At first it seems that the basic premise of Derrick The Deathfin is to rush from the start of the level to the end and, well, that’s pretty much it, and my first moments with the game were disappointing. It is much like the original Sonic game in that respect, something that the developers give a cheeky wink to with the vocodered “Derrr-rrrick” sound effect that plays on the title screen much like the old ‘Saay-gaah’ title on the Megadrive.
To complicate matters Derrick is one hungry baby shark and requires constant feeding, and although the seas are home to many creatures the’re usually swimming in shoals with a fair distance between each group, requiring you to dash from meal to meal. There are also levels with time limits, end of level boss battles and simplistic puzzles during which – for no apparent reason – Derrick suddenly stops being the worlds hungriest Selachimorpha.
That’s really all there is to it: 32 levels of fishy fun spread across four different sets of continents, after completing the first continent in about 15 minutes I was left wondering where the developers had hidden any long lasting gameplay. It had been a breeze to zip through the levels, swim as fast as you can in a straight line and you’re almost certain to complete the first couple of levels without trying. Feeling disappointed I moved on to the second continent only to find it was still locked.
Ah! This is where the developers hid the gameplay!
You can go back and replay any level you have already completed and hunt out gems and tyres you may have missed, but you still have to keep Derrick full of food and you still have to make it to the end of the level. But now you can explore new areas and spend your time working out the best way to find and then jump through the tyres, which adds hugely to the game.
This is more difficult than it seems as controlling the hungry piscine is a challenge in itself, one small nudge of the stick and Derrick will fly out of the water and head butt the tyre rather than glide gracefully through.
This is proper old school gaming, almost pixel perfect leaps are required and as the schools of hunger-sating fish are usually situated away from the burning hoops you get at best two or three chances to try a jump before it’s game over. It is incredibly frustrating but annoyingly addictive – I have lost count of the number of times I switched off the game in disgust because I could not get through a tyre only to load up the game again ten minutes later to try once more.
Leaping through a final tyre to unlock the next continent brings a huge sense of achievement and you can continue to improve on your times and scores for each level, but rather annoyingly Derrick the Deathfin only keeps track of your scores locally. An online leaderboard is sorely missing.
Later levels introduce maze like structures and chili pick ups which gives Derrick an explosive bottom that zooms him across a sea at super-sonic speeds. There are also propellers and currents – which swish your fish around much like a Loco Roco in the water – and broccoli pick ups. I have no idea why broccoli gives Derrick full health, especially when his main diet is seagulls, fish and the odd deep sea diver, but it does.
No doubt you have seen the gorgeous papercraft graphics created for the game, sadly most of the delightful designs go to waste as you are too busy barrelling through a level to reach the exit to appreciate the many hours that have gone in to crafting the world.
Sound is rather limited, Derrick makes the odd chomp noise and the sea creatures make a high pitched squeal when he advances which becomes incredibly annoying after an extended period of gaming. The music is hip-hop rather than trendy wub-wub and a chuckle or two is raised by the loading screens which are frequently brilliantly funny, ‘Placing text on a screen distracts players whilst the game is loading’ is one helpful hint.
- Beautiful presentation and design.
- Cheap and cheerful.
- Extremely addictive.
- Can be very, very frustrating.
- No online features.
- Constantly squeaking enemies are annoying.
Derrick the Deathfin is resolutely old school in its game play, there are no special moves and no upgrades to unlock, it’s just you against a fast depreciating health bar and a rather fickle control system. The game can be incredibly frustrating but this pays off with a huge sense of achievement when you finally nail a level. It may be short and simplistic but Derrick the Deathfin is as addictive as – and at £5.49, cheaper than – cod and chips.