For reasons largely pertaining to their huge set of teeth and the movie Jaws, humans have a bit of an irrational fear of sharks, with the common belief being held that they will devour you on sight. But rarely do we consider how the sharks must feel from this whole debacle. Derrick in particular is having a rather awful time, with the sea he inhabits being filled with pollution and his parents both being sucked up and put in a can. Understandably, he’s a tad upset and as a result is going on a worldwide quest to clear away these pesty humans and the toxic waste they’ve been chucking into the ocean. On paper you wouldn’t imagine this to be a cute scenario, which I suppose is somewhat ironic considering paper has such a large role in making it one.
Derrick the Deathfin is a game made entirely of paper, with origami characters, cardboard backgrounds, and cut out waves pasted together in an elaborate display of creativity and vibrant color. Take one look at the delightful art and it’s hard not to be immediately charmed, with the grooving soundtrack adding just the right overtone for such a wondrously enjoyable game. The hilariously self aware tips that pop up between levels and the stupendously horrible puns are just the delectable icing on the cake.
When you manage to get over the fantastic visual design, the actual game takes the form of something of an underwater platformer. Racing through levels you collect gems and hop out of the water through tires on your way to the finish line, with the catch being Derrick’s insatiable hunger that stands in for your health bar and requires you to continuously stuff your face with fish, birds, and the occasional stray child or else shrivel up and keel over. What makes this so enjoyable is how fast and fun it is to guide your deathfin through water, swimming with all the force and speed you’d expect of a shark, biting through everything in your path as they disappear in a comical “poof”. Unfortunately it’s also one of the games biggest issues.
As a giant predator there’s little in the way of danger on your journey to rid the waters of your foes (and anyone else who might stray into your path), but you’ll find a persistent enemy in the wild controls. Momentum plays a large role in movement in Derrick, but this becomes an issue in terms of controls as it’s incredibly easy to lose control and cause your character to flip out of control, often cutting you short of a jump or getting you stuck on the environment (a frustrating and consistent occurrence). This is all so terribly disappointing because when you can actually get a grip on the controls moving through the water feels terrific, but often this is easier said than done.
Surprisingly, the handful of time trial levels which do away with collectibles and send you flying through levels as fast as possible work far better with the often confounding controls, as without the need to control yourself with much of any precision they become almost completely a non issue. It’s too bad there are so few of these interspersed through the games 4 “worlds”, as they are a far better showcase of the best Derrick has to offer.
Even with a few controller qualms, there’s no way I could say I didn’t enjoy Derrick the Deathfin immensely. It’s imaginative, charming, and full of so much love and personality that I can’t help but want to pick it up and hug it (assuming you could do that to a game). The adventure is a brief one, clocking in at just about 2 hours, but if you fancy yourself a shark advocate or are just a fan of cute animals. eating other animals (?) there’s a lot to enjoy in this tale of adorable revenge.
PS: Don’t litter folks; respect the sharks!Full disclosure: Derrick the Deathfin was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the developer.