Review Platform: XBLA (Xbox 360 Kinect)
Review Copy Provided By: KONAMI
Release Date: November 3, 2011
On the way to getting my teaching degree, I had to take the General Knowledge Exam. This test was feared by many of my peers, and had a reputation for being difficult. I’ve always been a good test taker, but I couldn’t help but let the stories get to me. The night before the test, I found myself to be quite nervous. However, when I was sitting in the exam center, I found myself relieved because the test was one of the easiest I had ever taken. Honestly, I was a little disappointed. I like a good challenge, even if the stakes are high. And while playing a Kinect game can’t be considered anywhere close to “high-stakes,” I can’t help but feel a similar pang of disappointment with Leedmees.
Originally released in 2011, Leedmees is a game from Konami that has you using your body as a platform to carry helpless little critters past various dangers and to the exit of each level. Anyone who has played the classic Lemmings will draw instant comparisons when looking at this title. The little Leedmees move on their own pace, too stupid to dodge out of the way of an incoming spike pillar or to avoid walking off the edge of a cliff. Instead, it is up to you to play guardian angel to these little critters, which can be quite a lot of fun.
The single player is 50 short stages, each to be completed in under two minutes. Each stage comes with a minimum number of Leedmees that you must save. Fail to meet the quota, and you are forced to replay the level. It is possible to save all of them in one go, and in some cases is quite easy. The game adds a layer of difficulty by allowing the Leedmees to collect five stars in each level, often placed in precarious areas. To earn the best rank, you will need to save them all and gather all the stars.
Being a savior is not without effort. The game has many tricks up its sleeve to hinder your progress and mercilessly kill your cute little friends. Pneumatic spikes will lurch out of walls, large springs will block their progress. There are even spirits that float around that will make you unable to interact with objects for a set duration. And if you are carrying any Leedmees with you at that time, then they’ll be dropped. These obstacles provide the chief difficulty factor of the game. However, none of them give so much a hindrance to make the game truly difficult.
Added into the game is also a co-op mode played with two people in front of Kinect. This mode was extremely fun to play with friends, as you must really coordinate to make your goal. In addition, the game is not afraid to make you uncomfortable. On one specific occasion during play, my co-op partner had to place his head near my crotch. There was a lot of protesting to be had, but for the sake of winning, we did what had to be done. It is these interactions with your partner, both the good, the bad, and the ridiculous that make the co-op mode so enjoyable. The downside is that it is only 12 stages long.
Perhaps the reduction in difficulty is in keeping with the Kinect theme of accessible, family-oriented gaming. But when a game draws comparisons from Lemmings in the way that this game does, you can’t help but wonder why the game couldn’t have been deeper. Is it an issue of keeping things simple? Maybe. Do the limitations of Kinect hardware prevent the game from being more complex? Maybe. But it is here that my disappointment stems from, because it solicited so many memories from such an outstanding older game. I believe that Leedmees really does have the potential to be something better. The game works well enough on the hardware it is designed for. I believe that it is on the developer’s shoulders for not making the game as fleshed out as it truly could be. A challenge mode could have done wonders for the game, and editing existing levels to make them more difficult would have been an easy way to do it.
Speaking also, of the Kinect hardware, Leedmees is a game that does not require it. Not in the sense that you don’t need a Kinect to play, because you do. More in the sense of that this game could have developed for the PS2’s camera and worked all the same. It does not rely on specific Kinect commands, only the positioning of your body. This is another reason I put the blame squarely on the developers than the hardware. Kinect is far more able to handle complexities in motion gaming. Why go for the simple approach?
I liked Leedmees. It’s a cute little title that forces you to do a little problem solving as you escort your helpless friends from point A to point B. Would it sell me a Kinect if I hadn’t already owned one? No. But it is a fun title to add to your collection if you are a Kinect owner. The entry price is a little steep at 800 points, but there is fun to be had here, especially with friends. And getting S ranks on every level gives you a reason to go back and try out the more difficult stages more than once. There’s just that WOW factor that is missing, that expectation that I have when I see this style of game that Leedmees just doesn’t live up to. But what it does offer is good, and deserves to be praised as such.