A deeper dive into Psygnosis’ suicidal series
Lemmings was, of course, recently the subject of venerated retrogaming podcast “Retronauts”. I love Lemmings, me. One of my favourite things ever. Pure class. Ooh, it is so very good, it is, it is. Every year – usually in January – I get inordinately obsessed with the series, usually the original Amiga game. A puzzle game so perfectly formed that solutions can be utterly transformed by the smallest of changes to a player’s available attributes.
It’s an Amiga classic, and like many Amiga classics, nobody really talks about the sequels. Chaos Engine 2, I’m looking in your direction. While none of them are as iconic as the original, they deserve better than ignominious erasure from history. Thusly, this edition of All Together Then looks at Lemmings’ finest sequels and spin-offs. There will be no All-New World of Lemmings, Lemmings 3D or Lemmings Revolution. I hope you understand.
Oh No! More Lemmings (1991)
Something of a “mission pack”, Oh No! More Lemmings presents 100 additional rodent-saving levels, each using the same set of attributes of the original game. The graphics and music are all-new, but in service of unchanged gameplay – with the exception of a single gimmick stage featuring a single fast-moving creature, “Introducing Superlemming”. There are five new difficulty brackets, the first (“Tame”) being insultingly easy while the other four are nightmarishly challenging. It’s much, much harder than Lemmings, with both the solves often ridiculously obtuse and their execution maddeningly precise. It’s basically Lemmings: The Lost Levels.
Lemmings 2: The Tribes (1993)
Unlike Oh No, this is a full sequel, and presents a very different experience to the original Lemmings while still recognisably of its vintage. Rather than a strictly limited selection of Lemming skills, this time around there are over 40. From the classic Blocker, to the free-flying Jetpack, to the oddly specific Glue Pourer, you’ll need to ascertain their function and consider their application. This can seem overwhelming and, to an extent, it is. This is an intimidating game that demands your patience. There’s a focus on saving 100% of the Lemmings, meaning stages can be replayed from the menu in search of a more efficient solution. It doesn’t surprise me that Tribes never caught on to the extent of its much more accessible predecessor, but if you put the work in you’ll fall in love with it.
Lemmings Paintball (1996)
While it’s extremely similar in its feel and play control to stalwart Amiga titan Cannon Fodder, this paintball-themed Lemmings spin-off didn’t hit Commodore’s home computer. Lemmings Paintball hit Microsoft Windows and seems to have been met with a wall of apathy. After all, where are the polygons, eh? 2D games were met with scorn by most publications at the time, so this isometric action-puzzler failed to set the world on fire. A shame, because it’s rather enjoyable. The paintball action is imprecise but satisfying, with a right-click of the mouse snapping globules of the yellow stuff towards enemies. Movement can be finicky, especially when navigating thin walkways, but the level design is creative and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Nothing like Lemmings whatsoever, but a fun time.
The Adventures of Lomax (1996)
One of the PlayStation’s best-kept secrets, The Adventures of Lomax is a stonker of a side-scroller. It’s actually a disguised sequel to one of the Mega Drive/Mega CD’s better games, The Misadventures of Flink. The creative team of Erwin Kloibhofer and Henk Nieborg have crafted a beautiful world here, with the best sprite work I think I’ve ever seen. The gameplay is above average, fast-moving and challenging, but this really is a visual showcase above all else. The Lemmings connection is tenuous (and I suspect may have been added late in development), with extremely rudimentary use of some classic moves (Basher, Builder, etc) that feel very much tacked-on. This isn’t enough to make Lomax any less of a treat, though, and its gorgeous aesthetics will carry you its rougher moments. As a Lemming would say, “Yippee!”