I heard those two bleeps (representing “let’s go”), followed by a MIDI version of Pachelbel’s Canon, time and time again, preparing to gather my adorable little green-haired men, walking back and forth, waiting for me to give them special skills (climbing, floating, building, digging etc.) and protect them from horrifying automated deaths. And I loved it. Today, having played the game again for the first time in probably a decade, I discovered that I still adore it.
For Christmas 1995, my parents decided to splash out on a PC for me. Considering the price tag now, and that I was 5 years old at the time, I had no idea just how lucky I was. I’m not convinced Mum and Dad were fully clued up either, considering their little boy’s new computer came pre-loaded with the not especially appropriate Doom, Doom 2, Heretic and Rise of the Triad, all of which I loved, and looking back, I find it funny that they never stepped in to stop me. However, there is one game in particular that twenty-two years later, I decided to dig out, which bizarrely left me a bit more distraught with its gore – Lemmings.
Back in 1995, I loved playing Lemmings, although I hated failing. I think that because the creatures were so cute, one empathised more with them than evil monsters that I took far more pleasure in making splatter everywhere. I recall one level in particular which was very simplistic, but was a bit alarming. It had my favourite, cheeriest background music in the game, but the grisliest of deaths for the poor Lemmings if you weren’t quick enough. The mood was so jolly until the Lemmings hit the wall, and began their wander back to the spinning, and for some reason flaming blades. You can see in the video below, that the player isn’t quite accurate enough and a couple of them are lacerated into oblivion. The Lemmings come out at such a rate, that there was a succession of emotion that was inevitable whenever I played this level – “yeah, I love this song. Wait. No. No no no no no. NOOO!!”. Or something like that, anyway.
That said, I won’t lie. I did enjoy trapping all of the Lemmings in a tight space and blowing them all up (the spectacular option by which players had to leave the level). I had great fun playing through the ‘Fun’ mode today, and finishing it for the first ever time, having been stumped by a particular level years ago, that my little head just wasn’t able to handle. It looks so hilarious now considering how simple the solution was. I also only realise now the pun beside the ‘nuke’ button, as to pause the game, one must click on the paws.
That isn’t to say that I didn’t get to play the later levels. Mum managed this level on my behalf when I was little. While she has irregularly been addicted to Flow on her tablet, this is the one and only game which I have managed to get her to play, and she really liked it. In fact, I started the game on my laptop today without showing her. I told my sister, currently 12 years old, that Mum would know which video game I was playing. She didn’t believe me. I then started playing Level 1, and from across the room, she instantly recognised the music – “Are you playing Lemmings?!”. My sister couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Mum was genuinely quite excited about a game on my laptop. Stubbornly, my sister seemed very uninterested in the crude looking early 1990s graphics, as though no one should be interested, let alone Mum. I suppose that it doesn’t look nearly as fun when watching over someone’s shoulder, as it doesn’t look especially action-packed, however much it draws in the player. In fact, this was the sad reason for which Kotaku’s Yannick LeJacq credits the series’ demise.
On the subject of tablets, I’ve realised that Lemmings could not be a more perfect game for tablets, as one could poke the Lemmings to give them their skills. It saddens me that this has never come to fruition, and why should I be surprised? There has not been a Lemmings game released since 2000, although the original was converted to PSP. The fact that Sony owns the IP makes me slightly more optimistic about Lemmings having a future, but will such a monstrous corporation, in spite of the game’s acclaim, ever bother venturing into such old territory? I have my doubts.
Oh well. I still love it anyway. Long live Lemmings. So long as you don’t fall to your death, drown, explode, be crushed, sliced, incinerated…