There's something odd going on here. "Excuse us," said the world as a body after the dust settled on Lemmings, one of the most popular games ever in the history of all things, "but this really isn't that good at all, is it?" As soon as you start the screen, you pause the game, examine the level and work out how to solve it. The trouble is, you then have to implement your solution using the gleefully antagonistic controls and rather overly pixel-pedantic lem placement."
"Righto," said the programmers. Here's Lemmings 2, with 12 'tribes' of lemming so you have to get stuck 12 times before you're really stuck, different powers for each 'tribe' to shake up the variety, a vastly reduced number of puzzles demanding exact lem positioning, larger levels that scroll in eight directions and a definite goal to aim for in end-of-game medallions depending on the number of lems saved. "
And now, inevitably, we have Lemmings 3. (None of this trying-to-pretend-it's=something-different nonsense, thank you.) And, inexplicably, it's a step backward to the cumbersome original. There's something odd going on here.
Using the peculiar excuse that "Lemmings 2 was just a little bit too complicated for some people" DMA have greatly simplified the third game. Gone are the 12 'tribes'. You now have three - the Egyptian, Shadow and Norwegian lems - which most obviously means you've only to get stuck three times for the game to grind to a halt. Gone also are the characterful individual 'tribe' powers. In their place is a common pool of usable objects. The lems have, however, gained the ability to leap a short distance forwards, and a 'revert to normal' icon means you can save blockers instead of having to blow them up.
There's also an option to turn red an object-carrying lem with the intention of making him easier to pick out of the inevitable waddling mass, but this doesn't work as you still have to click precisely on him to turn him into a digger (or whatever).
And the replay feature whereby you can mark your place in a level and then start from that point when you fail BUT WHICH ISN'T COUNTED AS COMPLETING THE SCREEN shall be dismissed with the haughty contempt it deserves.
Objects and monsters are the genuinely 'all-new' elements of Lemmings 3. The objects, while being nothing beyond collectable lem 'powers' from the previous games (instead of diggers, swimmers, builders and sacrificial bombers you get spades, lifebelts, hods of bricks and grenades), have a singular advantage over their predecessors: you have to earn the right to use them by working out a way to collect the blessed things in the first place. It's a terrific idea, and the simple refinement of having a lem only able to carry one type of objects at a time rockets the antic factor skyward. Not only do you have to master swapping objects at the correct moment, but you are also required to coordinate backup lems to carry on with the discarded prizes, and transport apparently useless items to a point where they can be dropped to a waiting conspirator below. Prestidigitation indeed.
The monsters aren't as successful. Whoever thought that the tricky trickster terrors of Lemmings weren't enough and what the format really needed was a bit of fast-paced, military-timing shootout action needs badly to be killed. (And their family. No, hang on. - Ed) Worst of the monsters are the moles. They're a damned nuisance. Ostensibly on your side (you're meant to block their path with bricks so they get angry and burrow in the earth, ricocheting off walls to form helpfully criss-crossed tunnels) it takes so much exhaustively-planned effort to get them to go where you want (as opposed to rampaging off in an entirely useless direction and getting themselves trapped so you have to restart the level) that you just wish them all dead. (And their - oh, never mind. - Ed)
Dropped to a waiting conspirator below
The substantially bigger graphics of Lemmings 3 are troublesome. Clearly you have less time in which to react before the lems blunder off a ledge, but the lems also tend to overlap exactly so you don't know if there's one hidden behind the lem you're concentrating on.
Far more serious is the finicky cursor. It must be centred on a lem to work, which means it's impossible to select a lem trapped in a small space, say, between two blockers, because he's constantly changing direction. Instead you have to 'revert' one of the blockers, let the trapped lem walk out, click on the ex-blocker to make him change direction so he lags behind the lem you're targeting, re-blocker him when he's in the clear and then turn your attention to the escaping lem. And it's no use thinking you can now let that lem drop down to the appropriate point and blocker him into position so you're sure he's building (or whatever) in exactly the right spot, because you can't.
Lemmings 3 won't let you change a blocker into anything but a 'reverted' walker. The idea is that you 'revert' him and then manoeuvre him into position by changing his direction a couple of times. But when you're zipping around the level trying to keep track of 20 lemmings at once (which, after all, is one of the points of the game) you're bound to forget in which direction any one lem was walking to start with. So you nip back to one near the end of a ledge, 'revert' him, slash the cursor down to the icon strip to select 'use', so he can plunger his way across the ceiling of that mighty pit, tear back to the ledge to discover he was actually walking the other way, try to change his direction, realise you're still in 'use' mode and watch helplessly as he falls off the other end, taking the irreplaceable plungers with him.
Or is it? After all, we are told this is the kind of thing on which Lemmings players thrive; that the fun isn't over once you've worked out the puzzle and that, in fact, unpausing and agonisingly working through the solution in competition with the mouse control, little lemmings and cacklingly bloody-minded traps is by far the best part of the game. And it must be true. Otherwise why would the programmers have simply forsaken the skill-skewed wiles of Lemmings 2 for a return to the outrageous contrivance of the original? Remember, you asked for it. Apparently.
In conclusion, then: leave well alone. If you've never played Lemmings before, buy Lemmings 2. It's friendlier, funnier and enormously more entertaining than this throwback to the mouse-battering infuriation of the original. You don't want to have to deal with building life-saving towers for diving lems without a clue as to how high they should be to pass the border of death while leaving enough bricks to reach that important ledge and have to left over to crush the laser-triggering pressure plate and fill in the hilariously imperceptibly collapsing walkaway.
You don't want to send a digger lem back and forth until he's in position to leap that uncovered gap because you can't switch directly from a 'use' lem to a 'jump' one.
And you certainly don't want to pin your hopes on a single tooled-up lem only to slip up and blocker him, not safely along the ledges as you'd planned, but accidentally on its cusp where you can't possibly turn him around in time once 'reverted' which means RESTARTING THE LEVEL AGAIN.
And if you have played Lemmings before and truly believe in your heart this all sounds tremendous fun and don't mind at all the impenetrable hard drive-installation procedure that insists you use (eugh) the 'CLI' to create directories and things before it deigns to load, or the atrocious save game routine which allows you to wipe out your hard-won positions at the press of a button without so much as a by-your-leave or are-you-sure-you-want-to-do-this, then go right ahead and buy Lemmings 3. I wash my hands on you. You and your wretched ilk.