Look, before you leap…

Ed O'Meara
5 min readNov 30, 2019

People go on about a classic era of gaming when games had substance and wit and magic. Possibly because those that wax lyrical about them now weren’t middle aged and balding, but fresh, clean-limbed teenagers in the prime of their flowering acne.

These new games? Rubbish, what with their huge, beautifully rendered worlds, excellent production values and not crashing every few seconds. Boo.

One of the only few titles that really worked for me way back when was Lemmings. In an age where 8-bit graphics were cutting edge, Lemmings excelled. It was a simple premise. Move little marching blobs around a screen to a fixed point without them dying.

And this is perhaps why its transition to a mobile game makes so much sense. You could throw all the graphics in the world at this game, but it would be little improved. Another dimension might ruin it, or at least turn it into an Esher painting. But no need. The charm of Lemmings then as now was its simplicity — and the mobile game has stuck to that formula.

The soul of the game remains superficially very much in tact. Despite what we’re daily told about how political correctness and triggering and snowflakes has ruined everything, Lemmings is still a game about saving adorable little creatures from a fate of being sawn in half or plummeting to their death or boiling in acid or getting lasered or BBQ’d. Sure, the blood that drips off the saws or collects in sticky puddles on the floor is pink, but (to quote Shakespeare) if you drop a Lemming a distance of more than two storeys — does it not go splat? Not a health and safety lecture in sight.

While this mobile version follows the classic Lemmings formula, there are a few notable absences. For example, I’m fairly sure that Lemmings used to have all kinds of abilities whereas now they seem to have a fairly basic CV: dig, build stairs, block, blow up stairs, parachute.

Or maybe that’s all they ever had and I’m thinking of Worms? Another fantastic classic.

Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Those few skills plus any number of levels makes for millions of combinations. In the early levels, there are any number of ways to shepherd your suicidal minions to salvation but, as the levels progress and you move from world to world, the puzzles get trickier as the number of possible routes shrink.

But this isn’t consistent. On one level it can be a obstacle course of hell followed immediately by a leisurely walk up a staircase to victory.

And, fast forward hundreds of levels, the standard game can feel limited and repetitive. While there are tournaments and fiendishly difficult challenges to keep you glued to the screen, the rewards on offer don’t feel very…rewarding. Ooh, some gold coins you say? Well, there’s no meaningful way to spend those.

Money! Money! Money!

Of course, no game exists today without various ways of fleecing the user and Lemmings has a good go at bleeding us pink. To play the game, you need energy, which you can generally pick up just by playing through, but after a few games, you’ll need to refill. Either you can wait a few hours or (of course) you can pay for more.

In fact the energy rich, ad-free version of this game is an eye watering £11.99 per month! That’s £2 more per month than Spotify Premium. Sign up to that and after a few months you might feel like leaping off something.

But admittedly you can play fairly happily for free. Of course there are ads. Endless ads. And the more free spins of the wheel for bonuses you make, the more you’ll have to endure. But that’s fairly normal for these games and whether you go for the wheel spins is up to you.

And yes, there are lots of other things you can send your money on: custom characters to be bought, extra bonuses and so the usual clutter — but as the standard of freemium games goes, it’s not too intrusive and you can play on with impunity.

Speaking of custom characters, the developers have gone extra cutesy on the characters and this includes collecting bonus characters which change every season. A recent batch included a “Brexit” set containing a Jeremy Corbyn lemming. And while some may see him as a leap for Labour off the electoral cliff, as a lefty I waved a fist at the game and wrote off its developers as a bunch of Tories only fit for the splatting. Still, I’m sure I’ll get over it.

But political dabbling aside, there’s no doubt that this is a better free game than most. Take the fact that you can play offline. While most games demand that you have an internet connection, Lemmings let’s you crack on regardless. No small thing for most mobile games I’ve encountered — who refuse to part with more than a minute of gameplay without constant ads/ updates/ data theft.

In short, this is a good enough game which should keep you hooked in the short term. And while its paid features overleap their ambition, there’s enough free stuff here to stop your interest from immediately plummeting.



Ed O'Meara

Copywriter and historical comedian. Looking for the gravy train.