Wednesday, February 18, 2009


My dive into the World of Friendly Computing is taking longer than I'd like! I've had a few set-backs: work being insanely busy, almost getting crushed to death on Sunday (DAMN YOU IKEA FURNITURE!) and while my Commodore 64 works like a dream- the Indus GT floppy drive is having issues (like they are prone to do.) Instead of throwing together a half-ass review- I'm going to wait a bit longer to gather a few more games and fiddle with the drive. Have no fear- there will be awesome C64 action soon!

In the meantime- my Mum has written an AWESOME piece on Lemmings for DOS. She was hardcore addicted to that game, as well as some other DOS titles, and wrote a hilarious bit all about it.

Lemmings (1991) Psygnosis

Lemmings. They’re short and cute-if you’re into sweaters, wacky hair, and big noses. They have an “all for one and one for all” kind of attitude. They are on a mission to get from Point A to Point B.

…and they are addictive.

Not in that crack-can-rot-out-your-teeth kind of way, but in the my-kids-haven’t-eaten-in-two-days-and-I-have-scotch-tape-holding-my-eyelids-open-but-I-know-I-can-finish-this-level kind of way. Which might be the same thing, come to think of it…

My name is Wendy and I am a Lemmings addict. I started playing Lemmings as a stay-at-home mom. At first it was just an occasional game: in the evening after dinner was done, dishes were washed, and children were read to and tucked in. As I progressed in the game, I started staying up later, achieving an almost euphoria as I finished each mission. It was exciting and fun. I knew I could stop any time I wanted to. I was in control.

But then the missions got harder. Many times I had to replay the missions several times in order to move on, suffering many Lemming casualties. Each mission took longer to complete. I started sneaking on the computer during the day, saying I would just play for a few minutes, just one mission. But as I progressed, the missions got harder and harder to complete, until I was at the computer for hours, not eating, not sleeping, (great diet plan, by the way) not cleaning, not cooking. My husband would come home after a hard day at work, and I would be at the computer, glassy-eyed, hitting the keys, celebrating when they made it through, cursing when they didn’t, still wearing pajamas and a sweater with my hair all wacky (my nose stayed the same size, however).

At the third level, Taxing, I knew I had a problem, but I just couldn’t give up. Those lemmings were counting on me to help them move across the tundra, crawl up the brick walls, build stairways to heaven, float back down with umbrellas and proudly march into the little pyramid at the end of their journey.

But everything had to be timed just right. They had to start building their stairways at just the right point, and a lemming would have to block the way so that the rest wouldn’t walk off the cliff. Is it too far down for them to jump and land safely? And the carnage! Oh those brave lemmings that gave their lives so that their fellow lemmings could make it to the end of the journey to move onward to a better place.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I needed help. So I stood up from the computer, took a deep breath, and then went to another computer to get cheat codes from the Internet.

But that was short lived. Back then, the idea of a cheat consisted of “when a lemming is building a bridge, count how many tiles he has laid down, then when he looks both ways he will stop. Be sure to have him start building another bridge before he is through looking both ways or he will fall to his doom.” Well, duh, I figured that one out on my own, what else do you have? Frustration started building up, it took longer and longer to complete the missions, and I finally had to do some laundry. After that, it was dinner, bathing kids, brushing teeth, tucking in. I finally crawled into bed, exhausted and spent, falling asleep immediately.

I never made it past the first couple of missions in the last levels-Mayhem. Your timing had to be so exact and you had to be so fast with the keys that it was more frustrating than fun. At that point I put it away and started drinking again.

Just kidding.

This game really was a lot of fun to play. At the beginning of each mission you are given a certain number of lemmings to start with and you are told the minimum number that must make it all the way to the end. For each mission you are also given tasks that the lemmings can perform (digging, stair making, umbrella holders, etc.) but the number of times you can perform these tasks is limited. After awhile you get the hang of how far they can fall without dying (they “pop”!) and how to manipulate the tasks to get the most lemmings to the end of the mission. You can stop a lemming from moving, making him a “blocker”, so that the other lemmings will turn around when they get to him. This is handy at the edge of a cliff; however, he can never be changed back to a moving lemming and, in the end, you must blow him up.

If the whole mission is going sour, you know nobody’s going to make it, and you want to cut to the chase, you can blow everyone up and start again. Like I said, lots of lemming carnage.

Each mission gets a little more challenging, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to get your little guys to the end. The music is goofy; sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s gloomy, sometimes it’s eerie, depending on the background and the tasks you must complete to make it all the way through.

As the game progresses and gets more difficult, it also gets more frustrating. Timing is everything, and positioning the lemmings at the best point as they start their tasks and hitting the keys at the right time and at the right speed gets more and more important as you get further along. Of course, you want a game to get more challenging, but it cannot lose the element of why you started playing it in the first place (to have fun) or you will stop playing it.

Quite frankly, that is what happened in my case. With the limitations of using a computer keyboard to manipulate the lemmings, I got frustrated and stopped playing. Time marches on, old computers are replaced with new systems, and the disk gets put in a box in the closet.

I think that an updated version of Lemmings could be played quite well on a gaming system; this would certainly take care of the problems with using a keyboard. The only real problem that I could see is that you definitely need a full-size screen to play the game. You need to see the whole playing field in order to plan what you are going to do and where you will place your lemmings that must perform a task. By using the buttons on the controller, you would have much more control and your timing would be much improved over using a keyboard. Throw some goofy music in there and you’ve got yourself a new game for a whole new generation. I work full-time now, but my kids are grown, and I think I could just play a couple of missions in the evening…


  1. That was a great read showing a different side to the same disease we have all known at one time or another, OneMoreLevelitis. Although my bouts with this debilitating illness are often attributed with RPGs, I can easily see how Lemmings could be a root cause.

    As for me...that game was just too damn hard!

  2. "Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew I needed help. So I stood up from the computer, took a deep breath, and then went to another computer to get cheat codes from the Internet."

    poignantly phrased wendy, we have all been there.

    that was a truly entertaining read! a puzzle game like lemmings would probably be a big hit on the live arcade... i am surprised someone hasn't kicked something out yet.

    p.s. moms rule! have a great day!

  3. I've played hundreds of games in my 30 years but I've never touched a lemmings game. :(

    It looks unique and fun.

  4. Great Lemmings story! I probably haven't played it in 10 years, but that last level I got stuck on has remained burnt into my mind all that time. Once of these days...

  5. Orioto just did a nice Lemmings fan-piece today, and I agree with mutigen, moms rule.


  6. Congrats, your apperance on Retronauts was just great. Great voice. I almost fell in love with that sexy voice talking about the Gameboy. :-)
    It was so funny.
    I hope you 'll join Retronauts soon again.

    Just discovered Dusty Pixels also great, I am impressed!

    Regards from Germany,

  7. just saw you on Co-Op reviewing my fave game of all time Super Metroid :) nice place you got here check mine out if you ever get the chance