Reviews// Derrick the Deathfin

Posted 12 Nov 2012 09:18 by
What do you think is in that can of tuna you (might) have in your cupboard right now? ‘Tuna fish, duh’ might be your first answer. But Derrick the Deathfin knows the real answer. Those cans contain the remains of his parents, killed whilst swimming innocently in the ocean by the rather nasty M.E.A.N. Corporation. And now, the newly-orphaned Derrick is out for revenge!

I should probably point out that Derrick (and his deceased parents) are sharks.

Indie studio Different Tuna has given PlayStation Network owners a rather fun, if brief, action game where you control a vengeful shark with an intention to chomp and chew on almost everything in his path. As you would expect, nearly the entirety of your time is spent underwater, in a gameplay experience that harks back to the classic days of Ecco the Dolphin on SEGA Mega Drive.

The left analogue stick is used to guide Derrick around the various oceans of four different continents, and the first thing you notice is just how slick underwater control is. You can easily glide through the murky depths of Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Arctic and turn around using a very tight and satisfying turning circle.

Chomping on enemies is performed with the X button, which is just as well because you’ll be doing this a lot. Derrick has a health bar that rapidly depletes as you play. You must keep feeding Derrick on animals and enemies to keep him alive long enough to get to the finish line - or perform tricks such as leaping out of the water like a dolphin and smacking into seagulls.

Most of the prey underwater are harmless - crabs, schools of small fish and defenceless humans swimming on top of the ocean are some of the snacks on offer. As you progress through the game, however, you’ll find that some - like crocodiles and piranhas - tend to bite back. You’ll also have to deal with a rather large boss creature at the end of each continent, each with a specific weak point to attack.

You won’t just be tasked with survival, though. There are two other types of stage, besides the standard ‘get to the finish’ challenge. Time Attack stages make for a rather expedient change of pace, with short stages that need to be weaved through and navigated before the clock runs out. Derrick will also come across ‘boss stages’ which will see you solve extremely basic puzzles to blow up various M.E.A.N. structures - oil rigs, tankers, that sort of thing.

To unlock each continent, you also need to collect pink jewels littered throughout each stage. You also need to find - and jump through - burning tires like a show shark. The latter may frustrate more than satisfy, as the art of leaping out of the water can be a rather finicky affair. Getting the right angle can be a right pain in some later underwater stages too, which require near-pinpoint turning to succeed.

The presentation of Derrick the Deathfin is lovely, and full of character. Smaller fish squeal as they see Derrick approaching them, and upon snacking on his foes to some rather meaty sound effects, our sharky hero burps their bones right back out. Classy. The game has a lot of charm thanks to its cardboard and papercraft visual approach. The colours, music and simple controls make for a great experience when blasting through a few levels at a time.

There is an underlying, environmentally-friendly message in all of the cartoony underwater action, but Different Tuna isn’t exactly preachy about it. In fact, it’s taken a rather cavalier approach - a tale of a shark out for revenge; the ability to freely munch on human beings; the flippant and humourous ‘tips’ that appear upon loading each level - it makes any such message much more comfortable to take in.

With four continents, each containing eight levels (which, due to their short arcade nature, tend to last around two minutes a piece), Derrick the Deathfin is not a particularly long game for your £5.49. You’ll whizz through this game very quickly in one sitting, although getting gold trophies for each stage will prove something of a challenge for completionists.

Smooth and solid gameplay
Charming premise
Great presentation

It’s pretty short
Angling Derrick can be troublesome
A couple of levels might frustrate

SPOnG Score: 8/10


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