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Kevin Codner stars in an action-picked platform romper that makes the Poseidon Adventure look like bath time.

Here's a novel variation on the old Lemmings theme. You play Kevin Codner, a man for whom integrity and bravery are so much a part of his make-up that they might as well be his middle names. As you read the intimate interview with the man whose very actions you'll soon be controlling, you realise the scale of your mission.

The SS Lucifer is, you see, sinking, and full of Dim Passengers, all with a marked dislike of rapidly rising waters. Your job is to guide them safely from where they enter each compartment to the exit. Sounds pretty similar to Lemmings still, doesn't it?

There are differences, though. For a start, Kevin is an actual character who has nothing to do with Dim Passengers. You can't make the passengers actually do anything like you can Lemmings - actions are controlled by a number of means apart from the passengers themselves, about which more later.

Also, the Dim Passengers might be lacking enough of the grey stuff to snatch the chair of MENSA from Sir Clive, but they have not got a pathological desire to end it all in the same way that our cliff-loving chums of old have.
Indeed, they'll do everything they can to run away from the rising waters when they come across them.

Oh, and control is not via a crosshair and a mouse, but by the more conventional joystick and Fire button approach, your button being used to set off bombs, pick things up and so on.

So, we've established that, although based on the Lemmings idea, Sink or Swim has enough going for it to warrant consideration in its own right, so consider it we will.

Let's take a wander through the average level, shall we? Kevin appears, followed very shortly by a number of Dim Passengers. They're big, chunky affairs, and there aren't that many of them to look after. At the bottom of the screen are a load of statistics which it certainly pays to keep your eye on - especially the one that tells you how much oxygen you've got left. There are windows for passengers to be saved, lives, and how much time is left on the fuses of any bombs you've planted.

JETPAC TO SAFETY
Various objects can be utilised as mentioned earlier. Jetpacs are very useful - when you pull them off the wall, they drop into any rising waters which have stranded passengers in it, allowing the passengers to jetpac to safety, or the top of the screen - whichever comes first!

There's cargo knocking around, which you use to make bridges and platforms to complete an escape route for your passengers, but conversely it can get in the way, hindering the essential route to the chute, in which case you can move it.

Burst pipes shoot out fatal steam of thousands of degrees, but you can crawl along them and seal them... all with your Fire button!

There are various hazards apart from the water-based ones, crushers do just that to anything that gets in their way, for instance. May other helps, hindrances and curious objects knock around the various levels - swinging chains, magnetic hoists, electric fields, crew lifts - all have their uses, and those that don't teach you to avoid them very quickly indeed. There's even an emergency life-raft for when things are all going horribly wrong.

Graphically the game is a couple of years behind its time, with clumsy, not particularly well animated sprites - although it must be said that the water effects are quite impressive, especially the wobbly reflection of the Lucifer in the title screens. But the movement of the characters does let it all down a little, as does their rather pedestrian speed.

Soundwise too it's OK, with some admittedly very nice water effects, but again it seems to be a couple of years behind its time - the theme tune reminds me of one of the better PD music demo disks.

SIMPLISTIC MAGIC
As far as the gameplay goes, it's a nice idea and a credible attempt to deviate from the Lemmings idea, but like so many copied games, the more it deviates, the more it seems to lose some kind of simplistic magic. It feels rather cluttered with too much superfluous stuff going on.

This has the effect of making it hard deciding exactly what's happening, which in turn makes it hard to settle back into some serious, contemplative, Pause-on puzzle-type thinking as one could do with great pleasure in Lemmings.

So, the presentation is OK, the idea - albeit borrowed - is an excellent one, and the sound and graphics are passable but nothing special.

It's the kind of game that, should you have a particular maritime bent, you'll enjoy, but for the average gamesplayer, I'd say that there's a lot of far slicker, smoother and more exciting stuff around. Sink or swim? This one's struggling to tread water, I'm afraid.



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Can Zeppelin's new platform puzzler sort the men from the boys, distinguish the wheat from the chaff, separate the cool from the clueless? Step aboard this review and find out if this game will...

Set squarely between Kevin Dances With Wolves Costner and James Robocod Pond, comes a new video game hero, Kevin Codner. He has all the playability of Pond, but unfortunately he also sports the charisma of Costner.

Kevin, the fishy one... erm the one that wasn't in The Bodyguard that is, is the heroic type, so when the cruise ship SS Lucifer runs into an iceberg the size of doughboy and sustains damage enough to affect its floatworthiness, there's nothing for him to do except board his trusty submersible and head straight for the scene of the disaster.

In best Irwin Allen movie tradition, the compartments of the ship are packed to the gills with panicking passengers. Kevin, erm... the fishy one not the one that was in The Gunrunner that is, has to rescue them before they perish horrifically.

That sinking feeling
When a 'Dim Passenger' falls from a platform and hits the next piece of solid ground, the direction he then goes in is totally unpredictable. The manual would have it that the passengers are panicking, but they aren't, they're just poorly programmed.

The wreck is in shipping water and in Rainbow Islands fashion, the rising tide makes for an effective time limit on many of the levels. So what we have is a basic platform puzzler, not entirely unlike Troddlers or PushOver (or any other platform puzzler).

So what distinguishes this one from the other hoards of similar programs? Nothing actually. On the upside it's nicely animated, easy to control and is pretty addictive. On the downside it makes no use of an additional disk drive, the program accesses the floppy at the start and finish of every level, and there's no way, short of dying, to re-start a level after you've mucked it up.

The levels are short, and none too sweet. It's a simple matter of trying every lever and hoping for the best, because once you pause the game you can't 'take a look around' the level to test the lie of the land. Once you're playing, if you don't do the right thing pretty quickly you end up losing too many passengers to be able to complete the level.

If the number of remaining passengers left alive falls below the number you require to finish the level, the lights go out. Great so what do you do then? There's no way of finishing a level early and re-trying it, even when you know you've nobbed it.

If Kevin, erm... that's the fishy one, not the one who was in Robin Hod, does manage to get enough passengers to safety, and make sure he gets Shelley Winters out alive, then an escape hatch miraculously opens and whisks him away, amid an abundance of disk accessing, to the next level.

Sleep with the fishes
The game isn't totally without its redeeming features, some of the puzzles are a challenge, without being completely unsolvable. This leads to the game being quite compelling, but the long load times also make you want to tear your hair out while you can complete, but you're not just quite sure how.

Every level has an access code, so you don't have to play through the whole thing every time, which is a good thing because with this much disk accessing you could be there all day if you had to.

Unless you read the manual, some of the features are a bit obscure. Even once you've read the blurb, the first magnetic hoist is placed at the top of a ladder, so when you try to use it, you end up descending the star rather than working the lever.

Let's face it, we're talking Lemmings. This is just a Lemmings rip off. Sure, the perils are different, the obstacles aren't the same, but the concept is Lemmings. Unfortunately, Sink or Swim can't boast its cuteness or playability.

Kevin Codner is without any sort of charisma and he has no endearing quirks. He doesn't even get killed by his own bombs if he stands next to them as they detonate. If he had, it would have been a giggle, and a way of getting off a stalemate level.

You might quite like Sink or Swim, who knows, you might even love it. But one thing's for sure, if it gets you tearing your hair out, it won't just be with frustration at not being able to solve the puzzles.


THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO "'ERE, WHAT'S THAT THEN?"

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THE ESCAPE HATCH
This is where the passengers get to avoid certain death and escape from the game in true bit part actor fashion.

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KEV'S ESCAPE HATCH
Our hero can't be seen to flee the sinking ship like everyone else, so he exits stage centre via this secret hatch.

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CARGO
Use it as a bridge to aid passengers to safety, ot blow it up - the choice is yours.

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JET PACK
By smashing the glass Key can release these to the passengers in the water. They then shoot upwards to safety.

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BULKHEADS
They're bulky and they get in the way of escaping passengers, but they soon get out of the way when faced with a bomb.

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VERTICAL SWITCH
Stand by this, press fire and something good will happen that helps you rescue all the passengers, unless something bad happens that kills them all, that is.

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BOMBS
If it won't move, blow it up. It didn't work on the World Trade Center tower, but it's a most effective way of moving most obstacles in Sink or Swim.

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MAGNETIC HOISTS
These things are tricky to get to grips with, but magnetic hoists are wonderful things if you need to shift any heavy ferrous cargo around. And you do, believe me.

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SWINGING CHAINS
If there's a gap you can't bridge, why not try to swing across is Tarzan style with those great dangling things that follow the rules of complex harmonic motion.

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CONVEYOR BELT
These move this way or that, and are usually accompanied by a switch which makes them move that way or this. Passengers can't cross them unless they are going the correct direction. Use the switch to sort it out.



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Ein Vollpreis-Game der Budget-Softler von Zeppelin? Also von jenen Leuten, die uns bisher vorwiegend mit Billig-Katastrophen a la "Santa's Xmas Caper" beglückt haben?! Na, das kann ja heiter werden...

Erstaunlicherweise wird es tatsächlich, denn die Premiere des neuen Vollpreis-Labels "Zeppelin Premier" hinterlasst einen überraschend spielbaren Eindruck! Sinn und Zweck dieser Action Knobelei ist es, mit dem Superhelden Kevin Codner ein Häuflein Unglücklicher zu befreien, das in einem gestrandeten Frachter eingeschlossen ist.

Also düst den Kevin per U-Boot zum Schiffswrack, wo die vom Untergang bedröhten Passagiere panisch umherirren. Ihnen gilt es nun den Weg zum rettenden Ausgang zu ebnen, wozu Forderbänder umgepolt, Hindernisse aus der Bahn gesprengt oder gefährliche Maschinen entscharft werden mussen, auf dass die armen Schiffbruchigen nicht blindlings in ihr Verderben, sondern hoch erhobenen Hauptes in die Freiheit laufen.

So weit, so "Lemmings" - an sonsten sind die Ähnlichkeiten zu den klassisehen Psygnosis-Wühlern jedoch denkbar gering. So wurde zu günsten einer direkten Jousticksteuerung auf indirektes Maus-/ Icon- Geklicke verzichtet, und beim Durchqueren der plattformlandschaften erweist sich Kevin als wahres Multitalent:

Er kann läufen und springen, sich an Leitern und Metallstangen abseilen, an Decken entlangklettern oder mit Hilfe von bäumelnden Kette tiefe Abgründe überwinden (zum Tarzan fehlt ihm eigentlich nur der Urschrei...).

Diese vielfältigen Begabungen hat unser Retter der Nichtschwimmer auch bitter nötig, denn so ein sinkendes Schiff birgt allelei Gefahren - da braucht Ihr bloß mal die Überlebenden der Titanic zu fragen!

Ergo bedroht der steigende Wasserspiegel Retter und zu Rettende gleichermassen, weil beide unter dem feuchten Element mit einem begrenzten Luftvorrat auskommen mussen, dazu blockieren gelegentlich brennende Ölfasser den Weg, aus geplatzen Röhren tritt todlich-heisser Dampf aus, und amoklaufende Hammerwerke lassen nur den Timing-Profi passieren. Flinkfinger werden hier also durchaus gefordert, doch ganz ohne Knobelinstinkt geht's auch nicht ab.

Die 60 passwortgesicherten Levels der tüfteligen Action-Hätz vermögen somit fraglos auch langer fristig zu motivieren, schon weil es kaum unfaire Stellen im Gameplay gibt und der Schwierigkeitsgrad schon sanft ansteigt. Selbst die technische Umsetzung bietet der Kritik wenig Angriffsfläche:

Beinahe jeder Abschnitt überrascht mit leicht veranderten Backgrounds und ein paar optischen Gags, das meist vertikale Scrolling klappt soft und sauber, und die Sprites sehen allesamt so oberputzig aus, dass man ihnen das leichte Ruckeln gerne nachsieht. Ja, die Sound FX hören sich sogar wirklich klasse an, daneben sorgen einige Musikstücke fur eine gelungene Gesamtakustik.

Fazit: Weiter so, Ihr Zeppelinisten, und Eueur arg rampnierter Ruf kann sich bald wieder sehen lassen! (rl)



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There's platforms, puzzles and plenty of water. But it's not all plain sailing.

Just in case you're as stupid as I am, the pun in this game's sub-title ("Starring Dim Passengers") is, of course, a Kim Basinger gag. Yeah, I know, it looks obvious written down, but it completely eluded me for days, so I thought I'd save you the head-scratching.

Get past the awful jokes (the hero of this aquatically-themed game is called Kevin - oh be still my aching sides - Codner), and you find that Sink or Swim is a platform-based puzzle game with a number of distinct similarities to Krusty's Super Fun House.

You're a troubleshooter on board of a sinking passenger liner, and you have to save the 'Dim Passengers' of the title by guiding them through escape hatches to safety. (Obviously. They'd be pretty crap escape hatches if they led to a tank full of piranha fish, or something).

To help and hinder you, there're various items and bits of machinery to negotiate or manipulate, and the whole thing takes place over 60 levels (of obviously) increasing difficulty.


But there's a flying fish in the ointment

So far so peachy, then, but there's a flying fish in the ointment. Your character (I refuse point blank to use that terrible, terrible name) move in blocks, rather than pixels. That is to say, graphically he moves in pixels, but one move of the joystick moves him several pixels at a time.

What this means in practice is that when, say, you're climbing a ladder, the slightest twitch of the stick to the left or right will make the character walk unstoppably off the side of the ladder and fall to the bottom again. Now, considering this is a game which calls for some fairly speedy manoeuvring around the screen once you get past the first few levels, that's a flaw which isn't just irritating, but utterly wall-nuttingly infuriating.

The controls in general are really skittish and over-responsive - just a little bit of calming down would have resulted in a lovely, playable feel, but the way it is at the moment you simply haven't got a chance after level ten or thereabouts - well, not unless take the rather extreme measure of soldering up the diagonals on your joystick.

The is so close to being a really nice platform puzzler that it hurts - the difficulty curve's good, there's just the right number of elements to manipulate to stop it getting too repetitive (and each new one gets introduced with a nice simple 'teaching' level), and the actual puzzles are well designed.

It could be better than Krusty's Super Fun House, but the sloppy and infuriating controls all but scupper it. When it comes to the crunch, the puzzles themselves are hard enough without your character leaping all over the place of his own volition.



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ZEPPELIN OUT NOW £19.99

Like a bad egg, Lemmings-style games keep repeating on us. This latest one takes place aboard a sinking cruise ship, the SS Diablo.

The Lemmings in this case are Dim Passengers. They're blinded by panic and will rush head-long into any danger, be it of the fiery or watery kind. They'll just walk in one direction, climbing up ladders and stumbling into crates until you clear a path for them. If they end up in the drink they'll die within a few minutes.

You do have two options though. The first is to rush around and find some jet packs, which automatically transport them off the level, or use your emergency raft. This can be employed only once per stage, and although it saves the passengers, you still have to guide them through the rest of the level.

Sink or Swim is one of the better Lemmings clones, but is too short on features and polish to make it a serious contender for the crown. The graphics are basic, and even though they fit this kind of game, more could have been done with them. A few more things to do wouldn't have gone amiss either - as it stands you can only really flick switches, move objects out of the way and blow the occasional thing up. Not bad if you like this sort of thing, but personally I'd hold on my cash.