount of Lemmings. You can of course create havoc for the other player by disrupting their strategy and stealing … or destroying… their Lemmings to your gain. So that’s another plus!
Lemmings is easily one of my favourite Mega Drive / Genesis games or infact just generally one of my favourite puzzle/strategy games of all time. There is plenty here to keep you occupied for hours, days, weeks, months or even years. You can play a few quick levels here and there or enjoy longer sessions. It’s totally up to you, but you will no doubt keep coming back for more.