Derrick is a shark. And like many sharks, he has an appetite that's never satisfied. But while the sharks of the real world won't flop over and die if they miss a meal, Derrick's life hangs by a thread with each missed mouthful. That's not an easy life for a fish--despite being at the top of the food chain--particularly when, as you discover, his parents are turned into seafood by an evil organisation intent on polluting the world's oceans. And what beautiful oceans they are: intricate, handmade papercraft oceans that are as bright and colourful as the likes of SpongeBob's Bikini Bottom, but with a playful imagination and design all their own. Derrick certainly doesn't want them turned into sludgy, rotten wastelands.
Fortunately, Derrick's shark ancestry gives him quite the advantage when it comes to roaming the world's 2D, side-scrolling oceans. He can chow down on the many inhabitants of the sea with ease, with the delightful papercraft crabs, fish, squid, and other creatures disappearing in a puff of smoke. He's fast too, and by holding down the right trigger you can make him even faster and gracefully leap out of the ocean like a modern-day Ecco the Dolphin. Such manoeuvres are tricky to master, though. There's an impreciseness to Derrick's movements that means you're never in total control of his actions; it's all too easy to swim straight past or leap right over a group of delicious sea creatures.
And that's not something you want to do too often. With each flick of a fin, a health bar at the top of the screen depletes, and quickly too. As you roam around each level, trying to make it to the finish line on the other side, you must eat constantly; go too long without a meal, and it's lights out for Derrick. It's that constant pressure to survive that makes navigating the well-designed mazelike courses a serious challenge. Eat everything in sight too quickly, and you might leave yourself without enough food to make it to the end of the level. If you take a wrong turn down a tunnel, only to reach a dead end, you might not have enough energy to swim your way back again.
There are a few things around to help you out, though. Trails of pink diamonds to collect often point you in the right direction, as well as double up as food for Derrick. They're one type of collectible found in each level, the other being giant tires that float above the surface of the water, ready for you to skilfully leap through as they burst into flames. Collectibles are totalled at the end of each level, giving you a score that's placed on a leaderboard, albeit a local one. They unlock new areas too, including fun fast-paced levels that are based on speed, which shun the health bar for a time bar that ticks down quickly as you make your way through each maze.
The evil corporation gets a dose of Derrick thanks to small puzzle levels where you have to blow up an oil rig or take down a mighty trawler. But these sections are more of a missed opportunity than a break from the fast-paced action. Puzzles are painfully easy to solve and often just involve nudging a few bomb-fish around until they're in just the right place to explode. Indeed, there's a lack of depth to much of Derrick's adventures. Every level lasts just a few minutes, and you can easily make your way through all 32 of them in a single sitting--a little longer if you hunt down all the collectibles.
It's a format that lends itself greatly to mobile--a fact that's referenced in loading screens--but it works less well here. As fun as many of the levels are, you don't ever feel like you're getting enough of them, even if you go back and replay them, as the collectibles compel you to do. But that's not enough to discount Derrick the Deathfin. The beauty of its colourful visuals, the wonderful trip-hop soundtrack, and the compelling, enjoyable levels create an utterly charming package that's big on imagination, if just a little short on execution.'