Lemmings for PSP Review
I've been hoping Sony would continue to produce Lemmings games since Lemmings Revolution came out six years ago. I was delighted to learn that Sony was developing a PSP version of the game. Finally, the game is on store shelves and I've had a chance to play it extensively. I'm happy to say that Sony and Team 17 have done a great job of updating Lemmings for modern technology without sacrificing the game play that made the original a classic. I've written this review from the perspective of a long-time Lemmings fan, not as a casual gamer. Therefore, I've paid special attention to some of the small things that could make or break a new version of Lemmings.
Besides Lemmings for mobile phones and a few third-party unauthorized remakes, the last Lemmings game was Lemmings Revolution released by Take 2 Games in 2000. With Lemmings for PSP, Sony has tapped Worms developer Team 17 Software. The graphics and sound have been reworked to showcase the PSP's bright colorful screen and advanced sound capabilities. The game features 156 levels. 120 of those are identical in layout and game play to the 120 levels found in the original Lemmings. The remaining 36 levels are new for PSP Lemmings. A level editor and good online capabilities add a lot of value and re-playability to the game.
During regular gameplay, the PSP's D-pad is used to move the cursor while the analog stick moves the camera. This choice is somewhat strange in that the analog stick more closely mimics a mouse. However, in actual play one realizes that the D-pad allows for precise control of the cursor, something that is often needed in the more difficult levels. Switching between skills is done using the left and right shoulder buttons. This works well most of the time, although sometimes pausing the game is necessary to select a skill in time. Overall, the games controls are well done considering the limitations of the PSP, but I'd rather play with a keyboard and mouse given the choice.
The graphics here are very nicely done. It's clear that Team 17 and Sony spent a lot of time creating them. The same basic elements as were present in the original Lemmings are present here. Where the original game featured pixelated graphics with a limited color palette, the PSP version sports beautifully detailed, fluid graphics with a sense of depth to them. The game itself is played in 2D like the original, but the graphics have several layers to them. One disappointment is that, while the original Lemmings special levels -- those based on other Psygnosis games -- are present, the graphics and sound are no longer unique to those levels. I wish Team 17 had gone the extra mile and included custom graphics just for those levels.
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The sound is very well done. The familiar Lemmings voices are here, including shouts of "Oh No!", "Let's Go!" along with new phrases like "Geronimo!" for falling Lemmings, and "Why Me?" said just before a bomber explodes. The new phrases are humorous, and maintain the personality that Lemmings has always had. Sound effects are extensive and detailed, with "clunk" sounds for lemmings hitting the ground to the sound of lemmings drowning in water and burning in lava. The music is new, but thankfully, many of the songs are reworks of those found in the original Lemmings. However, there is something about the music that's just not as catchy as the original game.
Perhaps the best news for Lemmings fans is that the PSP version of Lemmings includes a sophisticated level editor, and the ability to share user-created levels online. Also available online are "ladders" which show the top performances on each level by users around the country. Finally, Sony has included a Game Sharing feature which allows one to transfer three levels at a time to another user who doesn't have their own copy of Lemmings. Unfortunately, there is no true multiplayer option like that found in the Amiga and some console versions of original Lemmings.
The included level editor is my favorite feature of the new game. When you create a new level, you are given a choice between 5 different styles: Crystal, Earth, Roman, Egypt or Hell. This determines the background art for the level. The number of each skill available, time on the clock and release rate are all adjustable from a setting dialog. Pressing the select button brings up a huge palette containing hundreds of different objects which can be added to the screen. These include walls, blocks, traps, skulls, hanging vines, one-way pillars and every other basic element needed for constructing levels of any complexity. Also included are tools to make the design of very sophisticated levels possible. Examples include ruler guides showing the exact height from which a Lemming can fall before it dies, and the exact width of a digger's path. Pressing start allows you to immediately test your level at any stage of completion. Subsequent tests replay your previous actions so you don't have to repeat them every time you want to test a level. That's a nice touch.
After you have created one or more levels, you can upload your level pack for other players around the country to download. The download section allows you to search for levels based on filename, upload date, user ID of the creator, etc. Users can also give ratings from 1 to 5 stars, helping to separate the inevitable throwaway levels from the truly good ones. The addition of the level editor and online features make PSP Lemmings a game that will stay interesting long after you've completely mastered the included levels.
All in all, Sony and Team 17 have done an excellent job of creating a portable version of Lemmings for a modern system. Long time Lemmings fans will be happy that the original charm and addictive gameplay of Lemmings are intact. New and old Lemmings fans alike will appreciate the beautiful graphics, polished sound and extra features found here. Sony has announced a version of Lemmings for the PS2, and with any luck we'll be seeing a lot more Lemmings in the future.