With Leedmees, Konami have thrown a new hat into the puzzler arena. This kinesthetic downloadable title tasks players with guiding (“leeding”) tiny creatures across the screen and around a variety of obstacles to make it, literally, from point A to point B. Along the way, you’ll have to train your reflexes and hand-eye coordination, as you take on puzzles that bend the mind as well as the body.
Leedmees‘s basic premise is strikingly simple, and remains so for the duration of the game: cute, adorable Leedmees appear out of a blue portal somewhere on the screen, and your job is to create pathways for them to make it to the red exit portal. In other words, think of Lemmings, except without building any convoluted contraptions that let your tiny friends reach the exit. In Leedmees, the only tool at your disposal is your own body. You will need to bridge gaps and carry the Leedmees to safety yourself, generally by using your arms. Extend your arms to each side and position at the edge of a drop; Leedmees will walk off the ledge and onto your arm, crossing to the other one over your shoulders. It’s up to you to make sure your other arm leads to a place of safety.
Leedmees cannot pass through objects in the game world; you, on the other hand, aren’t affected by the simple laws of physics, it seems. Most structures and terrain let you pass right through them, with the exception of certain switches and creatures in later levels that you must interact with as part of the puzzle. In general, your role is to carry, turn, drop, lead, pick up, throw and catch as many Leedmees toward the exit as you can. Each level has a specific number of Leedmees that spawn in it, out of which a set minimum have to be brought to safety by you. Each level also has five stars that can be picked up for bonus points. Guide a tiny Leedmee to a star to pick it up, then ensure that Leedmee’s survival and escort him (her? it?) safely to the exit to earn the points. To make sure you get a move on, each level is also set on a short timer, typically between one and three minutes, in which to accomplish your task. Let too many Leedmees fall to their deaths or be impaled on spike traps (or squish them yourself, you big brute!), and you fail. Let the timer run out before you’ve met your Leedmee quote, and you fail. After each level, you’ll receive a ranking based on how many Leedmees you saved and how many stars you were able to recover. Completing levels will unlock more stages to play through.
Where Konami have done a nice job, and where the real challenge derives from, is the different types of obstacles that you’ll have to contend with that threaten the well-being of your pint-size charges. Cruel spears lancing into the screen from any direction that threaten to impale the Leedmees; colorful rubber bouncy balls that rain down from up above and will eradicate a whole squad of Leedmees instantly; switches that have to be pushed or stepped on to raise,lower, or move platforms blocking the Leedmees path elsewhere on the screen. Some hazards attack you, the otherwise all-mighty guide, directly, such as the evil ghosts that will collapse your body into immobility for a period of time should you let them get too close to your head. Sometimes, the hazard is your own body; some of the late levels switch all your movements into mirror images of themselves: your left arm will control your right on-screen, and moving right will cause you to move left. When these hazards combine in some of the later levels, expect to have to perform some quite challenging maneuvers.
The clever design also holds true for the game’s multiplayer. Being a Kinect title, multiplayer is local only, with no XBL option available. Although very brief, multiplayer mode offers its own levels, custom designed for two players. These levels really test both your flexibility and your teamwork, as you’ll need to work together with your partner to create a chain out of your bodies between multiple on-screen power nodes, or your and your partner’s arms and legs are switched out and attached to the other’s body. These situations create some truly difficult challenges, and for you into holding many ridiculous-looking poses.
Unfortunately, Leedmees limits its own audience dramatically in a number of ways. The game will appeal more to casual gamers as well as a family or party activity; stages are short and must be completed in a matter of 1 – 2 minutes, so having multiple players around where each tries to best the others’ score is a viable option. But the game’s most noticeable downfall is its length. The single player campaign, however challenging, only consists of fifty levels. With the levels’ short duration, this means the entire mode can be completed in around two hours. Instead of providing a rich focus on multiplayer after the single-player is completed, the game offers a pitiful twelve two-player stages.
Although some levels do present a challenge, with little reason to replay any levels (apart from collecting stars or going for a 100% Leedmee rate), I’d seen all the content the game had to offer at around the three-hour mark. True, my arms got a bit of exercise from holding awkward poses, and true, the game comes at the relatively cheap price tag of 800 MS points ($10), but the incredibly bare multiplayer offering takes quite a bite out of this game. Hopefully, this is something that Konami plans to remedy through downloadable level add-ons.