From engaging in cannon battles to finding lost treasure, this 2D pirate simulator allows you to partake in all kinds of nautical activities. No one can accuse creator Sebastian Nigro of not being ambitious enough.
You start by creating your pirate. The character creation screen is neat, with a diverse choice of options including gender, skin colour, hair-styles, and clothing such as various pointy hats. This is a good place as any to talk about the art style. I really liked how Don’t Sink looks. It’s full of big, blocky pixels reminiscent of the Amiga era. Sebastian Nigro has done a really good job of injecting loads of character into his sprite work, too, and each island has its own tone and style.
Particularly pleasing are the snowy islands to the eastern side of the world map. The soundtrack is also nicely “shantyfied” – a word I just made up.
Talking of that map, the world consists of 14 islands. During the course of the game, you’re going to be sailing to and fro, buying food to keep your crew fed, gaining new recruits from the tavern, sourcing wooden planks and cloth to keep you afloat, and talking to people (and rodents!) to take on missions.
Most of the missions come in the form of delivery jobs, shuttling goods from one island to the next. 21 additional story missions also feature, with lovely and witty bits of dialogue. Shame the missions themselves aren’t particularly complex.
While sailing to islands random encounters occur. You could find a desert island, be attacked by gulls, or be forced to confront an enemy vessel. The problem is, none of these elements are engaging. Let’s take the battles as an example. During a battle you have four options: fire your cannons, retreat, repair your ship or board the enemy vessel. Each is denoted by a direction on the left stick. Holding one of the directions charges that option, when it’s charged, you can use it.
The lack of challenge is the real offender here. You could even say the game isn’t quite ‘arrr-ed’ enough. Often, just firing cannons will grant you victory. Boarding the ship is even easier. When you board, you can fight one-on-one with the opposing captain, your respective health bars being the number of crew you have. These are clearly meant to be meaty affairs, with buttons for dodging and attacking high, low and centre. Any tension is dissipated, however, with the low frequency of enemy attacks.
We won every battle by simply spamming the A button. In fact, the battles became so rote, we ended up retreating from many. Treasure islands are also a little dull. You land on an island, pick up the loot, and that’s your lot.
During the course of your game, you can also attack other islands and take them over. Again, this element is overly simple. To take over an island you just need a crew greater than a specified number and, voila, the island is now yours. Crew members are always lost along the way, but you can often recruit a new squad upon visiting the next tavern.
When taking over a town, it’s possible to build it up by adding buildings. The more buildings a town has, the more profitable it is. The issue here though is that this makes all the unique islands start to look the same, featuring identical buildings.
Managing towns isn’t particularly fun, either. You can adjust sliders to make more money, but this never feels like something that’s satisfying to do.
Don’t Sink, then, is something of a missed opportunity. The cutesy visuals and amusing script make for a comical experience, but ultimately, any real depth it possesses is spread too thinly. Like a pirate with one leg, it doesn’t have much to stand on.