It’s the holiday season and I haven’t written about a Commodore game in a bit, so let’s mash the two things together, shall we?
When you think of beloved holiday traditions, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Directing a herd of lemmings to safety through a winter landscape? Sacrificing a few with explosions for the good of the herd? Hearing their pitiful squeak when they die? If so, then boy do I have the games for you (although if you enjoy the death squeak…seriously, what the heck?) Released between 1991 and 1994, the Christmas Lemmings games (sometimes called Holiday Lemmings) were a variation on the original Lemmings video game published by Psygnosis for the Amiga system.
If you aren’t familiar with the original, it’s a puzzle game that required you to get a herd of lemmings to safety. You didn’t have direct control of the lemmings. Instead, there was a cross-hair that you could use to select one member of the herd and an array of actions you could ask it to perform. Lemmings could climb, float, explode (killing them but altering the landscape), block (which reversed the directions of all the lemmings who walked into the blocker), build, bash (dig horizontally), mine (dig down on a diagonal), or dig straight down. You had a percentage of lemmings that you had to guide to safety. The percentage varied by level, as did the number and type of skills you could use. Levels also had a time limit. If you didn’t complete the level in time, the level was over.
Gameplay was identical to the original Lemmings, but it featured you in winter settings, and instead of the blue robes the lemmings wore in the original, your lemmings were dressed in little Santa costumes.
The first two games were released in 1991 and 1992, and they weren’t full games. They were demos containing only a few levels. The 1991 release also included levels from the game Oh No! More Lemmings! released the same year. The versions released in 1993 and 1994 both had thirty-two levels apiece.
The following year saw the little rodents make a holiday appearance once again, but this time it was a simple add on to the 3D Lemmings game. It was called 3D Lemmings Winterland, and contained six levels set in a winter landscape.
The games were popular, and you can still find emulations online if you get the urge to mix semi-suicidal rodents with Yuletide cheer.