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Offline Proxima

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Proxima's Reviews
« on: April 03, 2020, 05:05:02 PM »
Welcome to Proxima's Reviews!

So, this is an idea I've had for a while; it wasn't inspired by DireKrow's thread, although we have been talking about our threads in discord and mutually encouraging each other.

I've been around the custom Lemmings scene for a long time now, but I haven't actually finished very many packs. So I decided, as a way to motivate myself, that every time I finish a pack, I will post a review -- not level by level as with DireKrow's thread, but of the pack as a whole. I will concentrate on the following aspects:

Identity -- Pack name and date, name of original author and current maintainer (if any)
Statistics -- Number of levels and ranks, talismans
Features -- Does the pack use NeoLemmix's new skills and objects? Does it have any special gimmicks? (I am not trying to make a point about the new skills/objects being good or bad. It's just that because of the way NeoLemmix has developed and many level packs from older engines have been ported to NL, there is a fairly sharp divide between packs that use the new features and ones that don't; so this is a point of interest for anyone reading about the pack.)
Historical context -- What engine the pack was originally made for; features of interest about the process of converting it for NL (such as added or removed levels); the impact the pack has had on the development of the community. Here in particular, I'll try to do my research, but there will often be a lot I don't know and I'm open to adding information if anyone has anything to contribute.
Thoughts on the pack -- The meat of the review :P Here I will talk about how much I enjoyed the pack as a whole; any particular favourite levels; I'll try to concentrate on the positives, but if there are any un-favourite levels I might mention that too 8-)
Difficulty -- What level of player would I recommend it for? Is the difficulty fairly steady throughout the pack or is there a wide range?
Overall impression -- A summary to finish with.

I was hoping to start with either Lemmings Plus I or GeoffLems, but I haven't been able to finish either of those yet, and since DireKrow is reviewing MazuLems, and I've played that pack before in Lix but some of the Lix mechanics are not exactly true to the original game, I decided to quickly play through MazuLems so I could read DireKrow's reviews without spoilers. So, MazuLems ended up being the first pack (other than Lemmings Redux) I've truly finished in NeoLemmix, and will be my first review.

Requesting a review

If you would like me to review your pack, or have a suggestion for a pack I should play, that's great, but please be patient. My #1 rule is that before reviewing a pack, I have to solve every level without help. I also don't want to have too many packs I'm in the middle of playing at any one time. Also, I will only review packs playable on NL 12.7 or later, so no old-formats or gimmicks packs, or packs for other engines.

Packs I am currently playing

Lemmings Migration
Lemmings Plus II

Review index

#1 MazuLems
#2 MiniLems
#3 Sammings
#4 Tame Gone Wild
#5 Lemminas
#6 Lemmings Plus I
#7 DoveLems
#8 Lemmings DD

« Last Edit: September 27, 2021, 01:05:53 PM by Proxima »

Offline grams88

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2020, 10:16:45 PM »
Hi Proxima

I have a small level pack of about 20 levels (Nuked Lemmings) which I think you would quite like. I tried to do each level different than the previous one. It's sort of hard.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2020, 10:40:54 PM »

MazuLems by Martin Zurlinden, converted and maintained by namida

32 levels (1 rank of 30, with 2 "Extra" levels). No talismans.

Features: Original skills and mechanics only. A couple of levels were intended to use features that NL no longer supports (invisible exit, invisible terrain, timed bombers). The levels do not seem to be sorted in any way.

MazuLems was made for DOS Lemmings in, I believe, 2001 or 2002, and is one of the earliest known custom Lemmings packs. As such, it predates the convention of organising levels in ranks and by approximate difficulty order. It should, I believe, be treated as a collection of individual levels.

For the most part, its levels are solid puzzle levels that still hold up by modern standards. There's a good mixture of levels with single solutions, levels with main tricks but a lot of room for the player to choose their own approach, and anything-goes levels. As expected from such an early pack, several levels experiment with new directions; some of these (such as, again, the invisible exit and invisible terrain) are no longer popular, while others, such as the tricks in "Holy Cow" and "Mastermind", are now recognisable as the first instances of tricks that have become part of mainstream level design.

Difficulty: Definitely one of the more accessible packs as an introduction to custom levels for someone who's finished the original game. The lack of ordering may be off-putting to some. It should be noted that "It's a Magical World" was intended to use a glitch in DOS Lemmings, and is only solvable at all in NeoLemmix with a tricky unintended solution (however, the main trick of this solution is shown earlier in the pack).

Favourite levels:
* "The Pool" is a great puzzle level that stumped me for a long time (back when I played this pack in Lix) and was really satisfying to finally beat.
* "Achtung Lemming" is another really nice puzzle that isn't harmed in any way by having multiple solutions. (On discord last night, namida tracked down Martin Zurlinden's original document, which I've attached, with his intended solutions, so I know that my solution to this one wasn't intended.)
* "Four Lemmings and a Funeral" is really hard and has a great trick to the solution. However, the enforcement is simply "delay the non-workers as much as possible so the worker can finish a long bridge", a level type that tends to be prone to backroutes and to not making it clear enough when the player is on a red herring path that can't lead to a solution.

Overall impressions: A solid, fun level pack that doesn't really have any bad levels. A couple that are not to my taste ("Stalkers" and "Fallout Boys" in particular) but even these were still satisfying to play and beat. I would definitely recommend anyone new to the custom Lemmings scene to include this pack in their playlist.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #3 on: April 21, 2020, 12:45:47 AM »

MiniLems by WillLem

64 levels (4 ranks of 16). No talismans.

Features: Mostly original skills and mechanics; a couple of levels add walkers or have unlock buttons. All levels are "miniaturised" remakes of the original levels, usually with fewer lemmings and fewer skills. Only one level has been kept from each repeat pair.

We've all taken a certain amount of inspiration from the original levels from time to time, and most packs have at least one or two levels that are clearly traceable to individual levels from the original game. MiniLems takes this further, and gives us a new take on the majority of the original levels.

The pack starts off quite strongly. The Fun and Tricky 20-of-everything levels have mostly been reduced to 3 of everything (sometimes with an exception for builders, sometimes not), so many levels will require some creativity in coming up with new solutions. By the Taxing rank, the pack seems to have lost its way somewhat, with many levels that just rehash their original solutions (and some are even easier than the originals!) Fortunately, the Mayhem rank picks things up again -- there are some rehashes here, but there are also some fun new challenges.

Difficulty is easy to medium throughout; a little harder than the original game but not by much.

Favourite levels:
* "We are now at LEMCON ONE", surprisingly, became quite challenging to save 100% (although it's still easy just to pass).
* "Nightmare on Lem Street", of all levels, is no longer completely trivial and became a pretty neat puzzle! :thumbsup:
* I won't spoil the surprise here, but I love what was done with "All the 6's" and "I have a cunning plan".
* "Walk the web rope" was uninspired when I first played it, but after feedback, WillLem has replaced it with a really nice puzzle.
* Finally, "Save Me" and "Rendezvous at the Mountain" both became suitably challenging to make a nice climax to the pack.

Overall impressions: A pretty fun "coffee break" to tackle in between more serious packs. A few annoyances and filler levels, but not enough to spoil the fun (although mileage might vary, depending on whether you already feel tired of original-level rehashes). Some levels have unexpected depth for maximum saved and other challenges.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2020, 10:48:28 PM »

Sammings by mantha16

32 levels (4 ranks of 8). No talismans.

Features: Original and new skills; some unlock buttons and pickup skills but no other new objects. Each rank uses a single tileset, and each set of levels takes the form of variations on a theme, with the overall structure of the layout remaining constant, while each level makes small changes to the terrain, as well as having its own skillset. All layouts are extremely minimalistic, using the least terrain pieces needed to make the levels work.

This is a really nice offering from a new level designer, and shows what can be done with the "variations on a theme" format. Each level has its own distinct identity, and even playing eight variations in a row never felt repetitive. There is a nice progression from easy to tricky within each rank, and a good range of tricks are showcased in the solutions.

Difficulty: One of the most accessible custom packs out there. Each rank starts with very basic levels and gradually builds up complexity, but even the toughest levels are just about putting a couple of tricks together, sometimes with elements of positioning or timing.

Favourite levels: "Bubble Bubble, Toil and Trouble", "Ruddy Marblellous" and "A Rolling Rock Gathers No Lems" stand out as interesting and fun puzzles using very simple terrain.

Overall impressions: This is a really fun pack that I would especially recommend to new players who want to start with an easier pack that will challenge them a little and help them to learn some simple tricks.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2020, 03:55:56 AM »
Tame Gone Wild

Tame Gone Wild by WillLem

20 levels in one rank. No talismans.

Features: Original skills only; some neutral lemmings but no other new features. These levels are remakes of the Tame levels from Oh No! More Lemmings, usually with the entrance and exit switched; some levels have additional trapdoors, traps and water.

The Tame levels in their original form are extremely bland 20-of-everything levels with no hazards and very few obstacles to get around; it's no surprise that making harder repeats is an idea that has come up a few times, with Clam's "CSTame" and a post in Challenges by Dullstar being previous attempts to make a full set of harder repeats of every level. At some point, I might play and review those so we can see how they compare.

WillLem's philosophy in these levels can be summarised as "difficulty through complexity": extra trapdoors to deal with (often above splat falls), extra traps in the way, one-way arrows. Unfortunately, the player is always given just the right skills to deal with each obstacle in a natural way, so there is rarely much of a puzzle. Some levels rely on the "fake difficulty" of hidden objects, such as one level in which the very last lemming falls to his death from a trapdoor entirely hidden behind terrain. Time limits are used sparingly, but when they appear, they tend to be annoyingly tight.

Difficulty: If you wished the original ONML had a difficulty rating in between Tame and Crazy, here it is.

Favourite levels: Oddly enough, the opening level "Up and Out Lemmings" is one of the most interesting and puzzly. "Thunder-Lemmings are go!" is a lot of fun (and a case where the time limit isn't a problem -- although it also doesn't add much, since the high release rate forces you to do things quickly anyway). "Custom built for Lemmings" is another nice level with a bit more puzzle to it.

Overall impressions: A decently fun filler pack. Nothing really bad here, but nothing very memorable either.

Offline Ron_Stard

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2020, 05:17:35 PM »
Please, feel free to review my humble level pack, if you want:

Offline Akseli

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2020, 10:46:06 PM »
Hey Proxima, this is an awesome thread, this is really close to what I’ve been hoping myself to do from like 2015 already, but I haven’t got very far yet. :) My initial thought was to create a “Top 10 best levelsets” topic where I post a review of one levelset per day, and I’ve written notes down of everything I’ve played, but I haven’t polished them in a review form yet. Your list of aspects is delightfully comprehensive, I myself had in mind something like this (namida’s Lemmings Plus I as an example):

Lemmings Plus I
[images of some of the levels]
Author: namida
Release date: November 26th 2009
Main platform: Lemmix, NeoLemmix
Rankings and levels: Mild/Wimpy/Medi/Danger/PSYCHO; 30/30/30/30/30, total 150
Graphic sets: Dos Original Lemmings and Dos Oh No! More Lemmings
Custom music: yes in Lemmix ?? no in NeoLemmix ??
No talismans, no features, etc.
Link to the pack
[The review itself that contains historical context, difficulty evaluation and everything else about the levelset]

Keep up the good work, this thread is nice to read! I’m really hoping to get enough inspiration to write my own reviews some time soon. :)

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2020, 07:53:43 PM »

Lemminas by WillLem

64 levels (4 ranks of 16 each). 88 talismans in total, with at least one on every level.

Features: Lemminas is a pack for which the author has gone to a lot of effort to make it feel like a game in its own right. The lemmings are replaced with female "Lemminas"; all levels use a custom tileset (containing many recolours of pieces from the default tilesets, but also many unique pieces), and all music is composed by the pack author. New skills and objects are freely used throughout, except for stoners.

I consider this to be, in a sense, WillLem's debut offering, since it's his first pack that isn't a remix of the original levels. There are still many levels in here that are clearly based on original levels, but they feel more like new levels that pay tribute to the originals, rather than retreads. The pack was released in early 2020 and got off to a somewhat bumpy start, since early versions contained some elements that could be considered unfair or problematic -- hidden elements, overlapping elements, unnecessarily large levels or high lemming counts. However, after a great deal of discussion, these elements were removed or toned down in all cases.

This pack is a great deal of fun. The unique graphics and music give it its own distinct atmosphere, and a good variety of level types -- some are open-ended with lots of skills; some just show off individual tricks; some concentrate on the use of one or two skills; and there are some very nice puzzle levels as well, especially towards the end of the pack.

I have only two main points of criticism. Firstly, while elements that are generally agreed to be unfair were removed, some borderline cases are still present: pickup skills obscuring terrain; overlapping elements; a few levels that are larger than necessary or just too busy. There are not many of these and they don't ruin the pack by any means, but they are there. More seriously, the number of talismans is just excessive, and many of them are not interesting and just require the player to input the same solution two or three times with minor variations. There are also some really great talismans in the pack, and I worry that fewer players will find out about these because the sheer number may put players off attempting the talismans altogether.

Difficulty: Accessible to beginners and works its way up to a difficulty slightly above Mayhem from original Lemmings.

Favourite levels:
* "Lemminas Go Forth" is the stand-out of the Magical rank: an open-ended disjoint union with a wide variety of solutions.
* "Backroute to the Future" is a great multi-tiered puzzle in which the two talismans require the player to come up with new ideas each time.
* "Poor Wee Creaturettes", "Lemmina City Steel Facility" and "With a twist of Lemmina, please" are really great puzzle levels that were immensely satisfying to solve. Two of them are closely based on original levels in terms of terrain, but are completely different puzzles from the originals.

Overall impressions: This is the stand-out pack of 2020 and a must-play for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in NeoLemmix culture.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2021, 01:52:40 AM »
Lemmings Plus I

Lemmings Plus I by namida

150 levels (5 ranks of 30 each). 17 talismans.

Features: Original skills, objects and tilesets only (except for one level that uses updrafts to simulate direct drop). Inspired by the structure of original Lemmings, the pack's early ranks consist largely of 20-of-everything repeats of the later levels, and there is a once-per-rank level with each iteration progressively harder.

Lemmings Plus I is a reboot of namida's Lemmings Plus series, which began with three packs for Cheapo in the mid-2000s. It contains remakes of the best levels from the Cheapo packs, signalling that the rest of those packs are no longer considered canonical. The pack was originally put together in 2009, under the title "Lemmings Plus DOS Project"; the engine was originally that of DOS Lemmings, but later namida changed the bombers to untimed. This was not only the inspiration for Lix to abandon bomber timers in singleplayer, but the first step towards namida making his own custom engine, which eventually became NeoLemmix. In 2014, namida remade the pack in NeoLemmix and declared this to be the official version of LPI; some levels were replaced or moved around at this stage, most notably "The Oddstack", which moved up a full rank, from Medi 16 to Danger 16.

Like many packs of the time, LPI is constructed in imitation of the original game as a whole, starting with easy repeats of the later levels, arranged from absolute beginner to moderately complex; even once the 20-of-everything levels are over, most levels are open-ended, and many are explorations of an idea rather than strict puzzles in the style namida would favour in his later packs.

This pack was, of course, immensely satisfying to finally beat, just because it's been on my radar for so long. You could say that I started it all the way back in the Cheapo days :P and I even played a little part in the way the pack came to be built, since I saved 100% on a couple of the Cheapo levels where namida believed it impossible, and now the LPI equivalents require 100% :) Danger 17 "Perfectionism" is one of these.

Difficulty: Starts at a beginner level, and works up gradually to beyond Mayhem in the Danger rank. The final rank, Psycho, is a big step up from Danger, and fully completing it is a daunting task, but even in this rank there are breather levels.

Favourite levels:
* "No Time to Die" has a really nice concept: a medium number (in this case 9) of each skill, but a low time limit, so that the puzzle is to coordinate multitasking as efficiently as possible. This concept would become a once-per-pack running theme of the Lemmings Plus series.
* "To the End!" is probably LPI's most famous level. A level that looks like a long builderfest, and indeed has an earlier repeat which the player probably solved with many builders, gives 30 of each skill but no builders. This concept, too, would be repeated across the Lemmings Plus series (though without the earlier repeat in most cases).
* "Cavern of Chills", "The Oddstack" and "Coalburner" are very tricky and devious puzzles that might seem impossible at first.
* "Variety Day" is a 1-of-each teaser with a clever trick in the solution.

Overall impressions: There are some tedious or filler levels, as expected for such a large pack, but also a lot of tough puzzles and neat tricks. I couldn't honestly say that this is a pack I think everyone should play from start to finish, but it is certainly one that every NeoLemmix player should try out. I'm looking forward to comparing it to later entries in the Lemmings Plus series 8-)

Offline WillLem

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2021, 04:47:53 AM »
Lemmings Plus I

Great review, Proxima. It's interesting to know some of the history of this pack. I'd say it's comparable to GeoffLems in scope and in its imitative-of-L1 style, with some of the better levels being easily the same if not even higher quality.

One of the great things about this pack is that it does have conceptual "exploration of an idea" type levels, such as presenting a 30-of-everything as level 28 of the final rank, whilst removing the one skill that would make it an absolute doddle.

These are the things which make a pack more interesting, and I hope to see more of that kind of thing from level creators in the future.

(except for one level that uses updrafts to simulate direct drop)

Hmm. Sounds familiar ;P

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #11 on: September 26, 2021, 05:13:11 PM »

DoveLems by Dodochacalo, converted and maintained by IchoTolot

124 levels (4 ranks of 30 each, and a bonus rank). No talismans.

Features: Original skills, objects and tilesets only (except for one level where a glider stands in for an intentional use of the "miner crosses 1-pixel gap" glitch). Some levels use pick-up skills (only in the NeoLemmix conversion) to enforce an intended solution. Similarly to Lemmings Plus I, the first rank starts with skill tutorial levels and consists mostly of open-ended repeats of later levels, although even these vary the skillset a little rather than being strictly 10 or 20 of everything.

DoveLems was originally built in Lemmini, at the time when that was the hottest new engine. I believe it was first posted in another online community, now defunct; because of this, it's hard to be sure of the history of the pack, but Dodochacalo's own video solutions were first posted in 2011, so the pack probably dates from around then. It is often thought of as a sister pack to Pieuw's PimoLems, made around the same time; the authors (both French) clearly shared some ideas; for a long time these two packs stood out as the examples of large packs imitating the original games. DoveLems, being the easier of the two, was often recommended as a first custom pack for new players, and kickstarted the careers of many Lemmings LPers, including roundthewheel.

Icho's conversion is faithful to the original, and his changes are mostly a matter of preventing backroutes, but this is always done with respect to how the pack should come across to relatively inexperienced players. In particular, a smooth difficulty curve is maintained all the way through the pack (except for the "Bonus" rank, which is not sorted by difficulty at all).

A few years ago, I converted this pack to Lix, back in the days when Lix supported the original tilesets; many levels didn't entirely work as intended, due to the absence of one-way walls. So this is another one that I'm very happy to have finally beaten in its intended form. As usual with packs of its era, there are the odd levels that test execution rather than solving ability; but the majority of levels in the second half are ingenious puzzles, many of them looking utterly impossible at first sight.

Difficulty: Definitely one of the more approachable custom packs, since it doesn't really start to get hard until the second half, and even then, most levels have features that help to point the player towards the solution; it is usually possible to pinpoint the route the main crowd will use, and work out the solution logically from there. The peak difficulty is lower than that of Lemmings Plus I and similar to Lemminas, making this still a great choice for a first custom pack for a new player.

Favourite levels:
* "Welcome to the Jungle!" is a great puzzle level with a beautiful solution in which a small number of skills are used to their full potential. Placing this as a rank opener really lets the player know what they can expect from this pack.
* "In the Heart of the Pyramid", "Live from the Pentagon" and "Complete Autarky" stood out as stumpers that were very satisfying to solve.
* "Make the Big 8" is an absolutely beautiful level whose solution involves everything coming together across the entire level area. One would think it would be impossible to make this backroute-free, but Dodochacalo does this with the hand of a master.

Overall impressions: Despite some rough patches and showing its age in places, this is still a pack that every Lemmings player should play all the way through. For new players, doing so will teach you a lot about what the skills can do beyond what you learned in the original game.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Proxima's Reviews
« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2021, 01:05:30 PM »
Lemmings DD

Lemmings DD by WillLem

32 levels (4 ranks of 8). 18 talismans.

Features: Original and new skills. All levels have updrafts above the exits, so as to incorporate direct drop solutions in a fair way. All levels are remakes of layouts from original Lemmings, with new solutions based around the direct drop mechanic.

Direct drop (the ability of lemmings falling onto an exit trigger to exit safely regardless of fall height) has a long and chequered history. It was originally a glitch present in some versions of Lemmings, including DOS and Genesis, but not Amiga or Mac. The Genesis game in particular has some levels that are trivialised by direct drop backroutes, demonstrating that the developers were unaware of the mechanic. Much later, ccexplore was able to analyse the code, and determined that code existed to prevent fallers from exiting, but direct drop was possible because the code didn't take into account that splatters exist as a separate state from fallers.

Lemmix allowed direct drop because it aims to mimic DOS Lemmings, and Cheapo allowed it by deliberate choice of its developer; so in the years when these two engines dominated the custom level scene, architects just had to accept that direct drop was possible, and exits often had to be carefully protected from backroute attacks from above. NeoLemmix also supported direct drop for a while, but when it moved from one executable per pack to a single executable, a forum discussion resulted in the decision to have only one set of mechanics and to leave direct drop in the past, with updrafts being available when a designer especially wanted to enable a direct-drop-like solution.

Lemmings DD is unashamedly driven by nostalgia for the direct drop mechanic, but the pack can be enjoyed on its own terms regardless of how one feels about the mechanic in general. Since the levels are constrained by adherence to the original layouts, most of the puzzles are fairly simple, and any-way-you-want levels predominate even in the late ranks. Levels are arranged in the order they had in the original game, but care has been taken to make the ranks get gradually harder as the pack progresses.

Difficulty: Easy to medium, with a couple of levels towards the end being hard just because they sprawl over a wide area.

Favourite levels: "Take a Running Drop..." and "With a drop of lemming, please" are nice puzzles that stand out in a not especially puzzly pack.

Overall impressions: It's an okay pack if you want something in the style of the original, if you particularly enjoy skill-saving challenges, or if you feel especially nostalgic for direct drop. Otherwise, another one that's quite fun but not especially memorable.