A World of Games: Swimmer

As someone who swam on teams for the better part of a decade, I feel kind of disappointed there aren’t any solid swimming video games. I don’t really know what it would be, a race I’d assume? But we haven’t seen any games that dedicate themselves to swimming. The ones we do get, like 1982’s Swimmer, are far from what Swimming competitively might actually be, but it still makes for a decent arcade game.

Released in 1982 in Japan and shortly after in North America, Swimmer has you following the same basic gameplay of Toobin’: move through an obstacle course of water hazards to collect the most points and… I don’t know, not drown I guess? Like many earlier arcade games, Swimmer doesn’t have a grand narrative or any story elements: you’re just some dude swimming in extremely dangerous waters, and not once thinking it might be wise to leave. It’s great!

As you push your swimmer upward and avoid things like bugs and logs, you’ll also navigate and collect floating fruits for more points. Ironically enough, Swimmer isn’t a racing game at all, unless you consider a race against the time in order to get a higher score. The aforementioned Toobin’ does have you compete against another inner tube enthusiast though, so maybe the developers wanted the general “Swimmer” when making the title of the game. I would say as much, as around the 2 minute mark you encounter a crab that’s 5 time the size of your body, so that should have been my first warning.

Speaking of giant Crabs, let’s talk about the cabinet itself. The marquee features said crab, and has a variety of bright, attractive colors to lure you in. This particular cabinet was in excellent condition, and featured all the screen overlay artwork, as well as the controller. Though I don’t think Swimmer is one of the all-time classic arcade games, I do appreciate old games and their dedication to theme: the art, the blue color, the bubbles, the bugs, everything you’d encounter in the game is on the artwork, and I just appreciate that.

Swimmer saw a very small amount of home releases. The first was in 2005, as part of a Tecmo compilation disc called Tecmo Classic Arcade, along with other Tecmo arcade titles. The second, and only other release I know of, was recently, with the Arcade Archives release in 2021. It’s astonishing to me there are games we still haven’t seen ported to home consoles, literally 40, almost 50 years later!

*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL 2019

DownStab has been a personal endeavor of mine for many years. Please enjoy the content and let me know if you have questions, comments, or just want to connect. And as always, game on.

– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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