When the Lemmings were given their marching orders back in 1991, nobody could have guessed that one of the hidden levels in the game included a plan for world domination. The original shifted units like an alcoholic at a beer festival, appearing across every computer format in a manner that made you wonder how dumb these green-haired individuals really were.
Oh No! More Lemmings appeared, but seemed to be more of a limited engagement than all-out was and just when you thought it was safe to return to the Dover cliffs to that really nice picnic spot you knew, 12 tribes of new Lemmings are now going to be invading your eating space again. The programmers, DMA Design, must have had a pretty sweaty few years thinking of how they were going to match, let alone top the original, but Amiga Action is pleased to report they've done it.
Even the Lemmings now feel they have to have story to tell, and the background to Lemmings 2 involves some terrible new disaster that has befallen the species, meaning that you again have to save the day. This basically involves manoeuvring 12 tribes sixty of the little beggars across treacherous terrain, although you'd have thought a sense of direction might have provided more of a long-term solution.
Each tribe has to collect a bit of a gold talisman, which when restored will alow the species to survive and prosper. For those who haven't played Lemmings before, you achieve this by guiding all of the lemmings across pot-holes, up walls, over chasms and the like. The puzzle element stems from the things you have to get the lemmings to do to cross or surmount the obstacles.
There are various skills that can be assigned to an individual lemming. For instance, there's a bridge-builder, most useful for crossing holes, a digger, very handy for tunnelling under obstacles, and a whole range of other skills, some useful and most, bizarre. The one characteristic of the lemmings that makes all this easy-sounding stuff turn into a monstrously challenging game has remained. Once they start walking, they will keep walking until they fall into something and die, or hit a wall, and turn around - and keep walking.
Your skill is therefore to think very quickly what skills you are going to use, when and how before you have a mass extinction on your hands. Luckily, most of our readers will be well familiar with the Lemmings gameplay, and will want to know what's new. DMA have piled on the features, without mucking up the underlying simpleness of the game.
There are now 50 skills to choose from (although never more than ten in a level), and these skills range from most of the ones you'll be familiar with from the first game, to some rather more exotic ones, including a Super-Lemming, a laser lemming, a twister lemming (like the Tasmanian devil in the Warner cartoons) and others. Ones which didn't make it include a Caber-tosser and a surfer!
You now confront some 12 sections (these range from Egyptian, to Space, to Outdoors, and even to a Circus), each divided into ten levels, so you can be guaranteed a long time getting to grips with this. There's also the addition of a fan which can be used to blow flying lemmings around. To make a lemming fly, you can select a balloon, a jetpack, or a pair of wings from the skill list, and then activate the fan (moved via cursor) to make them move where you want.
The fan really comes into its own when the twister skill has been activated. When the lemmings starts twisting, it becomes an animal drill bit, and by blowing it with the fan, you can make it tunnel into all sorts of things. There are some levels where this is a particularly useful skill to utilise, one of them being the first Circus level.
DMA haven't stopped there though. One of the most useful skills in the first lemming game was the one where you could make a lemming act like a traffic cop, and stop all the other lemmings from wandering all over the place. This feature is retained in Lemmings 2, but in a different way. Now you can make an individual start to play a musical instrument, and any lemmings near him will start to get down and boogie in an alarmingly unfashionable manner, so stopping their wanderings. There are implements dotted around like cannons which the lemmings will use without being told to, although it is up to you to make sure the cannons fire the lemming in the right direction.
The general concept has been improved in other minor ways too. There are some 3500 frames of animation which gives the lemmings their unique character, and when you consider how small the lemmings sprites are, it is a major achievement that character can be got across in such a small pixel grid. Other touches include red haired lemmings staggering drunkenly into telephone boxes on the Highland level, a feature which we are assured has nothing to do with the unsavoury personal habits of one of the DMA development team.
You now start each level with the number of lemmings remaining from the previous level, and when it is considered that the game's got to be finished with 95% of the lemmings still intact to win, you can see what a major challenge this is going to pose. There's also a fast forward feature to minimise the time spent waiting for the lemmings to get over all the obstacles, and a fast reset, so that if you muck up, you can restart the level again in an instant.
DMA are confident they've got a world-beater on their hands with Lemmings 2, and I'd be inclined to agree with them. Their plans for lemming domination aren't stopping with this release either, so expect to see a lot of lemming-related merchandising in the next few years. And if you happen to see a lemming wandering lost down your local Safeways, press the nuke switch. It still works.
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