Review posted July 2007 by Jacob Spindel
Lemmings are small, arctic rodents that are famous primarily because they have a tendency to commit mass suicide. (Well, actually, they don't.) Ever since this "tendency" was first turned into a video game in 1991, Lemmings have been a leader among puzzle games. With a little help from Team17, the Lemmings have now marched their way onto the PSP, and the latest edition of the puzzling standard proves that some things never change.
The virtual lemmings march mindlessly through dozens of 2D levels, each of which is filled with a series of obstacles and traps (perhaps placed there by some deranged person with WAY too much time on his hands). Each level has specifies how many lemmings, total, will march through the level, as well as the minimum number of lemmings you must rescue to complete the level. To enable you to guide as many lemmings as possible to the goal/exit, each level provides you with different amounts of abilities and tools you can provide at any time during the level to whichever lemmings you choose, such as digging, climbing, building bridges, and blocking other lemmings from passing. You can apply the abilities to a lemming simply by placing the cursor over him and clicking.
Without any mouse or touchscreen, the PSP is obviously at a disadvantage in terms of recreating this type of gameplay. The controls are nonetheless responsive, making it relatively easy to choose tools and click on lemmings, but you can't reconfigure them, which is disappointing since the programmers' choice of using the analog stick to control the camera, while the D-pad controls the cursor, seems a bit backward.
Whereas some recent attempts to create a modernized version of lemmings have gone too far, changing too much and losing the appeal of the original game, Lemmings for PSP goes a bit too far in the other direction, changing... nothing. Of the five sets of levels included with the game, four of them are directly copied from the 1991 original. The fifth set does feature new levels, but about half of them are laughably easy. The game doesn’t even include the levels from the original game’s sequel, “Oh No! More Lemmings!” The abilities and tools are also identical to those of the original game—it would’ve been nice if the lemmings could’ve picked up some new skills in the past 16 years. If the lemmings could perform new tricks like, say, flying, swimming, or at least changing direction on command, this would’ve opened up possibilities for more advanced and original levels. It would also have made the game feel a bit more “modern” if finishing a set of levels unlocked some new feature or bonus, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
The loading delays are pleasantly short and only happen before the level begins, which is nice, but not especially surprising, considering this is essentially the same game that used to fit on a 16-megabit cartridge.
One truly meaningful change to the game is that a level editor is now included so that you can create new levels and share them with others over the Internet. Multiplayer gaming over ad-hoc WiFi is also available. The ability to create and share levels is a great idea, but since the game itself includes so few new levels, it almost makes Lemmings seem like it should be labeled “Fun Not Included.”
The PSP version of Lemmings adds some graphical flourishes, such as the way new levels zoom into view, enhanced backgrounds, and the trophy animations at the end of each set of levels, but the graphics during actual gameplay are also largely unchanged from the original 1991 game. The graphics are still good enough that they are pleasant to look at, but there aren’t many eye-popping “Wow!” moments, unlike many other PSP games.
Lemmings has traditionally used enhanced versions of traditional songs like “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain” for its soundtrack, and Lemmings for PSP continues this tradition. The music is well done and fun to listen to, although the tunes are not as catchy as some previous games, and the total number of songs included seems a bit small.
The sound effects also work well. The so-cute-it’s-annoying/so-annoying-it’s-cute lemming voices are even cuter and more annoying this time around, with the lemmings able to say more phrases and also speaking more clearly than most previous Lemmings games. Their voices even have slight pitch variations so not every lemming sounds identical. Although I must admit that it makes me smile when a successfully rescued lemming exclaims “Thank you,” I still have to wonder: If the lemmings speak English, why can’t you just yell, “Hey! Don’t jump off that cliff!”?
Whether Lemmings for PSP is worth purchasing depends primarily on whether or not you have already played through the original game. If you have never played Lemmings before, then the game’s puzzles still achieve the same charm they had in 1991, and you will probably find them to be addictive and fun. If you have already played through the original Lemmings game, however, the new PSP edition does not have enough original extras to make it worth playing again.