Competing for attention against October’s big budget titles can be a daunting task for an independent developer. Different Tuna’s charming and addicting revenge fueled title Derrick the Deathfin unfortunately faces that problem.
Players control an orphaned shark named Derrick who is on a hunger-induced vendetta against the M.E.A.N. Corporation – the company behind the murder of his parents. Instead of becoming an aquatic version of Batman, Derrick sets out across 32 2D levels set in the surrounding oceans of the continent of America, Asia, Africa and the Antarctic. Derrick the Deathfin is endearing with its quirky load screens quotes and hypnotic soundtrack, but it’s really the unique graphics and character design by Ronzo and Different Tuna that steals the show.
Titles like Paper Mario and PaRappa the Rapper have recreated the look and feel of a paper themed world but Derrick the Deathfin one ups them both by using organic material to create a digital environment. Using “papercraft” as its inspiration, the entire world – both below the water and above the surface – is composed of handmade folded or cut-out pieces of colored paper and cardboard. You’ll navigate Derrick through tropical waters filled with colorful aquatic creatures, scuba divers, and children, but you’ll eventually find yourself launching off ramps in glacier filled waters while attempting to take down a helpless seagull in midair.
The side-scrolling levels present players with three different scenarios. The majority of the game is composed of basic levels that require Derrick to devour anything that moves in order to refill his quickly depleting metabolism meter as he presses forward to the finish line. The hunger meter is the focal point of Derrick the Deathfin’s challenge. It’s an appealing decision that imposes a frantic pace as players race around looking for a victim to keep them alive a little bit longer.
Each level is filled with various aquatic creatures to eat as well as level-specific obstacles that Derrick will need to maneuver around to make it to the end. While Derrick rapidly depletes the world’s population of humans and animals he will also need to collect diamonds (diamonds must be a shark’s best friend) and jump through multiple suspended flaming M.E.A.N.’s tires to earn a full completion for a level and unlock other continents.
During his feeding frenzy, players will also come across a variety of power-ups like chili pepper that provides a burst of speed and special bomb-like moves like a Dash Death! and Zig Zag Doom! which allow players to chain together kills. The racing levels pit Derrick against the clock as he weaves through labyrinth style levels to earn either a gold, silver, or bronze medal. The puzzle-ish levels have you figuring out how to destroy M.E.A.N.’s various meddlesome structures. Some levels also contain a boss battle in which you must take down larger opponents like a manta ray or a killer whale.
Control-wise, Derrick the Deathfin isn’t the most agile and graceful shark. The game’s fun and simple to play, but moving cautiously through narrow paths or leaping in the air was frustrating. Precision is crucial, especially when you are going for the gold in a race but I continuously bounced off of walls and got stuck at ramps because I couldn’t angle myself properly to clear them. Eventually you soon discover that the gameplay rapidly plummets into a frenzy scramble of trail and error.
The pacing is intense and some may be disappointed that their time with Derrick ends rather quickly. For a title that heavily focuses around obtaining the highest score and best time I found it a bit strange that I was unable to compare my accomplishments against my friends online. There’s a local high score system in place but with the lack of an online leaderboard the replay value quickly diminishes unless you are like me and you strive to improve your personal score and time.
Gameplay imperfections and longevity aside, it’s really difficult not to fall in love with the characters and art direction of Derrick the Deathfin. It’s the best way to play with a paper shark without receiving a paper cut.
Release Date: October 10, 2012 • Publisher/Developer: Different Tuna • Genre: Action • Multiplayer: None • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: $7.99 • Replay Value: Moderate