Lemmings – The Ultimate Puzzle Game

When I was young people didn’t have PCs. They had BBC Micros, Atari STs and Amigas. The latter two along with early PCs had a little game called Lemmings. The infectious music had us hooked from the get go. I still break into song periodically with my husband proclaiming “all that is to me is part of Lemmings”. Of course that’s entirely why I’m singing it.

Those green-haired critters with no sense of individuality creating the eternal myth that Lemmings will follow mindlessly. There was not a single child in my playground who didn’t believe that to be true.

Once Again, it wasn’t Even Mine

Like Tomb Raider II I didn’t even own Lemmings. My best friend had it on her Amiga. We soon drifted once we’d hit secondary school and I wonder if we would have drifted sooner if our friendship didn’t give me Lemmings.

Lemmings screenshot
Simple yet devious
Combination Genre

The beauty of Lemmings was its combination of styles. It was absolutely a puzzle game. That is without a doubt. Yet it was also often twitch gaming. You need fast fingers and a fast mind to get anywhere past the first few levels. A recent attempt at Flockers suggests that I no longer have both trained to a suitable level.

The Learning Curve was Sneaky

Lemmings started so utterly idiot-proof that it lulled you into a false sense of security. You literally couldn’t fail the first few levels. Then you could fail but it was easy to get enough home. Then before you knew it all you heard was mass Lemming death followed by your inner tears. I was seven. I was allowed to be crushed.

How hard could it be? Click the lemming you want with the action you want and they all romp home right? Maybe not.

It was simple to calculate the best route when they only gave you what you needed. It’s once they let you off the reins a bit and gave you multiple actions. Then they gave you multiple trap doors from which your lemmings arrived that I often didn’t notice until I heard them splat. Lemmings was good at that. Making you hear the thudding splat as they plummeted to their death.

Lemmings screenshot with parachuters
Parachutes for them or giant tissues for me?
The Get Out Clause

Luckily they knew how frustrating it was. There was the magic button. Okay two magic buttons. First there was the pause button. But then there was the Kaboom button. I have no idea what it was actually called but Kaboom suits it nicely. Basically when you were stuck you could hit it and every single frustratingly stupid lemming would get a countdown timer and blow up. Satisfaction in the form of lemming fireworks. It was the only form of satisfaction I would ever get from the game.

Revisited with the Same Results

I rebought Lemmings for the PC maybe 12 years ago. I thought it was time to put it to rest. To conquer it with my advanced gaming prowess and nothing else. I started playing, reminisced, adored every second and started progressing… Then I stopped progressing.

True, I got further than I ever had done as a child with limited time till I had to go home for tea but the game remains unfinished. I was adamant my puzzle powers along with fast fingers from FPS’ would make it a breeze but it wasn’t. I could have kept going. I’m sure I would eventually have crawled my way through to completion but it wasn’t worth it. The memory was a good one. Playing up until that point had rose-tinted my glasses even more. I decided to leave it be. It remains to this day a classic puzzle game. Just not one I can conquer.

Lemmings screenshot of the square mesh and diggers
Too. Many. Options.