Welcome to a special Christmas edition of Super Adventures, where I'm playing a special Christmas edition of a game you've probably heard of. I figured that I should put the effort in to find something interesting to look at this year, something with a bit of festive charm to it... but mobygames and a team of experts couldn't come up with anything suitable that begins with the letter 'X', so you're getting this instead.
There's actually a few Xmas Lemmings and Christmas Lemmings games around, with the first two being 4 level demos made to promote Oh No! More Lemmings, and the last two being proper retail releases with 16 levels each. But I'm only playing the earliest of them, which I found on an Amiga Format coverdisk (Issue 30, on sale Christmas 1991 if you're curious).
Oh, plus I should mention that I have played Lemmings plenty of times before and I'm very familiar with it. I'm crap at it mind you, but I know what the buttons do.
I like how they've put a map up there at the top to give me a preview of the level, but it's a little too small to really be much use to me. I mean I can't even tell which bit's the entrance and which is the exit. There's little house shaped things all over it.
I guess I'm starting from that gift floating over on the left under all the Christmas lights, so to reach the delicious oven baked exit I'll have to cut through two snowmen and a diagonal rock wall, and then bridge a moderately sized chasm. Well I mean it won't be me doing it, I'm just here to enable the rodents.
But who am I? A guardian angel? The god of lemmings?
Right, I've got 25 lemmings to save this on this stage and five minutes to do it in, with a 'Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer' remix playing the whole time. Seems easy enough as long as I can actually hit the lemmings I'm aiming at. That first dude just walked right under my cursor without being turned into a basher!
Oh damn I just noticed how terrible the skill bar looks. That's my bad, the developers must have used a higher resolution on that slice of the screen and it got mangled when I resized the animation. Here, this is what it's supposed to look like:
Oh, plus there's the 'bomb' button, which turns a hapless innocent lemming into a suicide bomber with a five second fuse. You know, for the good of the herd.
Man, that happy bouncing snowman down there sure raises questions about the one I just carved a tunnel through. Am I complicit in the murder of a sleeping sapient snowperson, or was he already dead before I got here?
Lemmings don't actually throw themselves off cliffs in real life by the way, unless they're being launched off by unscrupulous documentary filmmakers. I'm sure you already know that the suicidal lemming urban legend is all kinds of fake, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
Of course watching lemmings getting killed off in dumb ways is kinda half the point. I mean the animation test that first inspired the game was a lemmings slaughter:
|The original Lemmings inspiration animation!|
Alright, onto the next crisis.
In retrospect I probably should've used a few blockers here for crowd control, sacrifice some a few lemmings to save the many, but I've never been any good at blocking in games.
Shit, I was distracted and missed my chance to order him to keep building, so he threw his hands up and stepped off the bridge. Wait, this is actually what I want him to do! All I need is a small bridge right at the end to get over that gap and then I can bash through the support and get through to the exit from the other side!
The others are too grouped together right now, so if I try to bring another lemming out I'll likely end up with a dozen coming this way. Plus I'll have to blow this guy up and then sacrifice another one to block the crowd. Fuck it, this has gotten too messy, I'm going to clear the slate and start again from scratch.
That's some nice 2D terrain destruction there, reminds me of one of those classic tank artillery games... or Worms games, as they're called these days.
SEVERAL EMBARRASSING MISTAKES LATER.
Well that's a win! Shame I really screwed up the timing on those last two, though in my defence the first of them actually did make it through the door! Seriously, look closely, he leaps inside and then fall back out again so that he can explode.
Though despite the visuals, the game's playing a catchy cover of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer again. That's three levels in a row. On a four level demo.
Fuck! I just realised that I'll eventually need to blow that blocker up to set them free so they can walk to the exit. The explosion's going to blast open a hole in the floor, then all the lemmings will drop through it and I won't have the bashers left to get them back out! Man this game could really use a rewind option... oh well, I'll nuke the lot of 'em and start again.
SEVERAL ATTEMPTS LATER.
Wait wait, he managed to step up onto the barrel after coming back from the blocker. He's actually made it past!
Well I could always retry that from the start and try to begin building that bridge a pixel or so to the left this time, it's only 3 minutes of gameplay to reply, but those are some long minutes and I'm all out of willpower. Besides, this wouldn't be a quick look if I ended up finishing the damn thing!
I don't generally gravitate towards puzzle games, so when I say that I didn't enjoy Xmas Lemmings '91 all that much, please understand that it's not the game's fault, it's just how I am. Well okay, maybe it's a little bit the game's fault.
It's been deliberately designed so that you can move around the level while it's paused, but it freezes the world and you can't interact with anything, so the game's about reflexes as much as it is about working through a problem. That doesn't sound like much of an issue, but after the fifth or sixth time replaying the entire level all over again because I clicked a lemming a little too early or a little too late and ended up dropping them in a hole, I began to lean towards the opinion that it doesn't benefit from being so frantic. You do get a lot of lemmings to play with on a level, but the game encourages you to trap the main group and use a lone scout to get things done, and once the lemmings are all gathered up together like that it can be bloody difficult to get a replacement agent out of the pen without releasing all of them.
Also there's a lot of educated guesswork involved in using some of the more diagonal skills, like when you have to visualise in your head the line a bridge will take or the path a miner will cut. It would've been cool to have some kind of indicator appear over the level to show where you'll end up. Because the alternative to certainty is guesswork, trial and error, and that isn't all that fun after the first few of minutes of a level have been replayed enough times to become a tedious routine.
But hey, it's a few more levels of Lemmings, and even I don't personally love that game as much as some do, I can't deny that it deserves to be considered a genuine classic.