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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Lemmings

Lemmings

1990 Amiga computer game developed by DMA Design and published by Psygnosis, was one of the most popular computer games of its time. Several games magazines of the time awarded the game maximum review scores.

Psygnosis, traditionally known for producing games with good graphics but with poor gameplay, had its greatest success in Lemmings. The game was unique and based around concepts previously untried. The player had to guide a group of up to 100 lemmings home by telling individual lemmings to climb, explode, build, block, dig, bash, and mine. (The "lemmings" of the game — small, green-haired beings that mindlessly walk en masse into any danger in their path — are not the same as real-life lemmings, although they were named for the popular myth that real lemmings behave in a similar fashion.)

Of the numerous sequels the only one to achieve the success of the first was Lemmings 2: The Tribes, which added twelve specialist tribes of lemmings, each with their own type of level and specialist workers.

Despite its innovations and popularity at the time, the game did not give rise to a new genre.

Gameplay
The gameplay in Lemmings was radically new for its time. Rather than controlling the actions of the tribe of lemmings, the player must choose from a list of preset options. True to Newton's laws, lemmings continue to do whatever they are doing until something begins to act on them. That is, a walker will continue to walk until he is assigned an order (or dies).

The main difficulty in surmounting the puzzles of Lemmings is not solving the puzzles, but more in executing them in an efficient way. Some levels are easy to see and plan but when actually attempted become more formidable than first expected.

There are 8 orders to give to lemmings:

Climber: For the remainder of the level, the lemming will climb up walls it encounters.
Floater: For the remainder of the level, the lemming will parachute down falls (without splatting).
Bomber: After five seconds, the lemming will explode and carve a small chunk from the surrounding terrain.
Blocker: For the remainder of the level, the lemming will hold his position and act as a wall.
Builder: The lemming will build a 12-step-long bridge upwards and sideways.
Basher: The lemming will dig horizontally through the wall he is touching.
Miner: The lemming will dig diagonally down through the floor he is on.
Digger: The lemming will dig directly down through the floor he is on.
There is also a further "genocide" order which allows the player to rapidly set all the lemmings to "bomber". This order can be used to restart the level if the player realises failure is imminent, or to bring the level quickly to a close if enough lemmings have already been saved.

A lemming who has been set as both a "climber" and a "floater" is referred to as an Athlete.

Lemmings are very delicate creatures and will die when any of the following occur:

Fall down from too great a height.
Fall off the map.
Walk into water, lava, or goo.
Step into a trap, such as a spring-loaded trap, compressor, etc.
Ordered to explode.
Each level has a certain quota to be achieved in terms of lemming percentage. If the player can save the required number of lemmings, he wins and moves on to the next level.

The original Amiga Lemmings also had 20 two-player levels. This took advantage of the Amiga's ability to handle two mice simultaneously. Each player would be presented with their own view of the map (vertical split screen), could only control their own lemmings (green or blue), and had their own base. The goal was to save more lemmings (colour irrelevant) than the other player. Gameplay would cycle through the 20 levels until neither player got any lemmings home.


Ports
The popularity of the game on the Amiga led to its rapid porting to other platforms, and is considered to be the most widely-ported video game of all time. Known ports include: 3DO, Acorn Archimedes, Amstrad CPC, Arcade (prototype only), Atari Lynx, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga CD32, Commodore CDTV, DOS, Macintosh, Nintendo Famicom (NES), Nintendo Game Boy, TI-83 plus, Nintendo Game Boy Color, Nintendo Super Famicom (SNES), OS/2, Palm, Philips CD-I, SAM Coupé, Sega Game Gear, Sega Master System, Sega Megadrive (Genesis), Sinclair Spectrum, Sony PlayStation, and Windows.


NES (1992) Atari Lynx (1992) SMS (1992) Game Boy (1994)


Two-player levels were ported only to some of the other systems, including the Super NES, the Sega Genesis and the Atari ST.


Sequels
Xmas Lemmings (1991) - Holiday Lemmings in North America, expansion
Oh No! More Lemmings (1991) - expansion
Lemmings 2: The Tribes (1993)
All New World of Lemmings (1994) - The Lemmings Chronicles in North America, a.k.a. Lemmings 3
3D Lemmings (1995)
Lemmings Paintball (1996)
The Adventures of Lomax (1996)
Lemmings Revolution (2000)

Allusions
In the original Lemmings title, each difficulty level (Fun, Tricky, Taxing, and Mayhem) had one level with its own unique graphics and music. Each of these levels borrowed the graphics and music from another Psygnosis title. The levels are:

Fun: "A Beast of a Level" used the graphics from Shadow of the Beast.
Tricky: "MENACING!!!" used the graphics from Menace.
Taxing: "What an AWESOME Level" was based on Awesome.
Mayhem: "A Beast II of a Level" was taken from Shadow of the Beast 2.
The unique levels were removed from later versions (Lemmings for Windows, Lemmings for Game Boy Color, and the Lemmings which came with Lemmings Paintball).

In the expansion/sequel Oh No! More Lemmings, many of the level titles were allusions to pop culture.


Similar games
Pingus is an open-source game inspired by Lemmings.
Mormels is a freeware game inspired by Lemmings.
Pikmin is a Nintendo game some people claim to be similar to Lemmings.

External links
Lemmings Universe (http://lemmings.dreamhosters.com/) - Lemmings Info and Discussion
Garjen Lemmings Website (http://www.garjen.co.uk/Lemmings.php)
Lemmings on the web (http://193.151.73.87/games/lemmings/)

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