|Yes, I know this isn't a photo of me with the game, as per previous|
blog entries, but this is because I am writing this blog at midnight
and you don't want to see what I look like at midnight, trust me!
Lemmings 2: The Tribes
Released on: PC, Amiga, Archimedes, Atari ST (Yes, seriously, remember that? Hands up who owned one of those!), Megadrive, SNES, Game Boy.
Played on: SNES
Release date: 1993
It upsets me that there may well be an entire generation of gamers who are unaware of the wonderful puzzle-platformer franchise that is Lemmings. Having owned some copies of the games on PC as a child, they were amongst my favourite franchise, firstly due to the nature of the game (a well designed puzzle-platformer can be like crack to me. Addictive, compelling, expensive and leave me reduced to a gibbering wreck. (NOTE - The writer of this blog would like to make it clear that he has never tried crack, and is simply referring to the common stereotypical effects of it. If he is wrong then blame society for it's perpetual misconception.)) and secondly due to the way that fun and enjoyment oozed from every pore. (Yes, I know that games don't have pores, I was speaking metaphorically. Yes, that's right, metaphorical ooze. But anyway, moving on...)
For those of you who belong to that lost generation, let me just explain the basics of a lemmings game. You are a God-like being, who has direct control over a group of lemmings who fall out of a trapdoor and walk in one direction until they hit something, and then they turn around and walk in the other direction. They fall down holes and off cliffs. They walk into water and drown. The only thing stopping them all dying is you, as your job is to guide them to the exit - a door-type structure that leads them... well usually to another level filled with possible death. But hey, it's all good fun.
Many would argue (myself included) that Lemmings 2: The Tribes represents the peak of a franchise, which then entered a sharp decline with the hideous not-to-ever-be-discussed Lemmings 3D, and never really recovered all that well.
But this is not a blog to reflect on past glories, this is a blog to see how well this game, played on this console, stands up nowadays. And the question is, how does it?
Pretty well. Mostly.
The problem is that this feels like a real mis-match of game and platform, and consequentially my opinions are split into two halves. The game itself is still as well-designed, addictive and fun as it always was, but it's not remotely suited to being played on a console.
The problem is the control system. If you played the game on a PC (or an Amiga, or an Atari ST) the mouse controls and keyboard shortcuts lead to a fast and intuitive interface, whereas with just a D-Pad and buttons, you are left with a cursor that moves about as quickly as a sloth swimming in glue with weights on each limb, surrounded by 20ft high brick walls.
Yes, there are tricks that have been used to help the situation, most notably that the lemmings all pause whenever you are scrolling the screen to view a different part of the level, but the awkward and unresponsive nature of the controls often means that the split-second timing so crucial to saving as many lemmings as possible can be ruined.
But this review isn't just about the negatives. This review is about the game. And I'd forgotten quite how well designed this game is. It took many of my personal criticisms of the original game and solved them. Getting frustrated with a level you can't complete? Simply switch over to one of the other 11 tribes and work on their levels for a bit. Want to see lemmings utilising a far greater ranger of skills? This game provides that. In fact, the longevity in this game (as I remember) far outlasts the original, and isn't that what we're always looking for in a sequel? In fact, in the hour I played, I only got through about 6 or 7 levels, a couple for each of the three tribes I played.
It's a shame then, that although the game is so good, the conversion I am playing is so... ill-thought out. It's a game that doesn't really work with a D-Pad - it's a mouse or nothing as far as I'm concerned, and therefore, I have to register my disappointment with this game. And, in the pettiest complaint I have had so far in this series of blogs, it is sad that this version of the game could not include the little speech effects that were prevalent in the PC version.
Time played: 1 Hour
Would I play it again?: The game, yes. On this console? Unlikely. If I was going to play it again I'd either have to locate my old install disks for the PC version (On 3.5" floppy disks - and then I'd have to find a drive that was able to read the archaic format!) or look around online as I believe it is now classed as abandonware.
Next time - It's one of the most classic retro games in the N64's arsenal - It's Goldeneye....