Derrick the Deathfin doesn't offer up much in the terms of a storyline, but the short narrative is delivered in popup book fashion that is adorable and easy to get behind. When the game begins, Derrick's family is killed and cooked right before his eyes, which no doubt sends the shark into a frenzied rampage to kill everything in his path. The developers were trying to get behind the concept of saving marine life, and you can even show your support by donating funds to help raise awareness and save sharks in Japan through a charity on the game's website. The story is short and fun, and it's difficult to stop playing once you've started up the game, especially because of the unique art style the game uses to tell its story. When you defeat a boss or complete a continent, you will receive another book that tells another part of the game's storyline until you've completed the game and received a well deserved ending. Derrick the Deathfin may stumble at other points in the game, but this story is one grand fisherman's tale.
The first of Derrick the Deathfin's problems is also the game's greatest strength. Everything in Derrick the Deathfin is created from paper and cards shaped into fish, divers, the game's environments and even Derrick himself. While this presents a very awesome aesthetic that is completely unique and impossible to not appreciate, screenshots don't tell the whole story here. The gameplay is fast paced as you swim around the sea collecting gems and jumping through burning tires to unlock new stages, and the camera struggles to keep up with the action. The blur caused by the fast moving camera can become nauseating rather quickly, and you'll find it difficult to traverse the racing like stages quickly enough to attain a gold medal. In fact, all of the gameplay in Derrick the Deathfin incorporates some type of timer, and you'll have to continuously find pink diamonds or eat smaller fish and divers to keep your hunger meter from depleting. This makes completing some stages very difficult, and you lose your progress if you don't reach the end of each stage quickly enough. All of these flaws combine to make a game experience that isn't nearly as fun as it should be, and Derrick the Deathfin ultimately feels like a poor man's Sonic the Hedgehog when all is said and done.
Confounding the design problems of Derrick the Deathfin is the brevity of the entire game. The small design studio of Different Tuna put forth a good effort for their release, but the game only comes packed with 32 stages spread across four continents. It's really a shame more time couldn't have been put into the development of the game to give us some additional replay value through different game modes or at least eight different stages for each of the seven continents in the world. Derrick the Deathfin only supports local leaderboards in its present state as well, so there is little keeping you playing the game once it has been completed. The PlayStation 3 version of the game does include trophies that will keep you playing and trying to unlock each of them, but you'll likely not want to drop the eight bucks to pick up this game. There are plenty of things to like about Derrick the Deathfin including the cool art design and variety of stages that include collecting items in typical platforming fashion and having showdowns in epic boss battles, but there is plenty to dislike as well such as the sea sickness you feel while playing the game and a lack of depth that make Derrick the Deathfin seem like a fish out of water when compared with the better indie games to come out in the last year.
Derrick the Deathfin is now available for PlayStation 3, PC and Mac and can be purchased for $7.99. Derrick the Deathfin is rated E by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Fantasy Violence & Mild Blood. For more information on the game, check out the official Derrick the Deathfin website.
Developer and Publisher: Different Tuna
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PC (reviewed) & Mac
Release Date: October 9, 2012 (PSN) & January 29, 2013 (PC & Mac)