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Have You Played... Lemmings?

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Lemmings was probably the defining game of my first PC, but I loved it before I’d even played it.
I loved it so much that my bedroom was decorated with Lemmings cut out of a promotional plastic bag I’d been given by someone at school. I thought that blue tunic/pink face/green hair combo was just the greatest, and I doodled rough approximations of it wherever I could too. I was at an age just after cartoons but just before Aliens and Robocop, so Lemmings hit the bullseye of where my young head was at. Fundamentally cutesy, but lifted into vague transgression by the idea that these little dudes died in bloodless droves.

The game, first experienced in my case as the freeware spin-off Christmas Lemmings, provided on a complimentary floppy disk bundled with my family’s first PC, did not disappoint. The naughtiness of getting them killed (or killing them), the triumph of solving the fiendish building puzzles, the uncommon kinship of doing with my father, the degree to which the contents of the screen could be reshaped and destroyed: Lemmings felt like a game from the future.

I suppose it was my first encounter with anything like a sandbox, even though level solutions were somewhat fixed: this idea that I could control a game’s world, rather than simply follow a pre-determined direction. I think Lemmings 2, as much as I loved the cheery art of all the different tribes, lost that somewhat, by focusing far too hard on character and, like so many games of the time, trying to get on the Mario and Sonic toon-cool bandwagon, rather than expanding possibilities.

Lemmings took few prisoners, too – it was coldly logical , unforgivingly demanding. It’s never a game I race to write about, but I suspect it was absolutely foundational in making me a PC gamer.

You can play Lemmings in your browser via Archive.org, though the legality is grey-area.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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