Derrick the Deathfin is a charming romp through a hand-crafted 2D underwater world. The folks at Different Cloth have teamed up with Tuna Technologies Ltd. to make this bit-sized game, and it’s definitely a commendable effort. While suffering from a few flaws that keep it from being great, the final, fishy product is still well made and enjoyable.
The developers have described Derrick the Deathfin as a mixture of old-school. 2D Sonic and Ecco the Dolphin, and this comparison is perfect. Derrick, the main character, has his parents kidnapped and turned into food, and now he’s seeking revenge on the evil M.E.A.N. Corporation that’s polluting the sea and killing its creatures. It’s not much of a story, but the premise is given and shoved out of the way in seconds. Controls resemble that of Ecco the Dolphin, with the main goal for each level involving swimming from left to right as fast as Derrick’s fins can take him. Along the way he collects gems, jumps through flaming tires, and eats any unfortunate sea creatures that cross his path. The only thing standing in his way is his hunger bar, which slowly decreases and must be replenished by said animals and gems. It functions as his health, and encouragement to constantly progress forward. Occasionally, other types of levels are thrown in, including time trials and boss fights, but they occupy a much smaller section of the game.
But, the main hindrance keeping this game from being really great is the hunger bar. Every level where I had even the slightest bit of difficulty gave me flashbacks of underwater levels from old-school Sonic games. Only this time, the duration you have to find the proverbial “air bubble” is basically cut in half. It seems like an unnecessary limitation that discourages exploration. Perfect speed runs are encouraged through the general design of the levels and the placement of items, but if you stop for an instant to get a sense of the world around you, you’re already dead.
You’re often left feeling like more time is needed to learn a level, and simply forcing players to re-start levels to do so is just annoying. When confronted with a particularly difficult jump, players may get two to three attempts before time runs out, and are forced to constantly replay the entire level while learning one jump. It’s a mechanic that’s probably meant to encourage the mastering of levels, and there’s no in-game punishment for failure, but this abrasive feature clashes with the rest of the game.
Rushing through levels should also not be encouraged, as the entire game can be completed in one sitting. With only four worlds, someone can eat through the content of Derrick the Deathfin in a matter of hours. That being said, perfecting some of the later stages gets quite complicated, so the content is there to keep you coming back, if that style of repetitious mastering appeals to you.
A unique approach was taken with the game’s appearance, as it has a “papercraft” style. Menus, loading screens, and the levels themselves all look as if folded from cardboard and construction paper, and it’s genuinely charming. Each world has its own color palate, and levels shine brightly with detail somewhat akin to LittleBigPlanet. Everything has a handmade look, and the simple character designs have some real personality. This vibe melds quite well with the audio tracks, which are mostly upbeat and quirky. Even as the game became extremely frustrating, the overall wrapper of Derrick the Deathfin remained smile-inducing.
For the $7.99 price tag, Derrick the Deathfin is by no means a bad proposition. But the game presents a very specific style of gameplay that could easily frustrate some people and scare them off. The pedigree behind the developers takes one into the world of iOS games, and this comes as no surprise. Derrick is a bite-sized game meant for short bursts, and if you can accept it as such, it may be the game for you.
Derrick the Deathfin was developed and published by Different Tuna. A PSN copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.