One of the first games that I had on my computer way back when I was a kid was a copy of Lemmings, the fantastic strategy game where you played as God to a series of small creatures that couldn’t help but to continue walking forward until “God” assigned them a task, whether it be bashing through walls, digging straight down, blocking other lemmings, or simply becoming a time bomb. The task was to navigate each level using a combination of these abilities and more without killing all of your lemmings it some brutally sad yet sickeningly satisfying way. Over 20 years later, Lemmings is making its debut on the Vita in the form of Lemmings Touch. The objective remains the same, but some of the modern updates hinder a bit of the enjoyment that made the Lemmings series so great.
The graphics are beautifully rendered on the Vita screen and it shows that we have come a long way from the pixel filled splatter-fest that graced our computers two decades ago. Fortunately the graphical update hasn’t changed the feel of classic Lemmings. The little guys still march ever forward while all of the classic responsibilities are there to dole out at your will. Is the exit just on the other side of that wall? Seems like we’ll need a basher to dig through. See the way out right below them? Digger has to be the way to go there. Long fall that’s going to turn your poor little lemmings into mush? You’ll want to give them an umbrella, a solution to falling from great distances that is not recommended in the real world.
Feelings of nostalgia came rushing back for each new level that I played. I remembered the strategies of old, how to get through this, around that, or up there. Everything felt so familiar besides the fact that I was without a mouse and keyboard this time around. For this outing, the lemmings are controlled via touch screen inputs, hence the fantastically clever name that has been given to this game. For the most part, the touch controls work great and are an excellent alternative to a mouse pointer. Attempting to use an analog stick would be hell especially as the difficulty increases, so touch is a pretty good alternative.
Unfortunately it still can’t beat the responsiveness and precision that a mouse pointer can offer for getting around the levels. I often found myself having to use two hands to awkwardly pan the screen, zoom in or out, and tap on lemmings and commands to get them to perform the desired task and stay alive. This frantic nature is part of what made Lemmings so much fun, but while using the touch controls, I occasionally found frustration in the lack of precision that the end of a finger has versus a mouse pointer. Luckily it is only some of the levels that feel poorly designed for touch control.
Lemmings Touch adds some environmental features that need to be activated with touch controls. One such object is a bridge that does not span an entire gap. Lemmings need to be herded onto this bridge, at which point you can move it to the other side of the gap to let them off. This adds another level of strategy as you now have to manage the environment in addition to the actions of the lemmings. These environmental objects occasionally added to the lack of precision in the touch controls, but overall were an interesting addition to the traditional Lemmings style.
Another new addition is the mischievous lemmings that you cannot let get to the exit. You can assign them tasks to help the remainder of your lemmings arrive safely, but these little bastards need to be re-routed or killed. Once again it is a layer of strategy to the game that keeps you on your toes (or fingertips, whichever you prefer). A seemingly simple level can suddenly be thrown into chaos when you discover that every other lemming spawning is one of the hellions. Suddenly you can’t just hold that block up for everyone to pass through, now you have to deliberately and satisfyingly crush the bad ones to make way for our little heroes.
Finally there is a customization feature. While it doesn’t affect gameplay, challenges can be completed to earn coins that can in turn buy a variety of color options and accessories for your lemmings. Don’t like the green hair and blue robes? That’s fine, I opt for white hair and black robes myself. A nice mustache never hurts either! It’s a small addition that can really help to make the game feel like your own, but that you also will need to work for. You do like things that take a bit of effort, right?
Lemmings Touch takes everything great about the classic Lemmings formula and throws it into the palm of your hand. This is the perfect game for bite sized and on-the-go gameplay. Yes, the touch controls aren’t a superior substitute for a mouse and can occasionally find themselves frustrating, and the menu being overlaid as a thought bubble causes way more problems than a simple toolbar, but I promise, you can work your way through it. You’re going to have to if you want that platinum trophy. If you have yet to try out a Lemmings title, or are a long time Lemmings fan, Touch is an excellent way to get an up to date and portable version of a great game. Just don’t expect it to revolutionize much or come without its own set of touchable frustrations.
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