The problem with retro-conversions is that, in the nostalgic mind of the gamer, time transforms even the most average of titles into a golden classic. So imagine if the game to be converted is a solid gold classic in the first place, a title who’s name alone is enough to draw a dewy eye, well how can you possibly win? The answer is this mobile version of Lemmings.
Tailored for the mobile format, it makes cuts and tweaks in all the right places to ensure that old school fans and Lemmings virgins will be similarly delighted.
For the latter, a quick recap. The essence of the game is simple, you are a godlike figure who must empower your followers with specific skills in order to help them negotiate a series of increasingly deadly environments. The upside is that there’s quite a diversity of skills on offer, varying from the mundane digging, climbing and building bridges to the more exotic floating, smashing and erm…exploding. The downside is that you only have a limited number of each skill to endow and your eponymous disciples are lolloping rodents who joyfully trail after one another regardless of the spinning blades, toxic pools and sheer cliff-faces in their path.
So ensues a rich mix of initial strategic planning (put a blocker here, build a bridge there) followed by a rather more frantic execution in which you put your stratagems into action and, more often than not, witness the one small but fatal flaw in your plan lead to another mass suicide.
The difficulty level is well-balanced with early essentially tuition levels giving way to ever more challenging obstacles and corresponding reduced time limits and skills. The control system has been equally well implemented with a handy lock button enabling you to select a lemming and track him in advance of allocating a skill. Naturally, even the most sensitive of phone joysticks is no match for a mouse, but if anything this adds to the frantic nature of the challenge rather than detracting from the game.
However unarguably, the real genius of the game is to be found in both the open-ended design allowing you to experiment in your approach to most levels and the characterisation of the lemmings themselves. Graphically it’s virtually identical to it’s forbear (only smaller obviously), cramming more character into a couple of pixels for it’s hapless heroes than many home console titles can manage with a full textured 3D model. Even the most saintly among us must admit to taking a guilty pleasure from triggering the Armageddon option when a level has either been fluffed (or achieved) with lemmings to spare, starting a countdown from 5 after which the rodents literally pop their clogs (and everything else)!
Disappointingly, the immortal cries of the lemmings (‘let’s go!’ when the level opens and ‘oh no!’ when facing imminent death) are absent although the familiar jaunty music tracks remain. The only other real criticism to offer is, as with the original, there’s only 30 levels to play through and no new ones - yet, we’d expect that to be accounted for in the inevitable conversions of the sequels soon!
Otherwise, this is a perfect conversion of one of the most imaginative puzzlers ever produced and an absolute essential for any self-respecting mobile games collection.