Before I got into Bionicle in 2001, I was into Slizers and RoboRiders, obviously. Before that, I was into Star Trek and Star Wars. Before that (and there wasn’t much “before” left to go for someone born in 1994 ), given that it was the very first video game I ever got into contact with, I was playing Lemmings.
I don’t know if any of you remember this game, since it actually came out right before I was born. But it was a hugely popular game at the time, across many different operating systems and consoles.
For those who don’t know: Lemmings is a 2-dimensional “action puzzle” game in which you need to steer a horde of little green-haired fellas with blue clothes through mazes and dangerous landscapes, from a hatch into an exit. These little guys don’t actually look like the animals they’re named after, but they behave in a similar way it was and still often is (most likely falsely) claimed about those rodents: They blindly follow each other and would fall off the cliff if nobody intervenes. In other words, by themselves, they are about as helpless as your average Matoran without the help of a Toa.
Fast forward into the new millennium, and this little game has a similarly loyal community as Bionicle does (albeit much smaller, it seems). And just like Bionicle now has people developing custom video games, Lemmings was brought back to life by various “clones” and engines that not only make the original game playable again on modern systems, but also include level editors that allow for the creation of custom content.
I’ve been a member of the Lemmingsforums for quite a few years now, and I have contributed my fair share of custom level packs over there. Most of my current ones have some connection to music (like all levels being named after songs). But my very first pack already contained a level inspired by Bionicle, obviously called “Six heroes, one destiny”.
(I’d be happy to share some screenshots of the level images here, I’m just not sure whether that would already count as “promotion”? Or whether this entire thread should go into the creative subforum instead?).
However, given how Lemmings has always had different tilesets for its landscape / level types (“Fire”, “Earth”, “Snow” etc.), I thought these clear categorical differences between those tilesets would go along nicely with the distinction between the different Koros and Wahis on Mata Nui, and thus, Bionicle seemed like a theme that could carry an entire level pack of its own. Which will consequently be called “Lemmings of Mata Nui”.
Basically, I’m tossing my own hat into the ring of Bionicle Fan Games, except this time, it’s not going to be in the Starcraft engine (like “Quest for Mata Nui”, for example), but in the Lemmings engine.
(I’m not sure yet whether that is going to mean that I restrict it to the island, or whether it refers to the robot, and as such will cover the entire story.)
Anyways: Lemmings can perform many different skills that help them get from the hatch to the exit of a level.
The engine I am using (developed mainly by a guy from New Zealand, btw, so that’s another loose link to Bionicle ) is called NeoLemmix, and features quite a few additional skills compared to the “classic eight skills” the Lemmings in the original game could perform. (Albeit not as many different skills as the official sequel back then, which was called “Lemmings 2: The Tribes”… but “tribes” as a general concept of course also lend themselves well to the island of Mata Nui.)
Among others, NeoLemmix incorporated something from the third official Lemmings game (“Lemmings Chronicles” or “An All New World of Lemmings”): Instead of just having the skills at the bottom of the screen on a panel from which you can select them and then assign them to a lemming, they could also be placed as “pick-up skills” somewhere in the level landscape. You’d first have to send a lemming walking through those pick-ups to be able to use them.
You could probably already guess: Those are going to be the Kanohi!
I’ve already made quite a few levels, but before I go any further, I think it’s best to determine in advance which skill should be represented by which Kanohi. Since only some fit perfectly, whereas others require a little more stretch of imagination. So this is where I could use your help, lore-wise!
Because the Lemmings community by itself is fairly small, I doubt there are many Bionicle fans among them, and if so, not necessarily ones that are very familiar with intricate details of the lore.
Even if you in turn are not familiar with Lemmings, I will briefly describe what each skill does in-game, so maybe you know a Kanohi that represents a similar behaviour in a better way than my current suggestion. There are also some skills for which I haven’t been able to find a matching Kanohi yet.
Here’s an overview over all the skills in the game, and how I’ve matched them to known Kanohi so far - starting with the eight official skills, and then continuing with the custom additional skills in the NeoLemmix engine:
CLIMBER: The lemming climbs any vertical wall that is a straight line - Kanohi Kadin (Mask of Flight)
FLOATER: The lemming pulls out a parachute that allows him to survive higher falls - Kanohi Matatu (Mask of Telekinesis)
BOMBER: The lemming explodes and dies, leaving behind a crater - Kanohi Avohkii (Mask of Light)
BLOCKER: The lemming stands still and raises his hands, causing other lemmings who run into him to turn around - Kanohi Crast (Mask of Repulsion)
BUILDER: The lemming builds a staircase that can be used to get to higher altitudes, across gaps, or create a landing platform to break high falls (???)
BASHER: The lemming carves a horizontal tunnel through a wall using his hands - Kanohi Pakari (Mask of Strength)
MINER: The lemming pulls out a pickaxe and carves a diagonal downward tunnel that lemmings can also walk back up again - Kanohi Ruru (Mask of Tunnel Vision)
DIGGER: The lemming digs a vertical shaft (straight line) - (???)
WALKER: The lemming stops being a Blocker (see above) or interrupts any other skill he is currently performing; if he isn’t performing a skill, he turns around - Kanohi Komau (Mask of Mind Control)
JUMPER: The lemming does a short parabolic jump that gets him either onto and/or over something - Kanohi Kakama (Mask of Speed)
SHIMMIER: The lemming jumps up vertically, holds on to a ceiling and shimmies along it - Kanohi Calix (Mask of Dexterity)
CLONER: A second lemming is created that retains all the permanent skills the original had, and performs whatever skill the original is currently performing; but he spawns looking into the opposite direction as the original - Kanohi Ignika (Mask of Life)
DISARMER: The lemming can disarm any triggered trap he runs into - Kanohi Hau (Mask of Protection)
GLIDER: The lemming pulls out a parachute (like the Floater), but it’s sail-shaped and makes him glide down diagonally. If he encounters a so-called updraft area, he will slowly move upwards as long as he remains inside it - Kanohi Miru (Mask of Levitation)
SWIMMER: Instead of drowning (as regular lemmings would), the lemming can swim across water areas, and will dive if he runs into downward slopes while swimming - Kanohi Kaukau (Mask of Waterbreathing)
STONER: The lemming explodes (like a Bomber), but leaves behind a piece of terrain that has the shape of a lemming. Can be used in mid-air to create a ledge to land on, for example to break high falls - Kanohi Mahiki (Mask of Illusion)
STACKER: The lemming builds a small “tower” in front of himself that he can’t get over (unless he’s a Climber) - (???)
PLATFORMER: The lemming builds a straight horizontal bridge (like the Builder, but without gaining any height) - (???)
FENCER: The lemming pulls out a sword and creates a narrow diagonal tunnel upwards - Kanohi Akaku (Mask of X-Ray Vision)
Currently, four final skills are considered for being added:
LASER BLASTER (confirmed): The lemming shoots a laser beam diagonally upwards that can also remove terrain. (In contrast to the official game Lemmings 2: The Tribes, where the beam goes vertically upwards) - Kanohi Jutlin (Mask of Disintegration)
SLIDER (confirmed): The lemming holds on to a wall (like a Climber) but slides down the wall instead. Allows him to survive high falls, like the Floater or Glider, and transition into a Shimmier when he reaches the bottom of a wall if there is a gap / ceiling to hold onto - Kanohi Garai (Mask of Gravity)
SPEARER (unconfirmed): The lemming throws a spear that other lemmings can land on or use as a bridge - Kanohi Sanok (Mask of Precision)
GRENADER (unconfirmed): The lemming throws an explosive projectile that creates a crater similar in size to that of the Bomber - also Kanohi Sanok (Mask of Precision)
I guess some of these choices require explanation, so let’s now address them from the other side, i.e. Bionicle-first:
Kanohi Kadin: I know this is actually the mask of flight, which is why I considered using this one for the Glider skill and the Miru for the Jumper skill instead. However, the part of “can fly, but only when there are updrafts” for me is the pure embodiment of the Kanohi Miru, it’s probably one of the best fits between Lemmings skill and Kanohi, aside from obvious ones like Swimmer - Kaukau. Therefore, I defined the Kanohi Kadin as it is being used in Bionicle Heroes, where it merely allows you to climb up walls.
Kanohi Komau: I chose this one for the Walker because it means you can “directly force your will onto a lemming”. All other ways of turning a lemming around are indirect (like having them run against a wall or the hands of a Blocker).
Kanohi Kakama: The optimal fit for this Kanohi would obviously have been a skill called the Runner. This skill does exist in the official game Lemmings 2: The Tribes, as well as in some other clones, like a game called Lix (which has female lemmings). However, in the NeoLemmix community, we agreed that the Runner wouldn’t contribute much to a level’s cognitive challenge, it only increases the speed. And the cognitive challenge is what the game is all about in that community, not a reaction-speed-based “jump-and-run” game. Therefore, the Runner was never added to the engine. The Jumper was the closest thing I could think of, since it can still allow a single lemming to get ahead of the others. Also, the Kanohi Kakama allows you to jump further in any Bionicle fan games that contain it. (And yes, the Runner also allowed a Jumper to jump further in Lemmings.)
Kanohi Garai: This one can either decrease or increase the gravity of something and thereby slow down or accelerate its fall. As such, it would potentially fit the Floater, the Slider, or the Digger. I currently chose the Slider, but I’m open for alternative suggestions.
Kanohi Avohkii: The Bomber explodes in a flash of light, and he requires a sacrifice - just like somebody had to sacrifice himself when the Kanohi Avohkii was first put on by a certain Matoran. That’s about as close as the parallels get, and it’s still very forced - but I am not aware of any Kanohi that could blow up its own wearer.
Kanohi Mahiki: This is the Great Mask of Illusion, even though the Stoner, which it has been assigned to, also requires the lemming to sacrifice his life. As far as in-game logic is concerned now, the illusion created here is that the lemming “pretends to be a stone”.
The symbols for the pickup skills themselves are very small, and Lemmings is a very low-resolution game. Therefore, it wasn’t able to simply replace the pickup skill symbols with Kanohi. (Also, I don’t think the Lemmings community in turn would appreciate having to learn all the Kanohi powers . Puzzle fairness in terms of “no hidden elements” is a big thing in that community, so all the pickup skills should be clearly identifiable as such.) Instead, the Kanohi symbols are going to be in close proximity of the pickup skills in a given level.
Also, if you’ve played Lemmings in the past, you might remember it had four difficulty ratings: Fun, Tricky, Taxing, and Mayhem. With custom packs, it’s common to make up own difficulty ratings. So I chose mine in terms of the enemies to be fought in a given section of the story: Rahi, Bohrok, Rahkshi, and Makuta.
Thus, it would make sense to swap out the Kanohi Mata symbols for Kanohi Nuva after the second rank, when the Toa turn into the Toa Nuva. But I haven’t decided on that yet.
The engine also allows for easy recolouring of the lemmings themselves. The default is “green hair, blue clothes”, but this could easily be changed to different clothes colours for Ta-Matoran, Le-Matoran etc. Somebody event recently introduced female lemmings (with long hair and a braid) into NeoLemmix as well, so I could recolour those as Ga-Matorans.