Have You Played… Lemmings 2: The Tribes?

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

So much time has passed that I’m not sure if my opinions about Lemmings 2 are contrary or against the grain. I didn’t like it, having loved the original, which was the perfect blend of challenging puzzles and comic characters, I found The Tribes’ larger skillset upset the sense of progression horribly.

In the original Lemmings, you move from level to level, getting a better appreciation as to how the few skills at your disposal can be used in different situations. In Lemmings 2, each of the twelve titular tribes has its own set of skills, and ten levels in which to utilise them. While some of the skills are repeated, with slightly different animations, the levels are built to accomodate a tribe’s specialism.

On paper, it’s a sound idea, but in practice it left me cold. You can play any set of levels in any order, and the fine difficulty curve of the original game is lost. I’m also much more attached to the minimalist lemmings of the original than any of the daft spin-offs.


  1. Sp4rkR4t says:

    The circus levels destroyed me.

  2. basilisk says:

    Yes, I remember the game similarly. Far too many skills, most of them only useful in one or two levels under very specific circumstances. It’s just throwing stuff at the wall and using everything that sticks or at least seems like it might stick if we keep throwing.

    It’s rather telling that the best tribe to play was the “classic” one, which I remember had some neat levels. And I also remember the sports tribe being particularly painful, with all its fuzzy, inexact and very impractical skills. The concept indeed works best when it’s pared down to the essentials.

    It’s weird that no one has tried to resurrect Lemmings, isn’t it? A proper modern version could be rather nice.

    • chuckieegg says:

      I’m not sure how a modern version would work. 3D lemmings was another fine idea on paper which didn’t work in practice. Maybe lemmings classic, like Worms, can never be improved on other than more refined graphics.

      • basilisk says:

        Well, that’s mostly what I mean. Update the graphics, add a more granular system for manipulating the timescale of the game (because the timing-based levels were so annoying), add a precise way to select a specific lemming (3D had that) and you’d get a very fine game. And I’m sure that it would be possible to add some more skills or gimmicks to keep things fresh. Just don’t go overboard with it, which is what happened with both Lemmings and Worms.

        • SparroHawc says:

          Frankly, I found the homebrew LemmingsDS to be fantastic – it was a rebuild of the engine only and required the levels and graphics to be loaded into it, but it had the granularity that you’re looking for and an excellent adaptation of the UI. I spent a good deal of time with it on my old DS Lite and the R4.

      • basilisk says:

        And I don’t think that Lemmings 3D failed because of the concept, necessarily; it mostly suffered from poor controls, because it came out before these things got standardised. The puzzles themselves weren’t bad from what I remember.

        (And the graphics were rather poor, but then again, it was a 3D game from 1995.)

        • LionsPhil says:

          The camera movement is awkward, but otherwise Lemmings 3D’s controls aren’t that bad, especially with enhancements over the original formula like marked lemmings. ISTR some levels made use of the camera being too big to fit through gaps that lemmings could, forcing you to use first-person mode, which was a kinda cool twist.

          You could probably do a direct graphics-and-camera-controls-only update and it’d still shine today. Even had CD audio tracks, so not much work needed on the sound front.

      • ShommyX says:

        There has already been 3d reboot of Lemmings called Lemmings Revolution. And it was actually pretty awesome, loved it. I think it’s playable on Win7 with some twitching here and there.

    • Shazbut says:

      There’s that pixel art zombie game that came out just recently that is supposed to be like a Lemmings game. What’s it called again?

      • Martin Carpenter says:

        No idea. One thing that was definitely trying to be lemmings updated (with good graphics etc) is flockers. Not sure how well it did it.

      • porcelain_gods says:

        Zombie Night Terror
        link to gog.com

        • cpt_freakout says:

          Tried it for a bit and it is pretty much Lemmings with hilarious twists. It’s not much, but I widely recommend it if you used to like the Lemmings games.

  3. dethtoll says:

    Speaking of sequels to classic games — any plans to cover the (as of now, PC-only) fan remake of Metroid 2? Metroid as a franchise is 30 years old as of a few days ago and Nintendo has basically forgotten its birthday, which leaves it up to its loyal fanbase to celebrate, and the newly-released full version of AM2R is as good a way to do it as any.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      Never knew of this, just hurried over and found all downloads been taken down by Nintendo. Makes sense they own the rights after all.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        The…um…indirect method is still functional.

      • dethtoll says:

        Yeah, Nintendo waited three whole days and it’s gone now, but 1.0’s already been spread everywhere. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.

        • SparroHawc says:

          It’s almost like they waited until it was out in the wild – and disseminated to the internet at large – before making their move, to ensure that 1) the game itself would live on and be playable by people to remind us all of how great Metroid can be, but also 2) make sure that they emphasize that it isn’t official and protect their IP.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Oh, cool, thanks for the info!

  4. thekelvingreen says:

    Yeah, it wasn’t as good as the original Lemmings, but then the first one was something special. I did and do love the CaveLem music though.

    • tigerfort says:

      Lemmings 2’s music was OK, but like the game itself, it just didn’t have the magic of the original.

  5. TeePee says:

    I remember loving this as a youngster. Not so much because it was a great game, but I loved the idea of Lemmings, I just wasn’t very good at it, and didn’t have the patience for it.

    Lemmings 2 was the same idea, but with a whole BUNCH of fun new Lems to play with and accidentally murder in creative/hilarious/horrific ways. Wasn’t there a pole-vaulter or something?

    Man, that’s quite a kick from the nostalgia donkey right there… :mistyeyes:

  6. zenorogue says:

    I did like Lemmings 3D — there were many games with 3D versions (even if only the graphics were “improved” but the game was essentially still 2D), and I usually hate this — lots of effort goes into it, and the end result looks worse IMHO and is less fun to play than original. Lemmings 3D was the only one where moving to 3D actually made sense and led to nice challenges. And it allowed the player to change the world, a rare thing in 3D games, especially at that time.

    As for Lemmings 2D, I liked it in general. Yeah, some of the new skills were junk, but loved some of the other ones. I did not like the design where lemmings available on the next level = lemmings saved on the last level. This way, all levels had to be made so that you should be able to save most lemmings, and it restricted the possibilities a lot. The approach “save at least N to go to the next level” from other Lemmings games was better.

    • ansionnach says:

      Well said – 3D Lemmings was great and really did make good use of 3D. Controls weren’t that bad and I suspect that it didn’t do so well because many simply couldn’t think in three dimensions, which was absolutely necessary to complete most of the levels.

      I’ve quite enjoyed all the Lemmings puzzle games except Revolution. Oh No! More Lemmings is probably the best game overall and I only went back and completed it in the last couple of years (I simply couldn’t finish it as a young teenager, even though I’d finished Lemmings and Lemmings 2). All New World of Lemmings was good, too, except for the levels where you had to throw grenades (one brutal Egyptian level comes to mind). Too bad it never was completed (there should have been levels for nine more tribes released as data disks). The greatest Lemmings tragedy was the closure of 3D Lemmings makers Clockwork Games. Other than Lemmings generation 1’s simplicity, 3D is very arguably the best Lemmings game and therefore one of the best puzzle games ever made. Would have been nice to get some more but what we got was a large main of beef, pork, chicken, turkey and lamb covered in melted cheese and lentils.

  7. anevilyak says:

    Ahh, Psygnosis, how I miss you.

  8. timzania says:

    This is the correct opinion of Lemmings 2 as a game, but the challenge of getting it to actually run, with, like, sound, was the Dark Souls of its day.

  9. Baf says:

    I get the impression that I’m the only person who liked Lemmings 2. I didn’t feel like the set of actions in the original Lemmings was as elegant and essential as the rest of you lot seem to think. Experimenting with other actions was a good thing, if you ask me.

    Also, this was the first Lemming game where it was possible to save every single lemming. This is important to some of us. I remember coming up with convoluted ways to save all the lemmings in levels where it wasn’t really intended in the original game, but there were some levels where it was just plain impossible to do, because all they gave you was exploders.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Didn’t it also do a thing where if you didn’t save all the lemmings, you’d have fewer in later levels, though? So it was somewhat prone to failure spirals.

      Also that meant that opening a box of it now reveals savegames on an unreadable floppy disk, rather than a Post-It(R) note of meticulously listed level passwords.

      • PancakeWizard says:

        You could still go back and redo any level, IIRC, so if you ended up with less-than optimum number of Lemmings, you could just go back and try to get more on the levels you didn’t try hard enough on.

        • iainl says:

          Sadly though, you not only had to go back to the level you did badly on, but then replay every level after that to get the extra one or two through those as well. I remember finding it pretty fiddly.

    • Heimdall2061 says:

      I absolutely loved Lemmings 2. I played it on my dad’s Amiga 500 and 1200 for probably dozens if not hundreds of hours, and it’s one of the defining games of my childhood, along with stuff like Hired Guns, Walker, Pirates, etc, etc.

      For me, the campaign wasn’t even the best part: I loved starting up the freeform levels and just having my Lemmings ant-farm around for hours.

      This is probably the best place to ask this, by the way: am I the only one who played games on the Amiga back in the day and now can’t stand the PC versions because of the inferior sound quality? I tried to play the GOG version of Civilization the other day, and I honestly couldn’t stand the thin-feeling music compared to the Amiga stuff.

      For comparison:

      PC: link to youtube.com

      Amiga: link to youtube.com

      • Bum Candy says:

        The Amiga was light years ahead of the PC’s of the day in terms of music and graphics.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Not even slightly. The sound and particularly music of PC games was utterly atrocious until the mid-late 90s when compared to several consoles but especially the amiga.

        I was even gonna mention on here that the soundtrack to Lemmings 2 was largely fantastic (the title theme swings better than many bands, cavelem theme is particularly lovely, and popbitch ran a feature on how several modern pop songs ripped off the Classic tribe tune: link to popbitch.com – also worth reading for the shockingly accurate observations about how Muse based their entire career on a Dizzy game’s theme) – but only on the amiga.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        You are not the only one. I was aghast when I played the PC version of Monkey Island, and I shudder aurally at the thought of playing The Chaos Engine on anything other than an A1200.

        • PixelsAtDawn says:

          You’ll be happy to know that the version of The Chaos Engine on Steam is basically just a ported version of the A1200 game with a few tweaks to support online multiplayer etc. It does have a few issues though, so make sure you look into it if you’re planning to pick it up (I haven’t played it for a while, so I can’t comment right now).

    • PancakeWizard says:

      I also preferred Lemmings 2. It’s the quintessential Lemmings game, for me.

    • Darloth says:

      As someone who was quite young at the time, I liked Lemmings 2 The Tribes just because I liked variety.

  10. MrThingy says:

    I don’t know if it was a bug (wrong Hz?), but the “OW!” on the Atari ST version seemed to be really low and slow, as though playing at 50% speed.

    That… is all I remember. That, and the sandcastle levels.

  11. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    I borrowed a friend’s SNES cart of it back in high school, and I really liked it then, but I hadn’t played the original. I also couldn’t have played more than half of it before I returned it, but it was fun while it lasted. Oh! And Lemmings 2 had secret buttons in the menus and/or button-based cheats or something, which is very important.

  12. dangermouse76 says:

    Internet archive has a load of Amiga games running in browser. They dont all work that well, but lemmings is there. link to archive.org

    • dangermouse76 says:

      I should say I’ve tried about 5 games so far with limited success.

  13. benkc says:

    What I vaguely recall is that while the campaign levels were not great as a game, the sandbox mode was a rather fun toy. I think you could pick one of several levels and any combination of 10 jobs. I remember setting up giant loops of trampolines, I think.

  14. Sin Vega says:

    I never liked any Lemmings game, playing them ‘properly’ was dull as hell to me. But Lems 2 had the odd playground mode, where as others have pointed out, you could pick whatever skills you like and just fart about with them in the arena.

    At the time, I was obsessed with Worms, which we couldn’t yet afford as it wasn’t christmas, so instead I’d set up an arena and use a skill like “swimmer” to palette swap half the lemmings, then have them wage wars with mortars and bows and bombs and stuff. It was all very silly.

  15. LukeW says:

    Had this on the Amiga 500. I loved it. Got gold on every stage from memory except one. I think I had a corrupt disk or something because the one stage would never load, denying me the chance to get a perfect score.

  16. iainl says:

    The best thing about the Amiga versions of 1 and 2 were that they supported two mice for multiplayer vs. mode, which was crazy and fun. Sadly that never seemed to make it to the other releases.