Sony plans to offer trios of PSN games on UMD discs starting this October, ensuring PSP owners throughout the land can lay their mitts on previously download-only content.
The Lemmings are - quite literally - evergreen. Over 16 years have passed since I set foot in London's Kensington Royal Garden Hotel to attend a low-key Psygnosis press junket where Dave Jones' genius-level games concept was first unveiled. No key note speeches, no long-winded demonstrations, no hard sell. Psygnosis and DMA Design knew they had a hit on their hands and just let us play the game and appreciate the extraordinary concept. Taking a look at this PlayStation 3 rendition of the classic, it's astonishing to see just how little has changed in the core gameplay compared to the 1991 Commodore Amiga original.
The objective remains identical - Lemmings drop down into a hostile game environment, and it's your job to shepherd them through to the exit, doling out skills and abilities to defeat the obstacles in your path. If there's a wall blocking your path, let a Lemming dig through it. If he's falling to his doom, give him an umbrella and let him float down to safety. If there's an immovable object in the way, strap explosives to your rodent-hero and blow him up to give the others safe passage - you get the idea. This version also features additions to the gameplay from various Lemmings sequels in the form of power-up icons, cloners and teleporters. All good stuff.
Coming from Team 17, the developer of the accomplished PSP version, it's no surprise to see that this Cell-powered rendition has much in common with its handheld sibling. This is most blatantly in the redrawn cartoon-like graphics, boosted significantly with 720p HD clarity and sweet animation, along with the console-friendly control method. But behind the slick visuals, Lemmings is something of a perilously empty vessel when compared to Team 17's original miniaturised blueprint.
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Do Lemmings like cliffs? Sod that - do Cliffs like Lemmings? That's what I want to know. To this end, I've spent some of Sunday afternoon perched on my bed, laptop resting on my knee, Googling various strings along the lines of "Lemmings review author Cliff" and "Lemmings by Cliff" and "Sodding BY Cliff not GETTING OFF". Sadly I haven't found what I'm looking for, but I did find some fascinatingly dyslexic fan-fiction modulating between Lemming house sales and geologically informative pornography. I also happened upon a surprisingly large number of reviews of the old-days versions for PC, Amiga, Spectrum and the like. And sadly, despite the nice things Team 17 has done to the PSP one, flicking through a few of those I know I won't be able to give it such a sparkling report.
Then again, that's hardly surprising is it? It's another genius brief from the publisher that last week announced it was going to help fatten the PSP catalogue with a gang sodding warfare game. Nice one Sony. After being tossed from publisher to publisher with Worms, Team 17 must be wondering what it did to deserve all this. And to be put to work on a handheld port of a DMA Design game (in other words, Rockstar "GTA" North) must be doubly galling. Back in the days when Worms and Lemmings sat side by side on the Amiga and PC and everything-else shelves and nobody scoffed at pitching a 2D game idea, both were respectable software houses on the up, and yet here we are in 2006 and GTA rules the world while Team 17 runs the rule over a game its creators left behind yonks ago. "Don't ask anybody at DMA what their favourite game is," DMA PR man Brian Baglow told Edge once. "Is it Lemmings? No it f***ing is not!" They were tired of working on it then. In January 1997, so practically ten years ago.
And yes, I do think I can be forgiven all this ranting because if you don't know what Lemmings is by now then hi Mum thanks for reading. It's hard to get a precise feel for how many copies Lemmings actually sold (Sony quotes 5 million "fans", others claim more many than 20 million sales in one form or other), but its cross-generational exploitation means its been tossed over the tops of more consoles than Uhura on Rohypnol. I was chatting to a friend earlier and even she'd played it, and her sphere of gaming knowledge I'd previously considered to be a bubble surrounding Sonic the Hedgehog.
The PSP seems to be working out quite well for Team 17. After heartless people like us had a go at them for their 3D Worms titles, they've come back with Worms and now Lemmings titles that opt for 2D instead - and seem to be mighty pleased to be doing so. With Lemmings due out in just under a month, we fired off some questions for producer Paul Kilburn, who talked us through some of the game's features, how the game works on the handheld and what makes it special in general.
More than 15 years after they first appeared on our screens, the world's most suicidal games characters are getting a new outing on PSP. You can see some screenshots here.