My Month With Christmas Lemmings--Updated Daily!
It’s December. People are wrapping gifts, Florida is a frosty 78 degrees, and shops are using up their surplus apostrophes to wish us happy holiday’s. Tis the season, alright, and nothing says Christmas like a good, long game of Christmas Lemmings.
Christmas (or Holiday, or Xmas depending upon the version) Lemmings was, for a short while, a yuletide tradition for Psygnosis Games. In 1991 and 1992 they gifted us special packages of new Lemmings levels…with Santa-hat-wearing critters, and snowmen and candy canes for the little bastards to burrow through.
In 1993 and 1994 they kicked Ebenezer Scrooge off the development team and we got a much more generous 32 levels apiece (broken up into 16-level difficulty brackets).
I remember playing these Christmas installments in school (it was a treat even to be allowed to use the computer in the early 90s, when computers were the size of several dinosaurs and ran on the steam of oppressed masses) but I never finished them. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever finished any Lemmings game.
See, I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Lemmings. On the one hand, I think the games are brilliant, and they represent some of the most innovative and resourceful puzzle titles ever made. On the other hand, the difficulty spike you encounter at some point in every game is staggering. The challenge isn’t ramped up gradually…it explodes all over you in one big burst and you’ll never get any further. Lemmings was downright cruel.
So I’ve decided to play through Christmas Lemmings ‘93 this month, in honor of Christmas, and Lemmings, and Christmas Lemmings, and Christ, who died so that I might play Christmas Lemmings instead of volunteering at a soup kitchen. My goal is to complete the entire game (my first complete Lemmings game) between Dec. 1 and Christmas Day. No hints or walkthrus, obviously. It’ll be kind of like National Novel Writing Month, only instead of Novel it’s Christmas Lemmings, and instead of Write it’s Play. Also it’s not something anyone would want to brag about completing. Let’s begin…
- Shit. My first puzzle is just getting the game to work. The program includes an installer that a) doesn’t seem to recognize that all of its own files are unpacked already and b) hates me. Oddly enough the only way I can get the thing to work properly is to delete all of the files apart from the installer and then run it. In true Christmas toy tradition, there’s some serious assembly hassle.
- Shit again. My next puzzle is reading the fucking intro screen. I’m not even going to bother playing with my display settings…that would be a 25-day adventure in itself. Instead I’ll just have to treat each intro screen like one of those Magic Eye posters that you need to go crosseyed to see the holographic image of the dog licking itself. (At least that’s what I saw in the above grab.)
- Triple shit. No music! What the hell…I distinctly remember this game having Christmas carols as its soundtrack…am I going crazy? And that was back on my old school computers, which I’m pretty sure we obtained from the personal effects of dead hobos. If those things could play O Come All Ye Faithful while Lemmings marched themselves into acid baths, why can’t mine? Another puzzle to be solved!
- And solve it I did…I opened iTunes and grabbed the only Christmas CD I have (a Starbucks exclusive called Stockings by the Fire…it’s got some corny stuff on it but it also contains the most beautiful rendition of What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? I’ve ever heard) to loop indefinitely. Hoorah! Three puzzles solved and the game hasn’t even begun.
- I’m deliberately saying nothing of the puzzle of how to make the mouse less sensitive…right now if I so much as budge it, it rockets across the screen and makes me say bad, unsuitable-for-Christmas words.
- You know what, though? After all this puzzle solving, I’m sick of Lemmings. I’ve had enough of this. I’ll try it again tomorrow when none of this will have mattered. Right now, Christmas is bullshit.
- Presumably “flurry” is the easier difficulty level…the other is called “blitz,” which makes me think my Lemmings will be shot to death by German aircraft. Flurry first.
- The first level manages to trick me a little bit. All you need to do is assign the “climber” ability to all of the Lemmings…they’ll climb the gigantic icicle thing and enter the gingerbread house with nary a care in the world. Sadly the Magic Eye title card made it difficult for me to see that I needed a 100% survival rate…I was using a blocker (which, as we all know, must some day explode) to control the horde and a builder/basher to clear the way. I guess the easiest answer is always simplest.
- The second level is very strange. They’ve already tipped their hat to the “make all the Lemmings do the same thing” solution in the previous level, but here it’s just an enormous cliff face above the gingerbread house. Either you assign “floater” to the Lemmings, or they die. Basically the same solution we had before with a different ability.
- Oddly, though, the level gives me 8 minutes in which to solve it. Which is insane, frankly. If you assign them the floater skill, they survive the drop and walk right into the house…there are no additional obstacles that will eat up time. And if you don’t assign them the floater skill, they die even more quickly.
- This is exactly why I accuse the Lemming folks of evil level design. They invest all sorts of energies into creating the cruelest of all possible puzzles (stay tuned, folks!) but throw around 8-minute completion times where they’re not needed just to piss you off. It’s a shame. The Lemmings should make me feel good about myself around Christmas, like my friends do…they shouldn’t make me want to kill myself, like my family.
- In Lemmings tradition, the levels require you to use additional skills as you advance. The third level requires a single basher (to fuck up a rightfully baffled Frosty) and a miner (to cut through a snowdrift)…though I suppose two bashers would have worked fine. Maybe I’m just getting bored with these 100% completion rates and am trying to mix it up a bit. I even tempt fate by initiating LemmingNuke when I believe the last straggler is exactly 4.9 seconds from the exit.
- Level four: another two-basher deal. Jesus Christ. I’m writing this before the level is even over…I’m waiting for the bastards to make it to the exit. And yet I know—I KNOW—there is some unbeatable level of agony just around the corner. Mark my words. This sense of complacency is FALSE.
- Ooh, Dean Martin is singing I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. In spite of everything, Lemmings Christmas sure has good tunes.
- Level 5: a single miner job. Yawn. I guess it’s kind of tricky because you need to have the fucker mine on his way back to the entrance, and I guess you could potentially overshoot the exit, too…but fuck this shit. You all think I’m paranoid about the unbeatable level around the corner, but just you wait. Just you. Fucking. Wait.
- Also, I’m typing this before all of the Lemmings are even on the gameboard. That’s how easy these levels are. Did I download Baby’s First Xmas Lemmings instead?
- Alright, level 6 represents the beginning of the difficulty surge, I suspect. It was really just a basher-builder-basher special, but the placement of the bridges was tricky enough that I nearly ran out—I had just enough to complete the level. If the traditional Lemmings difficulty curve holds, it’ll go something like this: 5 levels a baby could do after you poked its eyes out and smashed its fingers with a mallet, 1 level you can handle with a bit of thought, and 90 levels Stephen Hawking has trouble understanding.
- I fucking knew it.
- (Ray Charles and Betty Carter singing Baby It’s Cold Outside…but I could have sworn he was dueting with Miss Piggy. Oddly enough, I don’t mean that as an insult…)
- Ah, okay, I got it…you need to dig down a bit and then use a single basher to burrow right along underneath all the rocks and piles.
- But this actually reminds me of something I’ve always hated about Lemmings: often solving the puzzle isn’t the problem…clicking the right fucking Lemming is the problem. Once I figured out what to do I still had to deal with the fact that 10 Lemmings were “stacked” on top of each other, and so by telling one to bash I had no way of knowing which one I was commanding, and therefore which way he was facing, and after telling one to dig I couldn’t pinpoint him easily enough to get him to stop…I had to make EVERYBODY a basher just to make sure I got the digging one to stop digging a path to oblivion.
- That’s a serious problem, and one the Lemmings series never bothered to address at any point. The puzzles aren’t the problem…the interface is. You’d think with 10 million sequels and 4 Christmas specials they’d have taken the time to find a solution…
- Speak of the devil! Level 8 is exactly the sort of cruelty I knew this game would resort to. The solution is tricky, but by sending one Lemming ahead as a scout and leaving the others behind you can figure it out before long. The trouble is that the Lemmings you left behind are stuck in a little rut that you need to bash out of…and there’s a 50% chance that the Lemming you pick out of the mass will burrow the wrong way. After THREE TIMES solving the puzzle with my vanguard Lemming only to have the basher lead my remaining critters to an offscreen splattery death, I’ve given up. I may have better luck tomorrow, but since when should Christmas cheer rely on luck?
- Got my Christmas shopping done today. In the process I bought myself a few items because what good is giving away if you don’t get twice as much back? I also ate a ham sandwich that I think might have made my stomach upset, but of course that could have had more to do with the thought of having to play Christmas Lemmings when I got home.
- But Jesus, look! It’s a Christmas miracle. The Lemming I told to bash actually bashed in the direction I was hoping (though I was unable to dictate) he’d bash. Oddly enough, there should have been a 50/50 chance of whether he’d bash to the left or the right, but last night it was just a wash of 100/0. Today—first shot—he does it the way I need him to. My Lemmings escape with seven seconds to spare, which is just enough time for me to realize that this level isn’t Christmas-themed at all. What the hell? Was the level burgled from another Lemmings game to pad this one out?
- Level 9 includes snow, so I guess they remembered what game it was they were supposed to be designing after all. (It also features a very strange snowman who hops up and down so frantically that his head pops off repeatedly, which I have to assume is a Dickens reference or something.) It’s a simple bash and build affair. I’m amazed how easy this level is after the last one, but I realize before long that it’s down entirely to the absence of ravines for all of the Lemmings to get stuck in at once forming a single unmanageable mass. Oh the wonders of awful puzzle-design…
- And level 10 is another simple one…but you can’t fool me, Christmas Lemmings. As much as you might try to convince me that each level is easily solvable with a little bit of logic and perseverance, I have been burned too recently to believe you. Any level now I’ll be trapped in Christmas Lemmings Hell for the rest of eternity. Mark. My. Words.
- Bizarrely, the music is suddenly working in the game. I try several levels just to make sure the endlessly-irritating Jingle Bells loop isn’t level-11-exclusive. Sure enough, it plays everywhere. It also causes my game to turn red and freeze whenever I a) nuke the Lemmings, b) scroll the screen, c) sneeze or d) do nothing at all. So I restart the game a few times until I end up with a musicless boot and everything seems to work fine. I conquer level 11…but it was tricky! It presented me with the same cliff-face as I had in level 2, only I ran out of floaters before long and ended up with a big pile of holiday Lemming mush. Turns out you needed to dig, or mine, or dig and bash, or mine and bash, or dig and mine. Oh Lemmings. You give us nine abilities and hardly ever require more than two. Also I fucking hate you.
- Level 12 is a bit harder…it’s got that old dual-train-of-Lemmings thing that ramps up the difficulty pretty effectively. This I like. This is a serviceable and efficient way of making your game more challenging without resorting to cheapness. The rules aren’t changed…you just need to think more quickly and decide which action is most pressing at any given moment. I like this. I just don’t like it when I’m supposed to choose one Lemming out of a stack of 200 with a cursor the size of an elephant. That’s poor gameplay. That’s Christmas-stealing gameplay.
- Actually, level 12 is pretty darn hard. I never did get the hang of the doubled Lemming stream and I realize too late (as soon as I managed to just save enough Lemmings) that I can essentially block off the right stream so that they turn around and follow the left…cutting my worries at least in half. Oh well. If I can just make it through the next four levels, I will have conquered the “flurry” (or “for whiny little babies”) difficulty…and then the real fun will begin.
- Level 13…you know…I really hate to say this…but with the exception of that totally un-Christmassy Vacation in Gemland level, or whatever the hell it was…I kind of like this game. The puzzles really haven’t been too unfair. The better ones typically present me with what looks like an obvious solution, but the flaw in that obvious plan isn’t revealed until the moment of failure. That’s okay. I like that. I can learn things, just like a dog can. Is Christmas Lemmings warming my heart? Am I undergoing some sort of Scroogian change of personality?
- I should mention I’m eating a smoked summer sausage from a Hickory Farms basket right now, as I play. Hickory Farms and Christmas Lemmings…It’s Christmas time, Charlie Brown!
- I should also mention that if you have your own smoked summer sausage from Hickory Farms, that’s red paper beneath the plastic wrap…not sausage skin. There. I just saved you a very embarrassing couple of seconds.
- Level 14 is a dog staring longingly at a frozen dildo.
- I’ll say it again: level 14 is a dog staring longingly at a frozen dildo.
- If this level weren’t so…unpalatable to begin with, I might take issue with the fact that the solution requires boring through the puppy’s skull.
- Just two quick levels tonight (well, I say quick…) to finish off flurry difficulty. That’ll leave me with 16 more challenging levels to complete over the next 20 days. Can I do it? Do you care? Did you stop reading around December 3? If so, please leave a comment to that effect below.
- Level 15 is…well, considerably easier than anything else I’ve ever had to do in my entire bastard life. I must have solved it incorrectly. In order to get all 10 of my Lemmings home I had to somehow get them to turn around and go the other way…without using a blocker who would have to be killed in order to remove him from play at the end. (You need a 100% survival rate, you see, because the game hates you.)
- So all I did was let the fuckers fall into a divot and build a bridge…every one of them building bridges…so that they’d collide with the other wall, for some reason forget that they can climb it, and turn around. The whole thing takes me less than a minute. Something’s wrong here. Either I became Supreme Lemmings Master at some point over the past few years, or snow-covered levels are intrinsically easier.
- Well, the joke’s on me, I guess, because I wrote down the wrong code for level 16 and so in the process of going back to take that screen shot for you I ended up having to do the level over. Bah, humbug.
- Nevermind, it’s not down to my bad-writing-things-down-ness…it’s the fact that the third letter to the end is supposed to be a Q. It’s digital, fuckers. Get better penmanship.
- Level 16 is not too bad but you need to use exploding Lemmings to make it down to the lower level now excuse me please because I’m already fuck-deep in the first level of the higher difficulty and I swear I’m about to rip my pubic hair out.
- So I went a little further than I expected, and managed to complete the first level of blitz difficulty as well. Which reminded me in all kinds of ways about why it’s been so long since I’ve played Lemmings. Here’s just a taste: by giving the player only one “bash” to use on a Lemming, they aren’t actually giving us one basher…they’re giving us one CHANCE to apply the bash ability to one Lemming. So if you, say, apply the ability when the Lemming is one pixel too far removed from the obstacle, he will swing his fist at the empty air, accomplish nothing, and you lose the bash ability completely. Let’s also say, hypothetically of course, that the single bash needs to be performed at the very end of a level that takes about seven or eight minutes to complete, and that you’ve already played the level something like six times to figure out all the quirks and obstacles…so that when you ACTUALLY HAVE THE PROPER SOLUTION TO THE LEVEL you apply “bash” to a Lemming ONE FUCKING PIXEL too soon and then you can’t break down the final barricade and you need to do the entire level over. Hypothetically, let’s say that this is exactly what happened to me. Because this is exactly what happened to me.
- Hypothetically, Christmas Lemmings sucks my Christmas balls.
- The second level of blitz difficulty (which I will call level 18, in order to keep the file names of my graphics making some kind of logical sense) seemed a tad impossible with only 11 builders and a 100% survival necessity, until I realized I could dig a small pit in which to trap the Lemmings (turning my digger into a builder to stop him burrowing) until my super awesome Bridge to Nowhere was finished.
- This really isn’t so bad. You know, I’m really starting to think that I might be able to complete this game by Christmas. Maybe I just wasn’t very good as a child and my memory has been too harsh on it.
- Level 19:
- What. The fuck.
- This is a decoy exit?
- Oh, fuck you, Christmas Lemmings.
- Fuck you like a nail through the head of your Christmas cock.
- Since you can’t tell from the screen grab, there are thirteen gingerbread houses on this level. Am I supposed to try every single one in turn until I find the “real” exit? I can’t even get back up to try another in the time left me…I need to restart the fucking level from scratch.
- You sons of bullshit fucking piss asses.
- The second exit is also a decoy.
- The third exit is also a decoy.
- Just ten more to try…
- The fourth exit is also a decoy.
- The fifth exit is also a decoy.
- Chicks with dicks, the sixth exit is also a decoy.
- Wow…it was exit number seven. (Of thirteen, remember.) How in fuck’s name was I supposed to know that without trying every single one? Thank fuck I didn’t start from the other end of the board, as I planned to do if seven was another false one. This isn’t good puzzle design. Hell, it’s not even a puzzle at all. It’s asking someone to pick a number from one to thirteen. There’s no way to know what number is the correct answer…it’s just a tedious game without point or substance.
- Grrr, Christmas Lemmings…
- Level 20 was actually a really clever puzzle disguised as an irritating one. You need to actually break the last Lemming away from the stream to serve as the pathmaker while the others snake their way stupidly through the level, thus keeping them occupied while you build bridges and things. Very good. And on that note (an actual, factual fair level of Chritmas Lemmings) I choose to end my night.
- Well, as much of the night that has to do with Christmas Lemmings, anyway. There are a few other things I’m interesting in doing (and having done to me) that I’d prefer not to share.
- Son of a bitch I’m sick of these glitched intro screens.
- If you squint long enough you’ll see the title of level 21 resolve itself: It Came Upon a Lemming Clear. Which reminds me of a really nasty video someone directed me to once, which featured a young man doing something unspeakable to his sleeping roommate.
- Merry Christmas, everyone!
- I think my Stockings by the Fire CD has worn out its welcome. I should have picked up that Christmas With the Rat Pack CD I found while shopping a few days ago. Let’s see if I have anything else holiday-appropriate in the old iTunes…
- Random favorites culled from my Pink Floyd collection? That works. I hear if you sync up Shine On You Crazy Diamond with the film Miracle on 34th Street, you’ll eventually start to cry and wonder where your life went.
- Anyway, I already beat that level and that was really all I hoped to accomplish Lemmings-wise today. Let’s take a quick look at the next one and see if it’s doable before I lose interest.
- Hmm. I’m not quite sure why this was a level at all. The only thing I can figure is that the “correct” solution is supposed to be much more complicated, and they just neglected to shove a brick wall or something into the snowdrift to prevent a direct tunnel. Odd. Should I press my luck with one more?
- (A well-deserved aside: this is one of the more annoying things about Lemmings games, though, unlike my other complaints, it’s not something I hold against the developers. The annoying thing is that you can never tell how long a level is going to take you. “I’ll just play one more level” can mean anything from giving up five minutes of your life to missing three consecutive meals and your own divorce proceedings. I kind of like to have the ability to say, “Alright, that’s enough,” and get up and leave…but Lemmings is so damn difficult to stop playing. And besides, the soulful soloing of David Gilmore is dragging me deeper into Lemmingschristmasville…)
- Level 23 is complete, owing entirely to a very, very, very good guess of when to assign the exploder ability (liability?) to a moving Lemming. (Can you spot the fortuitous egg-shaped crater? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prize!)
- Watching them walk toward the exit, though, I had a thought…why does Lemmings have a timer? It really shouldn’t. Lemmings—when it’s being designed properly—should be primarily an exercise in problem-solving with a secondary focus on reflex. There’s really no point having a clock-race built into it as your ability to think fast is already being tested by the fact that Lemmings will walk off cliffs or into lava or some such thing if you don’t act quickly. And it’s not as though you can make oodles of mistakes and still finish the level, anyway…you’ll most likely have used up too many abilities (or killed too many Lemmings) to be successful…so why the timer?
- I’m telling you why. It exists for those handfuls of moments during which you are just about to complete the level…you’re watching your little Lemmings patter on through your tunnels and over your bridges, heading unmolested toward the exit, to suddenly have the level end because you took 30 seconds too long getting everything put together.
- The timer exists only to be cruel. There is no benefit to having one whatsoever. It doesn’t make the game more challenging; it makes the game less fair.
- But if we can stop the bitching for a moment…I just finished level 23. That means I have…nine levels left before the end of the game. And how many days until Christmas? 18? That’s one level every two days. It seems like I might actually be able to accomplish this…something I’d never have guessed a day or two ago. Hmm…I’m still wary of investing any confidence in success. Tomorrow, as they say, is another day.
- Let’s give the EGA graphics option a chance today, shall we? I mean, every time I boot up the game it asks me if I’d like to use EGA…and I’m starting to feel sort of ungrateful.
- Have you ever been to visit your grandmother and she offers you something distinctly unappetizing on a plate? Say…some sort of baked good with chunks of ham floating in a core of cottage cheese and mustard. You say, politely, “No, thank you, I had a large lunch and I’m positively stuffed.” Well, I don’t care who you are…if grandma asks you often enough during the course of the night you’re going to be guilted into eating the fucking thing.
- Well, that’s me with EGA.
- And look! It’s actually clearer! I wonder what the levels look like…
- Not bad, actually. Not bad at all…the VGA version looks a bit better, maybe even noticeably, but it’s not an enormous difference. Anybody playing Christmas Lemmings with an upper limit of EGA graphics in 1993 was missing out on very little.
- Here’s a picture:
- Look familiar? It should…they’re recycling levels! Level 24 is the exact same as level 12, with no real differences at all…I’m just meant to do it faster. Hooray. (Also, it’s in EGA…if that counts…) Now I guess I know what the timer was for…it was a quick way of doubling content by “challenging” us to do the same things more quickly.
- And Jesus, it’s actually kind of hard. The increased pressure of the clock means I have to make every click count…which I can’t do because the cursor is frustratingly non-specific.
- I mean, look…when the cursor is not hovering over a Lemming, it’s in the shape of crosshairs. That’s nice, right? That’s convenient. I can pick a Lemming out of a crowd simply by positioning the crosshairs over his head or something. Even a simple arrow pointer wouldn’t be much better.
- So why in fuck’s name, then, do the crosshairs turn into an enormous rectangle whenever I put it over a Lemming? At any given time, three Lemmings can be side by side within my rectangle cursor, and infinitely more can be stacked up behind those three. Selecting the Lemming you want in a case like that is, literally, impossible.
- And yet, at some point in designing Lemmings, somebody decided to make the cursor crosshairs. That’s good…but did nobody on the team realize that crosshairs lose their helpfulness completely when they disappear while selecting a target? Jesus hell.
- Alright, without exaggerating, this is probably the 12th time I’ve had to restart the level because I had two Lemmings in my cursor and the wrong one was told to build. FUCK.
-Aaaaand now I solved it, but the fucking TIMER killed me because four Lemmings hadn’t made it to the exit…despite the fact that they were on screen and a matter of inches from it.
- But no. I will not let this be the first level to leave me with a 100% unsuccessful night.
-Tell me that’s not unfair.
- You know what game is better than this? Pikmin. I wish there were a Christmas Pikmin instead.
- Nevermind; I solved it by using the pause button before scrolling to assign tasks. It felt like—and still feels like—cheating, but as far as I’m concerned it’s an in-game solution and so doesn’t disqualify me the way a visit to gamefaqs.com would. So…that’s that. Goodnight Christmas Lemmings, you fuck hole.
- Time off for good behavior.
- Making my famous jalapeno cornbread for the office party tomorrow…I’ll play while it’s baking.
- It was heart-breaking…I had to take the seeds out of the peppers this year, because last year people were sweating just sniffing it. What babies. I hope it’s still good.
- Let’s see what I’ve got on the Lemmings menu tonight…
- Check out the thickness of my Lemming snake. That fucker’s 76 Lemmings deep. Would you like to watch me ram it into the exit?
- Level 25 has been and gone. It was a good level…it required sending two Lemmings forward to build bridges to the end, turning one into a blocker so that the other would head BACK again building bridges the other way, and then a third Lemming to cut paths that’d keep the others from falling too far at once. It was nice. It was a level you fail several times because you’re not sure what needs to happen (or how) and then you manage to pass it because you solved your problems one by one and weren’t tormented by an evil clock or the need to single out one Lemming out of a stack of 11,000.
- That means only 7 levels remain…can I do it, folks? There’s 15 days until Christmas, but I wouldn’t declare myself winner just yet, as I intend to spend at least 13 of those drunk and sick on eggnog.
- And look at that…just in time to retrieve the cornbread. Check out those chunky Christmas jalapenos. CHECK OUT THEM
- Hmm…I’m actually tempted to skip this tonight as I’m pretty inspired to work on a more serious piece of writing right now. (More serious than My Month With Christmas Lemmings? Can there BE such a thing?) Let’s just take a look at the next level so I can make an “update” here and play the game tomorrow with advance knowledge of what’s to come.
- Well, that was easy. I beat the level basically just by looking at it. 10 to go. I’m off to work on a novel the likes of which you can only imagine. Ciao!
- Level 27:
- Doesn’t look too hard, does it? Well…it’s not hard to figure out what you have to do…but it’s VERY hard to actually do it. See that last bridge there? Look at it carefully. Its raggedness is a necessity. If you just build straight up with every available bridge you have left by that point (the number of gaps allows you to make it to that point with no more than four), you’ll end up a few pixels short.
- You need to start the bridge at the very end of the block, and THEN you need to let the builder run out of bricks, shrug, take ONE SINGLE STEP toward the void, and start him building again before he falls. Three times. If you click too soon, he won’t advance a necessary pixel, and if you click too late, he falls and dies and you need to start all over again.
- Combine this with the fact that all of your other Lemmings are walking back and forth inside a pit at the start of the level…so that even if you DO happen to build that raggedy-ass bridge properly, there’s a 50% chance (though somehow it feels more like 80%) that the basher you assign to free them will bash them into another pit.
- Did they really, at no point in the history of Lemmings, figure out a better way to assign abilities to a group of Lemmings than “at random?” How did that strike nobody on the development team as a problem?
- In level 28 we’re asked to do something that requires more luck than logic: blow up two moving Lemmings so that they double-crater a path down to the next level. Yawn. Have you noticed that every screenshot has a snoozing Lemming in the lower right? I’m ready to join him.
- Are there really only four levels left? Am I REALLY going to fuck Christmas Lemmings so easily? Am I really forced to watch the fucking Lemmings make a five-minute trek from one end of the screen to the other when there are no obstacles in their path? The answer to all of these questions is possibly.
- I have to head out for the day and may not be back until tomorrow, so in the meantime, let’s play Lemmings: The Board Game.
- That is the map of level 29. Click it to see it enlarged. There are a total of 70 Lemmings and you will need a 92% survival rate. Can you figure out a solution? (No peeking at gamefaqs, kiddies.) Post in the comments below, because at first glance I predict a shitstorm.
- I may have to concede defeat today. I cannot for the life of me get even a single Lemming into that exit. Can anybody out there figure this out?
- I can get the Lemmings (without losing any) to that steel lip…but it takes me nine builders to get there, leaving me with none to bridge the gap TO the exit.
- Hmm. I’ve tried all sorts of paths along the clouds but I can’t make it even to the steel section with any builders left. Is there some less-obvious solution I’m overlooking?
- I did it! I couldn’t rest until I had this fucker done. My solution was just to toy with exact pixel placements so that my second-to-last builder would lay his very last brick over the last pixel before the cloud (see photograph). Normally you’d have to overshoot the cloud a bit, wasting bricks, because if a builder runs into an obstacle while building he’ll quit, turn around, and, in this case, walk into a pit and die. So by ending the bridge on the precise pixel before the cloud begins, he’ll keep walking straight. From there it’s a simple final bridge to the exit.
- Of course, I could do plenty of complaining about the nature of pixel-perfect puzzles (it’s more irritation than logic, isn’t it?) but I’m too excited over success. And if I started bitching about that I’d also have to bitch about the fact that the first time I solved it, I detonated a blocker who was too close to my bridge and THAT killed all of my Lemmings.
- Damn. This sure is a frustrating game, isn’t it?
- And so far I have had NO unsuccessful days. Go me! Three levels to go…bring it on, you Lemming cunts.
- Well boys and girls, we are way ahead of schedule, it looks like…and we can probably afford a day or two off at this point…but let’s see what Christmas Lemmings has in store for us next:
- Level 29:
- Hmm…it’s pretty obvious we aren’t getting out of this steel box…so the puzzle must be…
- Yes! The puzzle must be…
- To play in the snow until we find the exit! Hooray!
- I actually LIKE this level. Have I said that about any other level? I kind of doubt it…but this is fun. It takes the basic premise of the game and gives you something clever to do with it. This, I like.
- I find the exit before too long. Look…it’s like a little Lemming antfarm!
- I’ll just peek ahead before I end this for the day to see if the next one is as fun.
- SPOILER: Nope. The next one is going to make me cry.
- And NOW I concede defeat.
- Even explaining this level is frustrating.
- Basically you get 15 Lemmings, and you need to save 53%. Without doing any real math at all I realize that I can get away with a mere 8 surviving Lemmings. Only as soon as they drop from the chute, they plummet to their deaths. So you have to assign the floater ability, of which you only have 11.
- So you need to save 8 out of 15, but since you only get 11 floaters, it’s really 8 out of 11. Just to confuse you, and make you have to tediously assign the floaters all over again each time the level starts, for no real reason. (You also have to listen to those poor Lemmings not among the chosen go splat splat splat splat while you navigate the rest of the level.) Couldn’t they have just given us 11 Lemmings total and not bothered with this?
- Then there’s a big cliff-face which you can climb, but the outcropping means you’ll fall right back down. So I’ve experimented with detonating Lemmings as they climb, thinking I could maybe use three of them to burrow upward through the wall, but that’s not working, and is impossible to time correctly. (That 5 second delay really is a pisser sometimes.)
- On the rare occasions that I do manage to detonate a Lemming near the top he doesn’t blow the outcropping away completely…so I figured I’d build to the next ledge and take it from there. But no dice; the bridge I just built keeps other Lemmings from joining me up there.
- I’ve managed to save a grand total of one Lemming so far, and I’ve been shouting obscenities at this level for almost an hour. I think it’s time to retire Christmas Lemmings for the night…satisfied somewhat that this is my first out-and-out failure…but also very frustrated that, after all this time and so close to the end, I finally seem to have gotten saddled with an impossible level.
- There is no entry for December 16.
- dennisthedoughnutboy was gracious enough in the comments section to suggest that I count off 8 animation cycles of the climbing Lemming before telling him to blow himself up. Since this gets the Lemming exactly where I was TRYING to get him I won’t count taking this advice as cheating…I’ll call it streamlining instead. Thanks, dennis!
- And it works great…I can always get the Lemming to pop within a pixel or two of the top of the cliff-face. The trouble, then, is that the hell to do next.
- dennis suggested I “build, bash, and bomb.” Maybe that was in sequence, I don’t know…but sometimes a general hint can actually lead you in the wrong direction, especially if you believe you know what it means when, really, you don’t.
- So I ignored him and figured I’d find my OWN way, once I got the Lemming to pop right.
- But, wouldn’t you know it, the pixel’s-width gap that kept swallowing up my Lemming wasn’t the only thing I needed to overcome, because once I DID overcome it, there was a later, higher gap that doomed me. dennis was onto something, but I couldn’t figure out what.
- I resorted to the same plan I was using two days ago. Pictured is my best attempt so far.
- Ignore those two lower craters…that was me relieving some aggression.
- But the fact is that I can’t get a Lemming to detonate in a place that will destroy the bridges (so that they can make it to the gap) AND leave the cliff-face uninterrupted for further Lemmings to climb.
- I’m starting to think I’m barking up the wrong tree…but for the life of me I can’t figure out what to do instead. Help me, dennis!
- From dennisthedoughnutboy: “If you’re building the bridge in the same place as you did in the last screenshot, then that’s your problem. You have enough bricks in one builder to start from inside the crater - let the lemming climb and fall, and start building when his feet are on the shaded bit of the pillar.”
- Well I’ll be my mother’s balls.
- The level is solved! And yet…there’s still really no satisfaction. I guess it’s kind of like telling your kid fifty times in a row to clean up the drink he spilled. After the 51st time, he finally does it. Do you feel satisfied? Of course not…by that point you’re too wrapped up in how many times he refused, and how stubborn he was being.
- Because I didn’t actually have the wrong solution! Of course I was still feeling my way through the level, but there was a certain stumbling block regarding bridge placement that was, as dennis mentions in our comments, more about overcoming collision detection than it is about puzzle solving. I kept telling the Lemmings to do what I had in mind all along, and they wouldn’t do it. Every time a Lemming climbed the wall he’d knock his head against the bridge I built and fall down. Every time.
- So I “learned” that bridges were too solid for Lemmings to pass through. The game tricked me. The Lemmings can’t pass through bridges, but they can, I guess, roll through them if they’re pulling themselves up onto a ledge at the time.
- Oh, really? And what’s the logic behind that?
- There is none.
- So how am I expected to know that?
- By trying each ability on each Lemming on each pixel of the board and repeating until something works.
- You shits.
- This is the unfair level I was bitching about before I even started this little adventure here. I knew it was coming…I just knew it. Because it’s not the puzzle holding you back…it’s getting the game to do what it’s supposed to do.
- Sometimes that’s picking a single Lemming out of a group of 200. Sometimes it’s assigning the ability to “bash” while you’re not even sure if the Lemming is facing left or right. Here it’s figuring out, somehow, that the Lemmings can’t pass through a bridge, unless it’s built one pixel higher. Huh?
- Ohhh I’m angry. Thank you, dennis, for making me slightly less insane. And yes, I am willing to admit that I did not beat the game without help at this point. I WOULD have, as my solution would have worked if the game hadn’t taught me that the Lemmings can’t pass through a bridge, but, hey, thems the breaks. I’ve lost. But I have one level left.
- And I’ll start it tomorrow. When I will be, presumably, less angry.
- I just checked the next level to see if, maybe, they were giving me a nice easy ride as a reward for making it this far.
- No. They are not.
- I spent a lot of time trying to blast a small snowball out of the way of the exit, but my exploders never seemed to break it. Not even a little.
- For whatever reason I kept trying, and eventually it DID break, so this is another one of those perfect pixel things. By the time I figured that out most of my Lemmings were missing or dead, so I’ll have to pick this up again tomorrow.
- I’m off to play some Christmas Metroid instead.
- I’m not given much in the way of abilities here, in this final level, and though I spend some time fooling around with the sequences of actions I just can’t seem to get it right.
- Which is, actually, okay, because now, for the first time, I think I realize that I don’t actually care whether or not I finish the game.
- It’s the last level, after all. It’s been a month of playing and blogging and blowing things up. How could I possibly stop once I’ve come this far?
- There’s only one answer: the game isn’t giving me any reason to care.
- I’m not talking story-wise or anything. There’s no princess to rescue, but big deal. I just mean that, playing this level and the one before it, there isn’t anything to actually feel proud of accomplishing. It’s not that you can figure out a clever arrangement to get the boys home…it’s clicking and counting walk cycles and trying, and trying, and trying again. Not trying different things…no…trying the exact same thing in the hopes that you can get your little bastards to stop building or to explode on the exact pixel necessary.
- And that’s…pointless.
- World of Goo doesn’t ask for pixel-perfect puzzle solving. Its solutions aren’t always obvious, but once you figure them out, it’s more a matter of just doing them than it is doing them exactly, click-for-click, as the developer decided you should.
- Tetris, that most addictive of all pointless games, still brought with it some bragging rights because, hey, it’s fast thinking under pressure. And yeah, you could whine about the poor selection of pieces you’ve been dealt in a row, but, in the end, it is always the player’s responsibility to succeed…the unfortunate piece falling next is only unfortunate because you haven’t been managing your earlier pieces well enough.
- Lemmings, on the other hand…well, I’ve gotten this far, and yet it doesn’t actually FEEL like I’ve gotten anywhere. It’s the last stage…so why is it tedious? Why do I care no more about finishing it than I did during level one? I’m not saying the developers stopped having fun with the puzzle design—in fact, I’m sure they were laughing their fool heads off. But they did sort of create a product that doesn’t really seem fair. You don’t have to solve the puzzles; you have to decode what was going on in the developer’s mind at the time and recreate it. Which, yeah, is a puzzle in itself, but not a very rewarding one, and, ultimately, it’s kind of pointless.
- So I’m left hanging on the last stage of the game with four days to go until Christmas, and all I can think about are the much better games I’m not playing. That’s not the way it should be. I should be more inclined to finish it the closer I get to the end. Instead, I’m just dragging from the accumulated weight of game-long frustration.
- The question I set out to answer was this: Could I complete Christmas Lemmings between December 1 and December 25? The answer is…maybe. Who knows. Given enough time and enough clicking I could possibly figure it out…but if you crave a conclusive answer, then let’s just say no.
- But the more interesting question, though not directly raised, was: Why is it, exactly, that I’ve never played a Lemmings game to the end? And now I know. I’ve never played a Lemmings game to the end because, innovative and influential as they were, there was never any strong reason to stick with them.
- I guess Lemmings is one of those things that’s far better in memory than in reality.
- So leave it there, boys and girls. Enjoy the many great puzzle games it spawned. If you design games yourself, learn what you can from its brilliant concept. But if you’re just a gamer, and you start to feel misty-eyed for the Lemmings of old, use the opportunity to play some much better relics instead.
- After all, it’s about time the Lemmings started helping themselves.
- Merry Christmas, everyone.