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Review: Ink or Swim – A cute if by-the-numbers endless climber

Ink or Swim gets off to a very good start with its name. Ink or Swim! Because you’re playing a squid, who must swim ever upwards! Good one.

Unfortunately, it seems all of the developer’s original thinking went into coming up with that puntastic title. Otherwise, Ink or Swim offers precious little that’s new to the endless climber genre.

It is a very playable example of the format, though.

Good reef

Each round of Ink or Swim starts your pixel-art squid at the bottom of a narrow sea trench. From there you must set off towards the surface by tapping the left and right sides of the screen.

Tap left to dart up and left, right to move up and right. That’s it for controls – this is as pure as they come.

The skill here, as in every endless runner/climber/flier in the Flappy Bird mould, is to master an irregular movement system whilst moving through an extremely constrained environment.

Here you have the twin threat of clumps of jagged coral clinging to the side of the trench you’re climbing and deadly jellyfish swimming from left to right. Contact with any of these obstacles means game over.

Not so deep, man

There are elements that add a little spice to proceedings, from temporary invincibility stars to a loot box system that grants you a fresh (and entertainingly randomised) skin.

I particularly like the viking-squid look, as well as the wizard-squid look.

All this is so much cosmetic fluff, of course. At its heart, Ink or Swim is a very simple, deeply unoriginal game. The truth is we’ve seen the nautical climber thing done with much more ingenuity and depth (another nautical pun!) in the five-year-old Ridiculous Fishing.

If you’re after another disposable, polished endless runner, though, Ink or Swim is one of the more polished and better executed examples to have splashed down recently.