As has always been the case, the action is 2D and is viewed from the side, with the analog stick moving the camera around the level and the d-pad moving the cursor. Your goal is to guide your little lemmings from the start to the finish while keeping as many of them alive as possible. By default, they all walk in a straight line, following the landscape, until they bump into an obstacle (pits, columns, drops), in which case they turn around. The game starts off easy and gets downright maddening on the higher difficulty levels. It's a fair challenge though, and you never really feel like the game is being cheap or that a level is impossible.
Each level features different obstacles and puzzles, requiring you to assign different duties to the lemmings to get them to the goal. Using the d-pad, you can target a lemming, scroll through available jobs with the shoulder buttons, and assign the task with X. Your lemming can climb, dig, tunnel, explode, block others, use an umbrella to break a fall, and several other things. There's no real training level per se, but the game does a nice job of getting you accustomed to controlling the lemmings before placing you in more involved scenarios, where you'll have guys climbing and gliding while other lemmings dig, tunnel, or build bridges. When you've got a level "solved" and you're simply waiting for all the lemmings to get to the end, you can fast forward the game, which works great if you're playing on the road and have limited time, or if you don't like the idea of watching 100 lemmings walk slowly across the level.
The controls work fine, but there are a few minor issues. It would have been nice to at least have the option to use the analog stick to control the cursor, rather than the camera, though this isn't really a huge problem. Since the PSP's screen is so small, it can often be difficult to focus on one particular lemming when a bunch of them are close together. Usually this just means you'll waste a guy or two, but in some cases, this can lead to you selecting a guy facing the wrong way to build, which usually forces you to restart the level.
One of the game's coolest features is the level editor, which will not only let you create your own levels, but will let you go online to share your creations and download others' masterpieces as well. In theory this adds an infinite amount of replay to the game, but many user created maps aren't that exciting, so the appeal here is somewhat limited. Gamesharing mode is supported, and allows you to send sample levels to your friends.
The graphics aren't anything spectacular, but this is the best looking iteration of Lemmings to date. Gameplay is still 2D, but the levels are 3D and have been totally redrawn. The color palette is bright and colorful, giving the game a neat, cartoony look. There's not a whole heck of a lot you could do to the game to spruce it the visuals, but Team 17 did a nice job.
The sound effects and music aren't bad, but they're nothing exciting. You'll probably be playing this one with the sound off after awhile.
Lemmings fans that are dying to play the game on the PSP (I assume there are a few) won't be disappointed in the PSP version of the game -it looks and feels great. However, if you've played the heck out of any of the previous versions, there's probably not enough new here to warrant spending $40. If you're unfamiliar with the game, but you enjoyed Exit or some of the older (not the new crappy 3D) Worms titles, you're sure to enjoy the simple yet engaging gameplay that Lemmings has to offer.
5/24/2006 Aaron Thomas