Super Daryl Deluxe is a weird game, but then it wears its weirdness so obviously that it’s plastered all over its sweatband-sporting forehead rather than on its sleeve. The opening moments would lead you to believe that there’s a princess to save from the nefarious Trenchcoat Kid, that your crime-fighting partner Detective Alan dies within the first minute, and that you’re in control of Detective Daryl, a gangly, mullet-sporting hero. That’s not really the whole story, though.
You are in fact Daryl Whitelaw, a brand new student at Water Falls High School, which is a place where something has seemingly gone very wrong. The vice-principal is a robot with a horrifically fixed grin, and the school, which was formerly the best educational facility in the US and the heart of a utopian movement, has seen all of its classrooms locked down for the past year.
You soon befriend/are taken advantage of by Paul and Alan, who want you to collect textbooks from the locked down rooms so they can sell them in their brand new black market enterprise, even though the Trenchcoat Kid and his lackeys look to have this sideline sewn up already. If it all sounds a little nonsensical then you’d be right, but this surreal adventure quickly manages to get right under your skin.
The main driving force behind the game are the multiple quests that open up as you explore the school further. Besides the main storyline you’ll soon find yourself juggling a number of tasks at the same time, though they’re largely of the “find this thing” or “kill this many things” variety, which is a little underwhelming. Your constantly expanding skill set and the creep of the narrative ensures that you can make it to a different area and keep the forward momentum going most of the time though.
Thanks to a mysterious self-help book, you’re able to learn a range of extraordinary abilities with which to whale on the bizarre enemies you come across. Combat is fast and responsive, with up to four offensive skills in use at any one time from a pool of up to fortye, plus a further utility move. Each move has a cooldown though – even your most basic punch combo – meaning that you’ll need to master the art of the stick and move, or as I prefer to call it, “attacking and then immediately running away”.
As you progress, you’ll find that you can build a repertoire that provides you with a decent combo, negating some of the need to flee after every move. Each skill is ranked by tier from Trash through to Good, and each of them can be levelled up by doling out some sxp, though it only improves their damage output when you’re really dying for their cooldown time to be reduced. Overall though it’s a fun system, and one which grows with you as you progress.
The game’s hand-drawn comic art is characterful and playful, while the character’s themselves display a real knack for the grotesque. The designers revel in Daryl’s authentic indie geekiness and the rest of the cast are loaded with wry digs at the inhabitants of many high schools. The limited palette adds to the aesthetic, and plays with the idea that this could all be pulled from a pages of a book. The different areas manage to be distinct and varied, ranging from the childish cityscape seen in the streets of Vienna to the neon minimalism on display in the science room, but it’s disappointing that there aren’t more backdrops to battle through.
Being an RPGvania, there’s a lot of backtracking, with you returning to the same key areas time and time again, though the familiarity you’ll have with Water Falls High by the end of the game is more helpful than wearing. The music meanwhile can start to grate by the end, despite its unequivocally cool tones. There’s just not enough of it to stretch across the whole experience, especially when you’re repeatedly zipping through the same areas.
Content is perhaps the game’s Achilles heel, and despite the regular supply of side quests and the pull of the main campaign, it doesn’t quite cover up the fact that there have likely been real-world limitations to the game’s otherwise freewheeling imagination. It’s far from a major problem though, and what is there is remarkably fun and coherent, almost despite itself.
Humour is a tough aspect for games to get right, but Super Daryl Deluxe nails its dry, surrealist American-indie tone. Despite the inherent repetition of the RPGvania match-up, the writing, graphical style, and imagination that Dan & Gary Games have packed in here mark it out as a wonderfully weird indie gem.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Disclaimer: One of the characters in Super Daryl Deluxe is voiced by Miguel Moran, one of our writers. While we’re over the moon for his burgeoning voice acting career, rest assured that it’s not something that has influenced this review.