Reviews// Lemmings (PS3)

A twist of Lemming please

Posted 21 Mar 2007 10:00 by
Contrary to the commonly held belief, lemmings do not in fact commit mass suicide when population numbers get too high. This ?fact? of science was popularised by a Disney documentary called White Wilderness, directed by James Algar in which the film makers actually herded captured lemmings over a cliff into a river to simulate the "suicide drive" because they couldn't capture the event occurring naturally. Fancy that! So firmly engrained is the idea of lemming suicide that when DMA Design (now Rockstar North) put together a game about mindless creatures that would jump off platforms and walk into traps without any sense of self preservation, they called that game Lemmings. On that day a legend was born.

Lemmings is the poster child for cross-platform development, appearing on 25 platforms so far, including this trip to the PlayStation 3. Team17 has returned to the development role after a successful stint on the PSP version that was released in 2006. SCEE is obviously handling the publishing tasks, owning as it does the IP to Lemmings after the acquisition of original game publisher, Psygnosis, in 1993. The game is a PlayStation Network title and will be available to download from the European launch on 23rd of March.

There now follows a slightly edited snippet from my Lemmings on PSP review from February of last year in which I outline the basics of the Lemmings game mechanics (go on, you can read the full review here).

For those who have spent the last 16 years living in a cave or flying through outer space and have only just heard about the joys of lemming herding, the objective of the game is to guide your troupe of furry base jumpers across a series of levels from one or more entrances to one or more exits. The levels are made up of various pieces of landscape that will block the progress of your lemmings or tempt them to kill themselves, since they will purposefully march in the direction they are facing come cliff, high water or death dealing trap. Your only hope of getting the little blighters to safety is to get individual members of the group to perform various tasks or learn various skills. You can teach them to climb or float, or you can get them to block other lemmings, build staircases, dig in three different ways, or simply blow up! Using these skills and tasks, you have to save a pre-determined number of your lemmings within a time limit.
In addition to the above system of lemming control, which has served more or less intact for 16 years, Team17 has added a few extra features, just to next-gen it up a bit. The most important addition is the fact that you usually have to collect some skills, in the form of pick-ups that you will need in order to finish the level. This adds a strategic element to the levels; you have to discover the correct order to collect the skills, this leads you down a certain path, which may or may not be the best way to complete the level if you had all skills available to you in the beginning. Any one of your lemmings can collect these pick-ups, but it is usually the ?hero? lemming you are using to blaze a trail for the pack that gets this duty.
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