Derrick the Death Fin is a beautiful, smart game with a fluid runner style that perfectly suits mobile.
It sells a worthy eco message with a winningly cheeky sense of humour, and it's all pulled off with a lovely hand-made cardboard cutout art style.
All things told, I really should love it rather than just liking it, but you can thank the controls for that.Something fishy
It might look every inch the stylish indie mobile game, but Derrick the Death Fin actually took a fishy bow on PS3 five years ago. It's that console heritage that hinders the game's mobile rebirth, I think.
You play the role of Derrick, a shark with a cheeky grin and a ravenous appetite. As one of the apex predators of the high seas, you get to swim around each colourful environment chomping down on anything that moves in or just above the waters.
From schools of fish to seagulls right up to human sailors (via a well timed jump), chowing down is a simple matter of swimming into your prey.
Indeed, the only real danger here is from starvation. It doesn't take long for Derrick to keel over from exhaustion, so you must feed him almost constantly, lest his hunger bar run out.
Besides these free-roaming levels you'll race against the clock in time attack stages, solve simple spatial puzzles, and face up to hulking bosses.Sonic The Dolphin
All of this is great, and it's all executed at breakneck speed. When you're in full flow, dipping through underwater caves and leaping through tires, it feels like some lost Sega mash-up between Ecco The Dolphin and Sonic The Hedgehog.
But it never quite plays as good as it looks in action. The game's analogue stick-driven controls have been mapped to a floating virtual equivalent, and it just never quite feels tight enough to dictate the action to anything beyond 'good enough' status.
I spent large portions of my time grounding Derrick's nose up against the sea floor, crashing into cave walls, and completely missing my exit point to pass through one of those tires - which is key to unlocking the next world. Meanwhile the tap-to-dash move quickly became 'tap-to-flounder' as I came up short on land time and again.
I'm sure that practice would make perfect here, but you have to ask questions when a game so stubbornly evades mastery for so long.Fin
Derrick the Death Fin looks and moves like a minor casual classic in the spirit of Tiny Wings or Whale Trail. In fact, it's much more ambitious and attractive than either of those games.
If you can get to grips with its nippy pace and jittery nature you may well have a new mobile favourite on your hands.
But the game's controls lack the immediacy and fluidity of the beautiful hand-crafted world it creates, rendering what could have been great merely good.