Lemma on PC
The notion of free-running is one that inspires wonder in the hearts of many. As our cities begin to reach for the clouds with concrete and steel, humanity’s collective desire to explore follows. Sadly, we are restrained from truly achieving this dream by the rather irritating force of gravity. Parkour and free-running offer a route for us to step upon where terra Firma is something you openly avoid, a route that Lemma sprints down in its attempt to offer a worthwhile experience.
At its core, Lemma’s closest parallel is to be drawn with Mirror’s Edge. You play as a completely unarmed character in a strange and confusing world, one that seems to grow around you while trying to halt you in any way it can. As far as presentation goes, everything is seen from a first person perspective with Minecraft-esque blocks making up your playpen of an environment. As simple as this may be, there’s something altogether alluring about it.
Rain falls throughout Lemma just as frequently as the sun shines. Each of the numerous levels that you’re given free reign to run around is presented with its own particular feel and sound. While a very early zone, Jungle in particular showcases how beautiful everything can be with a few simple blocks and a lot of creative design ability. The visual presentation of Lemma does not particularly affect its gameplay, something which simply has to be experienced.
As stated before, this is a first-person platformer. You run along, gaining momentum in preparation for a leap across whatever geological feature is in your way. There’s no run button or sprint mechanic in action throughout Lemma. The necessity of maintaining a consistent flow with your motion is something that’s rarely seen in gaming and yet, after seeing Lemma in action, a feature that really adds supplementary purpose to gameplay.
It isn’t all about simply running from platform to platform until you reach the big shining door at the end. Momentum plays a key part in Lemma when you begin busting out impressive wall-runs or gravity-defying leaps to make your way around the terrain. While it can take a little getting used to, Lemma’s most delightful aspect comes in the form of this very feature. It’s rare to see a game stick a pin so perfectly in realistic movement, hell it’s so realistic that those who suffer from vertigo or seasickness might want to keep a bag handy.
The environments around are just as enjoyable to play within, too. Flowing walls and walkways mix in with seemingly impossible to reach platforms as part of a recipe that creates something special. Completing a game is all well and good, but just being able to run around while simple motion itself makes you smile is enough to make Lemma worthwhile in some ways. The appearance of walls that grow with you as you wall-run along with other malleable environmental structures goes even further in making the world feel like something that grows around you, rather than one that you must defeat.
That being said, the worlds of Lemma do have a slightly bitter seed that doesn’t seem to blend with everything else. At times you’ll come across a dead end or challenge that seems initially to be completely impossible. They rarely are, you just can’t see what has to be done. No clues are dropped into this soup of geography though, and certain inconsistencies rear their heads when it comes to the mechanics that you can manipulate to push forward.
Your only way to work out what exactly is going on in the world Lemma creates is through mobile phone messages that arrive when you reach certain signal points and multiple note piles scattered around. They weave a short but evocative tapestry, steeped in scientific intrigue but lacking in any emotional substance. It’s an interesting idea which almost gives Lemma something special in its narrative, falling short through a lack of personality indicative of text-based conversation.
Lemma’s sound design is nothing special at first listen, until you realize how easily it seeps into your ears like nectar dripping from the beak of a hummingbird. There’s a very indie feel to it, propelling the audio over and above almost any other games of this ilk. Don’t be expecting any exuberant symphonic explosion that’ll make you cry into the carpet mind. Instead what you can expect is a melodic accompaniment that always matches the tones of wherever you are.
The sad thing is that, on the whole, Lemma is far from a memorable experience. Make room for it on your hard drive and you’ll find an interesting experience that’ll make you smile. The moment you turn it off, though, there’s none of that itching desire to go back. It lacks that something, that mark of passion fundamentally stitched into all great indie games. It is worth noting that the entirety of Lemma was created by one single developer, but it doesn’t make the game great.
It is, however, good. A fun distraction which opens the door to a small star of happiness in a sky filled with many brighter celestial bodies. If Lemma were in a constellation, it would be one of those stars sat in the middle. Lemma shines just as bright as its contemporaries but doesn’t have that one special mark that makes it a game you have to buy.