Derrick the Deathfin is a slightly unpleasant but summarily enjoyable indie platformer from developer Different Tuna. It has a few serious shortcomings that are impossible to overlook, but it’s overall not the worst platformer I’ve played and it does sport a unique cartoony charm. The premise of Derrick is very simple. Mean old mankind is apparently killing, selling and eating sharks, as well as polluting the planet’s great seas. Little Derrick sets out to avenge the seas by destroying various villainous corporations around the globe.
The game’s presentation seems good for what it is. The visuals are bright and colorful and the graphics are simple and cartoon-like. It comes off immediately as a title that would please younger gamers. The levels and fish kind of look like they’re comprised of construction paper, which is neat. Completing a region wins you a short animated cinematic, and these look fairly cool. Many of the later stages are very colorful and nice to look at. The visuals maintain a certain charm and the game is overall easy on the eyes.
The music is hardly noticeable and other sound effects in the game are unimpressive. Even the short melody that plays once you complete a stage is unexciting. One thing that really irritated me is the awful music that plays as the ever-present timer starts to run out. That timer is perhaps my biggest gripe with the entire game and I’ll talk more about it in a moment. There didn’t seem to be any voices in the game.
The game-play in Derrick is straightforward and simple. You swim along collecting diamonds, leaping through flaming tires, and eating to survive until you reach the end of a stage. You visit various regions around the globe as you complete the game, such as Africa, North America and Asia. The stages within each area are broken up by timed challenges, which require you to simply reach the end of the level within a certain allocation of time. These are refreshing because you don’t have to be bothered to collect anything, but they aren’t so fun that you’ll want to replay them to earn better times.
One mechanic that I think was added to the game to add a sense of urgency or excitement is Derrick’s constant need to eat. You see, Derrick apparently has the fastest metabolism of any creature that ever lived and he therefore needs to eat constantly. If too much time goes by without Derrick eating another fish or person or something, the extremely annoying hunger timer will empty and Derrick will die. Yes you read that right: if Derrick doesn’t eat something every couple of seconds, he will die.
This mechanic adds nothing but a huge amount of irritation and frustration to play sessions. It is particularly problematic in larger stages, where you’re racing through the stage to find a morsel to keep from losing all your progress. Enemies don’t respawn within the stage (though they do if you restart it), so this compels you to quickly finish the stage rather than take your time exploring it. If you run out of food, then all the exploration would be for not. The hunger timer seems to get stricter and stricter as the game progresses, to the point where if you aren’t eating something every passing moment, the timer is in the danger zone. I imagine that without the timer the game would have been infinitely more boring, but I still think it’s a bit too strict at times.
In order to proceed to different regions, you’ll need to collect a certain amount of diamonds and hop through a certain amount of flaming tires. Because the hunger timer compels you to race quickly through the stages, you’ll most likely miss a good amount of diamonds or tires your first time through. This means that you’ll have to redo stages to collect enough assets to move forward. I’ve never been a fan of backtracking, but it really doesn’t take too long to run back through the stages after you know the layout. The game seems a little light on content, but you’ll certainly get your fill replaying the stages.
The game seems to suffer from some technical issues. This is especially true with the alligators in the Africa region. Derrick frequently got stuck on or around the alligators and they killed him frequently. Yeah, I didn’t know that alligators were so much more powerful than sharks, but they definitely pawned Derrick countless times. I actually didn’t like the decision to include any enemy that could harm Derrick because the player most likely has their hands full with his hunger, which is certainly his biggest enemy.
Each region ends with a petty boss fight. The bosses are all weak sauce and only need to be tackled a couple of times to be defeated, but I don’t suppose there was much else that could’ve been done. The game doesn’t take itself seriously at all and I got a laugh or two out of the loading screens. These contain ‘tips’ that are actually mostly just silly one-liners.
Derrick’s merits are that it’s simple and easy to play, it has a unique visual style, and it has a good sense of humor and doesn’t take itself seriously. Its faults are the irritating hunger timer, the backtracking, the technical issues and the general lack of content. It’s dirt cheap and an enjoyable escape from more complicated and serious titles, but it can be rather grating and there are finer options in the genre.