Lemmings. The very word is enough to reduce many older gamers to fits of nostalgia.
The original Lemmings was released way back in the late 1980s, a time of tragic haircuts, dodgy music, and bizarre computer games. An age when 256 colour graphics was state of the art, the Amiga was the gaming machine of choice for the true connoisseur, and the latest version of Microsoft's new-fangled Windows had to be loaded from DOS (remember that?) and came on half a dozen 3.5" floppy disks...
Vive La Revolution!
An unlikely hit, Lemmings was a classic puzzle game starring a horde of suicidal green-haired rodents which you had to guide to safety across a series of increasingly difficult levels made up of obstacles to dig through, pits to bridge, and hazards to avoid.
Unfortunately the original game was followed by a whole string of increasingly poor sequels, culminating in such travesties as "Lemmings Paintball" and "The Adventures of Lomax in Lemming Land". Ahem.
But after a few years to reflect on the mistakes of the past, Psygnosis and Take 2 Interactive are now back with Lemmings Revolution. And having played a beta version of the game we are happy to say that it looks like this could be a return to form for the loveable green haired rodents.
The classic Lemmings gameplay is back, but this time in a new 3D environment with the levels all wrapped around cylinders.
Que Sera Sera
As in the original, your lemmings just walk in a straight line (or, in this case around the circumference of the cylinder) until they are blocked, at which point they turn around and walk back again.
If they reach a cliff they will walk straight off it - self-preservation isn't one of their strongpoints... And since you can't control their movements directly, the only way to prevent them all from falling to their deaths, getting stuck, drowning, or walking into some dastardly piece of lemming crushing machinery is to give some of them "skills".
These can allow individual lemmings to scale walls (climbers), fall from a great height without dying (floaters), construct stairs (builders), stop other lemmings from passing them (blockers), or dig through floors and walls (miners, diggers, and bashers). You can also blow up lemmings using the bomber skill, which is the only way of removing a blocker and can also be used to blast your way through thin obstructions.
As well as the eight skills from the original Lemmings, there are also eight new bonus skills in Lemmings Revolution. The rocket skill makes the selected lemming fly straight up into the air until he hits something, at which point he explodes. The herder is similar to a blocker, but whereas a blocker stands still the herder continues moving, pushing any lemmings he runs into along with him.
Plus Ça Change
There are also some new additions to the scenery, the most amusing of which are probably the anti-grav machines, which reverse the effect of gravity on any lemmings that stray into them, making the gormless rodents hang upside down from the ceiling.
With several of these machines on a level the game can sometimes end up looking like an MC Escher painting, with lemmings walking "up" both the upper and lower side of a flight of stairs, flipping over as they reach another anti-grav machine and merrily continuing along their way on ceilings and floors alike.
There are also weasels to avoid, teleporters to walk through, pools of water to drain or bridge, doors to open, switches to trip, and laser gates to walk through. There are new types of lemmings which can walk on water or even lava, and in some levels you will have a mix of normal and special lemmings, with the water walkers able to reach the parts your other lemmings can't.
All of these abilities and features are introduced gradually, with the "Easy" levels effectively acting as a tutorial, starting you off with just a single lemming skill type in each level, and then combining them, until by the time you have moved on to the "Medium" levels you know how they all work and have learned the basics of the game.
Son et Lumiere
There are a hundred levels in the game, and although the time limit on each level is usually just a few minutes, the later ones are so fiendishly devious that it will take you several attempts to complete many of them.
And once you have completed the basic game there is talk of a hundred more bonus levels! Make no mistake, this is one huge game that will take you weeks to complete. And the gameplay is so simple yet hard to master and strangely addictive that it should keep you coming back for more.
Graphically speaking Lemmings Revolution is hardly bursting out into new territory, but the 3D engine does its job nicely, keeping the game moving along smoothly even on a relatively low end machine with dozens of lemmings on screen at once.
The levels are well designed, and the lemmings themselves are smoothly animated and as cute as ever. The sound effects are simple but effective, with lemmings shouting "yippee!" as they reach the safety of their balloon at the end of a level, or crying out "oh no!" just before they explode into a shower of little gibs with a satisfying popping sound.
If everything goes to plan Lemmings Revolution should be on a store shelf near you some time in April.
Judging from the beta version we have been playing with this may be a little ambitious, as the beta suffers from occasional crashes, several of the levels are missing entirely, and others seem to be virtually impossible at the moment.
Still, if all the problems are solved before the game's release, Lemmings Revolution should be a welcome return for everyone's favourite mop-topped rodents after several years in the gaming wilderness.
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