One of the most beloved puzzlers of the PSOne era, Lemmings has now been reborn as Lemmings Touch, a touch-screen friendly iteration of the game newly inspired by aspects of contemporary mobile gaming. It’s a new beginning for the dormant franchise which, while encapsulating the charm and challenge of the original, is also mildly hamstrung by occasionally frustrating and clumsy controls. With the titular rodents marching listlessly in one direction, Lemmings puzzle-solving conundrums have always been about knowing which job to assign to which Lemming and where in order to ensure they all reach the end of the level safe and sound.
Lemmings Touch is certainly no different in this regard and from the outset, developer d3t has supplied a set of tutorial levels which do a decent job of familiarising the player with all the various Lemming functions. And what functions the Lemmings have. The little green-haired suicide artists are able to dig a diagonal path through anything, act as a barrier to change the direction of the march, build staircases, climb any obstacle, use an umbrella to float down to safety and much more besides. With such a varied skill-set at the player’s disposal, each level has been designed in such a way that it either requires a subset of these skills to be employed or all of them in tandem. Pleasingly, there is often more than one way to complete each level, since the varied number of Lemmings and their jobs provided often allow for multiple paths to the exit.
Where this touchscreen edition of the game differs from its 32-bit ancestor, however, is in the inclusion of obstacles such as platforms and blocks which sometimes appear in a given level. Here, players have to concern themselves with not only the self-murderous activities of the Lemmings themselves, but also the manipulation of these obstacles to create bridges and so forth to ensure their survival. Elsewhere, an additional wrinkle to the classic Lemmings formula emerges in the form of the red-haired, doppelganger Lemmings. These cheeky scarlet coloured fiends act just like their regular brethren with one major difference: if just one of them reaches the exit, the jig is up and the level has to be restarted. Their presence effectively turns the whole core of Lemmings on its head; though the game typically educates you to preserve life, here you are required to extinguish it instead. It’s a welcome addition to the proceedings for sure, and, when combined with the traditional Lemmings formula, helps to make Lemmings Touch feel fresher than it otherwise would have.
Ultimately, success in Lemmings Touch all comes down to how many of the little critters you can get to the exit and how quickly you’re able to do it. Depending on your performance against the two aforementioned metrics, you’ll be granted up to three stars and it is here that developer d3t has visibly embraced the tenets of mobile game design. In a similar fashion to the progression systems seen in mobile titles such as Angry Birds, the next level can be unlocked by just scoring a single star on the current one. Additionally, players can revisit earlier levels and replay them in the hopes of scoring that elusive and perfect three-star rating. It’s a well-judged and effective system as it allows less-skilled players to see more of the game’s over 100 levels while enabling higher skilled Lemming generals the opportunity to perfect their performances and obtain the trophies for doing so.
As well as sheer satisfaction proving to be its own reward, completing each level also brings with it the more superficial prize of gold coins. Once accrued, these coins can then be used to purchase new outfits and new colours for the marching rodents. The amount of coins that you receive varies too, since there is a wide range of challenges which award different amounts. These include such things as building a bridge over the exit, using a Lemming to self-explode to stop a red-haired Lemming and more.
Where Lemmings Touch stumbles a tad is in the controls. The touch controls can sometimes feel unresponsive and it’s an issue which is most notable when the skill wheel is open and you’re trying to assign a skill to designated Lemming. The sluggishness also rears its ugly head from time to time if you’re trying to cancel the skill wheel altogether. It is an issue which is made worse in the later levels where every Lemming counts and multiple skills need to be assigned to multiple Lemmings in a short space of time. Thankfully though, such clumsiness is partially mitigated by the pause function, permitting players to stop time in order to plan their next move. While it isn’t the ideal solution to the problem, its presence is welcome nonetheless.
In terms of audiovisual presentation, Lemmings Touch duly impresses. With its sharp, colourful visuals and upbeat remixes of classical music, Lemmings Touch for the PlayStation Vita does justice to the charming aesthetics of the Psygnosis-developed original. The background visuals look especially eye-popping on Vita too, with a great deal of backdrops liberally drenched in a variety of hues and vivid styles. In truth, Lemmings Touch’s design DNA is such that it would find a comfortable home on just about any touchscreen-based mobile platform. With such razor-sharp visuals and a larger interface though, it’s clear that the Vita version of the touchscreen based edition is the definitive one. Lemmings Touch is a solid puzzler and a worthy homage to a classic puzzler franchise. It just finds itself stuck sometimes due to occasional control-based frustrations which threaten to dampen the proceedings.