MS-DOS Retrospective: Sink or Swim (1993)

Oh god, please send real help.

As part of the new group of summer interns here at GameSkinny, I feel that it is extremely important that I attempt to separate myself from the pack and that I write about what is truly important in the world of gaming—so here’s the start to a series in which I reminisce over games that many of you have probably never heard of.

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In retrospect, the most impressive thing about the overwhelming majority of these games is that somehow my extremely Norwegian grandparents had them installed on their computer for me to play, especially when you consider that twenty years later I still have seen neither of them do so much as touch a keyboard. Even more mysterious to me is the fact that almost none of the games I chose for this retrospective made the Top 50 MS-DOS Game lists that I checked out.

Of course, there are a few obvious picks that all of us who knew someone with Windows 95 would choose, but hopefully the apparent obscurity of some of these games will allow for some actual value to be mined from this series—but if it’s just me at age 24 telling you what it’s like to play the gamesthat I played when I was in preschool… well, that’s okay with me too.

Sink or Swim (1993), Zeppelin Games LTD.

Sink or Swim ended up being an interesting choice for a number of reasons, but mostly because it’s the lone instance in my life thus far where I’m better at a game now than I was when I was a kid (I peaked young apparently; I legitimately hope I’m never put in a life-or-death situation where I have to beat any level on a NES Mega Man game.) I don’t really pretend to be particularly good at video games—my first week on XBOX Live back in high school put that notion to rest—but I’m certainly not terrible, and Sink or Swim always sort of stuck in my mind as my own Moby Dick.

I fired myself up for this long awaited confrontation, but I found that it wasn’t the awesome difficulty of the game that held me back so many years ago; it was the fact that I was playing some demo copy that threw me in the middle of a situation that I clearly wasn’t capable of handling.

Also, I’m pretty sure the joystick that my grandparents owned didn’t work at that point.

For those who are unfamiliar with the game, it’s less exciting than the title might imply: you’re a marine rescuer named Kevin Codner (how one would know that I have no idea, but I found it on a website and I’ll allow it) who is tasked with rescuing the hundreds of identical mustachioed men on a barge that began to sink when the ship’s captain pulled the rubber drain out of his bathtub—it’s also less exciting than that sentence might imply. Equipped with a ludicrous amount of bombs, Kevin is given the task of blowing up big steel doors so that the ship’s men can exit through the slightly smaller doors that the big ones are blocking.

I played for a while, then I saw a YouTube video that revealed that in order to beat the game, one would have to play somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours; the fact that I instantly quit should probably tell you enough. The graphics are oddly cute and the music is pretty high quality for a game that came out in 1993, but after you’ve played one fire level, one ice level, and one room temperature level, you’re probably okay skipping the other 79 slight variations.

VERDICT: If you played the demo as a kid and want to feel like you’re God now, go for it.


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Author
Erik Greeny
okay-looking graduate from the University of Washington; Mariners fan; Y2K survivor