By Laura . November 3, 2012 . 4:30pm
Proudly proclaiming its status as the “first underwater papercraft video game,” Derrick the DeathFin, a download title for PlayStation 3, is a quirky game about a shark on the quest of revenge after his parents were turned into canned shark fin. To do so, Derrick zigs and zags through various courses across all seven continents while keeping his belly full and his health high by feasting on the various cardboard fish swimming about.
You can watch a trailer for it below:
The visuals are absolutely gorgeous, with the origami-based aquatic fish—ranging from puffers to narwhals to anglers—drift amongst the colorful cardboard backgrounds, cut unique to each continent. In one course, you’ll find yourself swimming amongst Egyptian art, and another through what reminds me of the rivers of Canada. The designs are stereotypical in a fun way and makes identifying the corresponding region fun.
How you play the game is just as simple. Derrick only uses a handful of the buttons on the controller. All you need to concentrate on is where to swim and when to open Derrick’s jaw. (Well, to be more precise, you do also have a dash attack versus a regular attack, but the distinction is only in the speed.)
Admittedly, though, Derrick may end up a bit too fast sometimes as he accelerates as you swim more. The turning controls are extremely sensitive and you may find yourself having to keep your hand off the dash button to catch all the fish. In addition, angling for the jumps out of the water can be frustrating, especially since the timed aspect of the game doesn’t allow for much trial and error.
That being said, the smoothness of the game definitely works to its advantage. Everything gives an impression of speed; so much so that you might have to spend a few extra runs just to admire the scenery because I know I didn’t pay too much attention as I was swimming through as fast as I could. In fact, many of the courses are time-sensitive.
There are three types of courses scattered through the 4 zones (Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Arctic), and two of them are time-sensitive.
The first kind is the most common. The goal is to just make it through the level without Derrick turning belly-up. Unfortunately, this is harder than it sounds because Derrick is a shark of amazing metabolism—his health decreases very quickly with time. This means that as you go through the course, you’ll also have to eat as much as you can—anything from penguins to grizzlies to whales to human divers. Almost immediately, though, the health starts dropping again, so what is essentially untimed can turn into a race against time.
Other factors affect your health as well, such as narwhal horns stabbing at you and electric eels zapping you. At the end of each zone, there’s also a boss that will always have some way to damage you, whether it be orca teeth or sawfish blade. Luckily, the boss areas come with plenty of fish you can use to regenerate health. It’s actually kind of fun seeing the massive creatures—I think I might be a fan of the origami designs.
In addition to these factors, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for the “inexplicable, manmade flaming tires” in the sky as well as pink jewels lying around the course. These not only give you points and a nice “Perfect” sticker upon completing the course, they are also key to unlocking new zones.
The second type of course is a timed race, where you have to swim from one end to the other. Thankfully, you can completely ignore health in this race. In fact, stopping to regenerate on fish will just slow you down. I found these courses much easier (and admittedly I had more fun) than the first kind, but they’re also much rarer.
The third kind of “course” is primarily plot-based. Essentially, they’re small puzzles that you’ll have to solve. I was surprised after I finished the puzzles, though. The message they send as they advance the plot is strangely morally ambiguous for such a non-serious game.
And ultimately, that is single adjective I would use to summarize the game. It’s a “nice” (and beautiful) distraction from whatever you’re doing, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously and there aren’t many things to do. With only four zones and 8 courses each, the game can run by pretty quick provided you get a good handle on Derrick’s speed. Of course, if you want to be a perfectionist, you could try to collect all the tires and get all the jewels and eat all the fish.
Me? I just really enjoyed swimming around the globe (although I have my doubts about Derrick’s revenge mission) and though the journey was littered by a sprinkle of frustration due to problems timing jumps and narwhals, why take things so seriously?
Food for Thought:
1. The later levels actually start getting very difficult, especially in the Arctic. The electric eels are cruel and unusual.
2. There are tons of nonsense tips that appear when the game is loading. I may be able to take “Insulating may save thousands” as an environmental message, but the attempt to try to find a serious message in the game was quickly dispelled with the comment, “Writing pointless tips during game development gives the developers something to do.” (Not exact quotes.)
3. There are instructions on how to make your own Derrick and other fish on the official website under the Download page.
4. I get a cruel glee from snapping up every living creature I see, including the Canadian geese and the divers. The game rewards you, too, with ribbons based on your score and how much you eat.