Wow, that list of ports is looking pretty flimsy. Clearly Lemmings‘ time in the limelight has passed.
After the events of Lemmings 2, three of the twelve lemming tribes have left the ark they escaped their doomed homeland from. The Classic, Egyptian, and Shadow tribes come across an island, which they explore in order to find a new home. So where did the other nine tribes go? Apparently there would have been expansions to give the other tribes their own levels, but these never panned out. One guesses we’re supposed to assume they all died or something.
The game is split into ninety levels, with thirty for each tribe. The Classic lemmings go through an abandoned science lab, the Shadow lemmings have a haunted village, and the Egyptian lemmings get a pyramid. (Well, yeah.) You start out with 20 lemmings per tribe, and have to bring a certain number all the way through the tribe’s set of levels to win. Only ten lemmings can be in the level at once, and any who die will be replaced by new lemmings coming out of the entrance. Lemmings 2 rules apply here, you only HAVE to bring one lemming to the exit to win, but the more you bring, the greater your chances of success. This time, however, you can find captive lemmings on some of the levels, and if you free them and bring them to the exit, they’ll be added towards your total.
There are a lot of big changes in the gameplay, so much so that barely anything but the basic concept carried over from the original games. For one thing, the lemmings are now bigger, meaning you can see and keep track of them easier. You now also have a bit more actual control over them, although they’ll still keep walking forward continuously without your input. Instead of having a certain number of powers to assign to your lemmings, there are five buttons at the bottom of the screen.
The first button makes a lemming turn around, or if he’s doing something else when you click him, will make him start walking. The second button will make him start blocking. Unlike the previous games, however, where you would either have to blow up a blocker or remove the ground under him to make him stop, you can just click the walk button on him and he’ll resume moving. The third button makes the lemming do a short hop over small obstacles, like holes in the ground and blockers. These abilities can be used as much as you want without limit.
The fourth and fifth buttons involve the new feature for this game, the item system. There are now items scattered across the landscape lemmings can pick up, and each lemming can hold one type of item at the time. Unlike the lemmings］atural abilities, items only have a limited stock, although lemmings can replenish it by picking up items of the same type they’re currently carrying. Some items are automatically used in certain situations, others need to be manually used by clicking the fourth button. The fifth button makes a lemming drop whatever he’s carrying so another one can pick it up.
Some of the items replace powers from the older games, like shovels, which let lemmings dig horizontally and vertically through ground, and plungers, which the lemmings use to cross walls and ceilings. Others are new, like the grenades, which blow away parts of terrain, but DO have friendly fire as a possibility. The major changes to gameplay can be a bit overwhelming if you’re used to the first two games in the series, but the game comes with a practice level with every item in the game avaible to mess with.
The new interface does make it a whole lot easier to actually manage what your lemmings are doing, and it’s nice to be able to make them stop for a second while you scout out the level. The item system is a little hard to get used to, mostly for the fact that the only way you can see if a lemming is carrying something or not is by highlighting them. Since you’re dealing with a lot less lemmings this time around, they don’t tend to bunch up quite as much, but it can still be tough to get a certain one carrying an item you need highlighted. However, there’s a very useful new feature where you can click a lemming, turning him red so you pick him out of a crowd easier, which is very useful when he’s carrying a certain item you need.
These new features are very nice to have, and should have been included a long time ago. However, there’s a big control issue that almost, but not entirely, cancels it out. A lot of times your lemmings will seem to ignore your commands if they’re doing certain things, plunging themselves right into deadly water as you can only watch helplessly and restart the stage. On one hand, there’s a replay function now where you can save a replay of your attempt at a level and start from it at any point you’d like. On the other hand, maybe fixing the control issue would have made it less needed in the first place.
Of course, not all of the new features are here to help you out. For the first time in the series, besides the traps and hazards the lemmings have to deal with, now you have actual enemies to worry about, as well. The Psycho Buzzard flies overhead, grabbing lemmings who get too close with its talons and yanking their heads off in spray of blood. Oh, yes, we’ve missed the blood, haven’t we?
The Potato Beast will punch your lemmings apart. And the Lem Fatalle, the only female lemming seen in the series, will make any lemmings who get too close fall head over heels in love, and eventually bloodily shoot themselves out of her rejection. The designers of this game might have had issues. There’s also a mole, which won’t actually harm your lemmings, but will dig through dirt if you put some bricks in his path. Enemies can either be avoided by taking other paths or building around them, or you can use certain items on them, such as the Hadoken item. Yes, there is an item that lets your lemmings shoot Hadoukens. Yes, they actually shout it out, squeaky voice and all. Maybe this is where the Worms people got their inspiration.
The puzzles are generally easier to pick up on than the previous two games, at least the early ones. They also tend to be a lot smaller, and some are only a screen in size. Compared to how sprawling and long levels in the other games could take, it’s a nice improvement that cuts down on the frustration when you’re trying to make another attempt. The levels do increase in difficulty pretty quickly, however, and there’ll still be times when the game will screw you over for a single mistakes, like not making a bridge low enough for a lemming to be able to jump across a gap.
The graphics are much improved from previous entries in the series, especially with the bigger, chunkier sprites for the lemmings. They’re all nicely animated, too, with bobbing hair and even balancing when they’re told to block at the end of a ledge. The levels are pretty nice looking, too, and trade in more detail for having less level themes. There’s also a new menu system, showing the three tribes sitting around on the ark, and clicking on each option will make certain things happen, which is pretty cute. The music is decent for the Amiga, and there’s several songs per tribe, including a bunch of remixes of songs from the original game for the Classic tribe.
Overall, All New World of Lemmings is probably one of the most playable games in the series. The new interface makes it more pleasant to control, and the difficulty’s not quite as punishing as the other games. The issues with lemmings not always doing your actions can get highly annoying, but other than that, it’s well worth playing if you enjoyed the first two games but found yourself stumped by them.
Unfortunately, after this game, no more Lemmings games were made in the same style, and DMA Design sold the license to Psygnosis so they could move onto other things. Apparently this game sold a lot less than the other two games in the series, but why? Maybe fans didn’t like the new changes. Maybe they didn’t like the idea of having to buy expansions for more levels. Or maybe the craze for Lemmings that had started with the first game had died down. Either way, while the series would continue, it would go back to its roots and never come back.
As with Lemmings 2, both the Amiga version and the DOS port are mostly identical, except for the Amiga versions having the edge in music.