There’s no two ways about it: as much as your parents might try to convince you that high school is some of the best years of your life, it can be an extremely challenging time period in one’s life. In addition to having to worry about making friends and fitting in, there’s the interdimensional portals, giant rats with switchblades and the grim reaper hanging out in the quad with the floating islands and bottomless pits. Actually, that’s not how I remember high school at all, but that’s how a typical day is at Water Falls High School, the school where Daryl Whitelaw just transferred to in Super Daryl Deluxe.
Daryl begins his student career at Water Falls High School when it’s in a weird predicament. Students are mysteriously disappearing and there haven’t been any real classes in weeks, though Daryl has an easy schedule with about a dozen study halls and one gym period. What the school’s curriculum lacks in academic and vocational courses it makes for with portals to other dimensions where homicidal anthropomorphic rats and lab equipment run free as multisyllabic words and advanced mathematical formulas such as 1+1=2 float freely in space. The floating cemetery outside the quad also has the creepiest moon in the sky since Majora’s Mask. Come to think of it, Water Falls High School is actually starting to sound like it might be a pretty cool place.
Being the new kid at school, Daryl has the traumatic task of trying to make new friends. The first people he meets are some no goodniks that try to put him to work getting textbooks for them. Doing these errands eventually leads to Daryl learning that he can read books to learn special attacks. Some of these actions are basic like throwing punches or swinging a sword, while others are a bit more absurd like riding a shark into battle or using Daryl’s archery skills to fire rubber ducky tipped arrows. In total there are approximately 45 of these different attacks Daryl can acquire, and with the ability to load out four abilities at once (and later have two swappable load out), there’s a lot of freedom to customize Daryl’s instruments of death.
Super Daryl Deluxe is an RPGvania, so without using the creators’ made up genre, it’s a metroidvania with a heavy emphasis on the RPG elements. A good chunk of time is spent wandering around the school talking to students, faculty and famous dead people such as Georgia O’Keefe and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. During this portion, Daryl will be given side quests from various people, like trying to find food to give to the cafeteria chef or bits of broken glass to give to a hungry student. No, Daryl is not a homicidal maniac. This student wanted to eat glass for some reason; Daryl is simply trying to be a good samaritan who may not have the best judgment or common sense. He may be a bit of a kleptomaniac since he does collect locker combinations, steal their contents and possibly use them as storage. He does have an entire page of his journal devoted to those.
It should quickly become apparent when Daryl is exploring the school that something odd is going on since there are glowing red bars over the library door and a dead cow laid out on the slab in the kitchen. I don’t know where to begin with the nonsense going on in the art and music room. With the whole portals to other dimensions going on in Water Falls High School, Daryl can find himself traveling between time and space and ending up in different historical locations, such as a war camp being overseen by Napoleon Bonaparte.
When Daryl leaves the main hallways of the school and goes into the classrooms is where most of the action takes place. The combat mechanics in Super Daryl Deluxe are not too far removed from traditional metroidvanias, but there’s a bit of finesses required. Each ability Daryl equips has a cool down period so the player can’t just button mash the attack button. The good thing is since Daryl can equip four attacks at once he should be able to do at least one of the attacks at any given time provided he isn’t only equipped with ones with long recovery times. The drawback to this approach is battle sometimes feels stunted and some abilities can feel like they take forever to get recharged. The upside to this approach is with some experimentation you can put together a powerful combination in Daryl’s loadout, such as a wide area of effect stun attack paired with a slow powerful melee and a fast melee attack.
As indicated in our preview from a few days ago, Super Daryl Deluxe is not a game that takes itself seriously, but the creators Dan and Gary took not taking itself seriously very seriously. The school is populated with strange characters who request Daryl’s assistance with many unusual tasks. Daryl records the events that happen around him in his journal as the story progresses, which ends up being a lengthy and entertaining read. Item descriptions, character conversations and the sight gags displayed throughout the background make for quite the silly game. What’s impressive about this aspect is the length the creators went to with their attention to detail. There are countless little jokes hidden throughout the game and the effort that went into recreating the front page of the Chicaga Tribune deserves recognition. It’s virtually impossible to play Super Daryl Deluxe and not smile.
Super Daryl Deluxe doesn’t have impressive graphics from a technical standpoint but the cartoon art style is perfect for the tone of the game. Watching Daryl’s lanky limbs flail about as he does battle with the various enemies is amusing. The music is varied throughout the different areas but a leitmotif is the word “Daryl” somehow finds its way into just about every piece of music, some of the occurrences are more unexpected than others. Sometimes it isn’t exactly clear where Daryl needs to travel to next to fulfill his objective, but if he wanders around enough and talks to people he’ll eventually stumble into whatever his next objective happens to be.
Super Daryl Deluxe combines solid Metroidvania and RPG mechanics to create a game that would be good based on that criteria alone, but the creators went all out to bring their vision of an extremely absurd high school to life. There’s no shortage of hidden jokes and the creators were meticulous in their attention to detail, whether we’re referring to a newspaper clipping or some of the unusual interior decorating for a high school. Water Falls High School has the layout of a Salvador Dali painting turning into a video game map where angry students can turn into a recreation of the original Donkey Kong arcade game. Super Daryl Deluxe is a must-play title for fans of ridiculous and random humor as this is a definite contender for most ridiculous RPGvania ever made.