Videogames have given us the chance to put ourselves in the shoes of a multitude of brave and heroic characters over the years. The smart and beautiful Lara Croft, the tough and gritty Marcus Fenix, and the charming Nathan Drake are fantastic examples. And then we have Daryl Whitelaw: the Napoleon Dynamite of the gaming world and the titular hero of Super Daryl Deluxe. With his wispy mustache, bright orange pants, and his long shaggy hair held in place by a sweet (and also orange) headband, it’s easy to see why he’s not just super, but also deluxe.
Daryl is the new transfer student at Water Falls High School. Normally this would cause some minor anxiety in your average person, but Daryl is as cool as a cucumber and never says the wrong thing. Of course, that’s due to the fact that he never utters a single word: he just stares mindlessly, his mouth slightly agape. He still does pretty well for himself, regardless. He makes two new friends, Alan and Paul, right off the bat. He even lands a job at their totally non-suspicious illegal textbook emporium. Sure, they can never quite get his name right and they pay him absolutely nothing to run around the school doing errands and thankless tasks for them, but hey, they seem like cool guys! This sets the tone for the entirety of Super Daryl Deluxe. It’s a game that finds humor in stupid situations, goofy quests, funny dialogue, and a world laced with a liberal dose of pop-culture references.
When asked about what type of game SDD is, the developers will tell you that is an “RPGvania” and I can say 100% that that title is as good as any. A 2D sidescroller, in essence, you take control of Daryl through an eclectic variety of locales, from an inter-dimensional science room to an ancient Egyptian pyramid and a battlefield reminiscent of Waterloo. Oh, did I mention that you have to trick Julius Caesar into thinking that Cleopatra has formed an alliance with Napoleon just to get him to come to your aid to fight an evil robot? Thanks to strange portals popping up all over school things can get pretty weird in Daryl’s world.
Like any RPG, there are quests to be fulfilled, levels to be gained, and equipment to be…equipped. And believe me when I say that SDD has a TON of sidequests to complete. According to my quest tracker, I have completed about 60, and I haven’t even done them all yet. They range in difficulty, and some of them can be pretty vague about what to do. The quest tracker doesn’t actually show you where to go or give you hints; it merely keeps track of what steps you’ve completed and repeats exactly what the quest-giver originally instructed. This is really the only downside to the game, aside from the fact that the game feels a little bit slow in the beginning. It took me a little while to get warmed up to Super Daryl, but when I did, I didn’t want to put it down. There are many nooks and crannies to be explored, with a plethora of secrets to be found for all the purists who love to plumb the depths. For me, personally, this is one of the top things I look for in an RPG. Great RPGs should not feel like a linear experience; there should always be secrets to uncover and rewards for doing so. This helps to give a sense of meaningful engagement with the world within the game and I feel like SDD pulls it off by offering worthwhile additional content alongside of the main story.
It’s dangerous to go alone. Luckily though, Daryl has a self-help book, even though it is initially missing all the pages. Finding pages nets you a variety of lethal (and goofy) skills that can then be assigned to specific buttons and used to lay the smackdown brawler-style to your enemies. As a reward for being such a loyal employee, Alan and Paul sell you new skill pages for your book, but they can’t be paid for with the game’s regular currency. Daryl must collect textbooks in order to get those sweet, sweet skills that he so desires. Each skill can also be leveled up by spending ‘skill XP’ on them, but they can only be leveled a finite amount that varies on a skill to skill basis. Like regular XP, Daryl can earn skill XP by beating enemies. He can also earn it by exchanging textbooks for it via his locker. Trying out the different skills to see what combos work best and to watch the sometimes hilarious animations is an enjoyable experience. The boss fights require a little thinking in most cases, as they have specific strategies to follow and weaknesses to exploit. They don’t follow a beat and repeat type of flow, so they’re a nice deviation from the mass of enemies you will spend the game pummeling into oblivion. There are no autosaves or checkpoint systems in place, only a manual system so save often because there are a few instances where an unexpected boss will pop up.
The animation style of SDD is hand drawn and gorgeously fluid, as evidenced by the way Daryl’s gangly limbs flail around when he moves around the screen and by the way his arms flap behind him when sprinting. The game’s brand of humor also bleeds into the enemy design. A few of my favorites are the stab-happy rats dressed in Parisian striped shirts and the buff cacti in the deserts of Egypt that pose and preen and then shriek when you get close and startle them. Even the soundtrack, awesome as it is, manages to be funny and on point. The theatre district is a great example. You’re trying to help Beethoven out by doing some quests while the man running the theatre is more interested in electronic dubstep-style music (and he looks a lot like Skrillex, suspiciously enough). The music that plays in the background is classical-laced dubstep track with vocals that periodically pronounce “Super Daryl Deluxe”. It’s not the only track that does this. This Daryl guy must be pretty self-centered and egotistical to want to hear his name everywhere. The award for the best track in the game has to go to the main theme song “The Legend of Daryl”, a vocal track in the style of a power rock ballad. Just try to listen to it without smiling just once. Do yourself a favor and just play Super Daryl Deluxe. Even though it starts off a little slow, it is a stupid funny time that you won’t regret.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8.5/10
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