Preview: Lems

It’s becoming quite common to see virtual reality (VR) titles that cast the player in the role of a giant manipulating or otherwise interacting with a world that is in a much smaller scale. Moss, Along Together and the upcoming Ghost Giant have all used this approach, and Lems does the same. In this case, your job is to help tiny, wolf-like creatures find a new home.

Lems is largely set in a colourful, vaguely cartoonish world where the tiny Lems emerge from a portal-like thing and speed towards a destination. You are in charge of making sure that they do not plummet to their deaths and arrive safety at the exit portal.

In this way, it is somewhat like Lemmings, though there are usually only a few Lems to deal with, and only one in the early levels, instead of a huge crowd of them. This slows down the pace a little, making things less frenetic and stressful than Lemmings or Pop-Up Pilgrims on the PlayStation VR.

Instead of providing the Lems with special abilities in order to overcome obstacles, you instead generate various platforms by using the motion controllers like the Oculus Touch and move them into place in order to help your Lems navigate across gaps and over or around obstacles.

At first you only have one type of platform, a solid, static bridge-like object. This changes later on, when you get to use moving platforms, or trampoline-like bouncy platforms.

There are three medals for each level. The bronze is awarded for simply completing the level, the silver for finding the hidden coin in the level, and the gold for completing a level with all three ‘mods’ deployed. The mods, when active, change the level in various ways in order to provide an additional challenge, some of which are quite fiendish.

To help you out, each level begins in ‘pause mode’ so you can look around and work out a route in your head, or see if you can spot some of the hidden routes and secrets that are cunningly tucked away in some areas – it often transpires that looking underneath things can turn up something of interest.

The controls are relatively straightforward, and the tutorial, presented on tablet-like screens, is easy to follow and fairly helpful. The tracking is essential here, since being only slightly out can easily wreck your hard work, so its worth making sure your set-up is properly calibrated before you start.

Graphically, it looks great. The Lems have plenty of personality for creatures you don’t speak, and the level backgrounds are colourful and interesting. The sound design is a minor bugbear, as the sound effects are much louder than the background music, and the repetitive squeaks of the Lems can get grating after a while. The music is fine, if a little on the generic side.

Lems is quite absorbing for a fairly simple puzzle title, the mods for the levels offer a challenge after the main objective is complete that means there is some replayability here. The only real problem is that it feels like something that might be better enjoyed ‘on-the-go’ using a portable VR unit like an Oculus Go.

The development team for Lems have crafted a fun VR experience, that while it could do with a bit more polish, feels solid and professional. It will be interesting to see how the finished product turns out.