The success of the Lemmings series isn't difficult to understand. For over a decade, gamers have been guiding the cheerfully brainless beasts to safety in a variety of endlessly engaging puzzle settings. And now, if you fork over $5.99 to the PlayStation Store, you can download the newest version right to your PlayStation 3. Actually, it's not really new--it's quite similar to last year's PlayStation Portable version. The solid gameplay of that version has survived intact, along with an online ranking system that lets you compare your score to others. Yet while the small screen of the PSP was a perfect fit for the compact levels, its limited scope is more noticeable now. And without the level editor and swapping of the other iteration, Sony and Team 17 let some of the wind out of the game's sails.
That isn't to say that this version of Lemmings doesn't get the series' basics right, though, because it's still oozing the personality you'd expect from the franchise. Your job is to save a group of the wandering rodents from certain death by assigning roles to them, such as "builder" or "miner." In turn, the creatures will mindlessly perform the task, digging, floating, and climbing their way to safety. The success of the game has always been in its complex levels and puzzles, as well as the endearing green-coiffed buggers that inhabit them. And make no mistake: Some of these puzzles can be quite difficult and require a good amount of trial and error to figure out. There are also some new level features, such as cloning machines and teleporters, that don't drastically change the gameplay but add enough newness to keep it fresh.
The controls are similar to those on the PSP, with the exception of cursor control, since you can now use the left analog stick to move the selection cursor. To select an active skill, you use R1 or L1 to cycle through the available choices, while the triangle button lets you zoom in closer to the action. To assign an action, you select the appropriate skill and move the cursor over the lemming you want to assign it to. Then you press the X button and the creature gets to work. The scheme works well, although when you need to pick a particular lemming from a pack, it is sometimes easy to pick the wrong one--and considering that not every skill is available at any given moment, it's frustrating to have to scroll through all of them every time.
Even with the online leaderboards that let you compare your score with others, and 40 new levels with high-definition 720p support, it's hard to shake the feeling that something is missing. It's mostly because you can't create and share your own levels as you could in the PSP version; nor does this iteration offer anything as dramatically new as the European PlayStation 2 version of Lemmings, which featured Eye Toy support. And like those titles, it also cries out for some type of multiplayer component. All in all, while the series felt like a perfect fit on the PSP, it's got all of the great gameplay on the PS3 without any features that make it feel as contemporary as it should. It does look as vibrant as its cousins in the series, though, with colorful backgrounds and adorable lemming animations, as well as some nice lighting effects that distinguish this version from the others. The familiar, charming rodent squeals and soothing music of the other versions are also present and accounted for.
All told, Lemmings on the PS3 is a great value for newcomers to the series. On the other hand, if you played it on the PSP, there's less reason to get excited, since the improvements are incremental. But the game's appeal is palpable, with its increasingly challenging puzzles and delightful presentation. Still, with the other versions offering better features, it's hard not to be just a tad disappointed.