Review: Derrick The Deathfin (PS3)

Curiously described as “The world’s first underwater papercraft game” by its creators – the independent development team Different Tuna, Derrick The Deathfin is a fresh new action-adventure game for the PlayStation 3, which plays very much like classic 2D side-scroller from the all but forgotten SEGA age – and I absolutely adore it.

After seeing his parents brutally murdered at the hands of the the evil M.E.A.N. Corporation young Derrick embarks on a mission to single handedly avenge their death, and naturally, being a fearsome shark, eat everything he can along the way!

Let’s not muddy the waters here; If you’re looking for a complex and immersive narrative led platformer, this isn’t for you. The water Derrick swims in may be, but the story here isn’t very deep at all.

That’s not to say the gameplay isn’t brilliant. It most certainly is. What really makes this game so special however, is the world in which our titular hero lives.

Derrick The Deathfin is a collaborative effort between the game’s writer, producer, and general all-round everything Different Cloth (Gordon Midwood) and the rather brilliant indie artist Ronzo, who here takes his art away from the streets, and into video-games for the first, but hopefully not the last time.

Having previously worked on iPhone & WiiWare title Lilt Line, Different Cloth announced they’d received funding for the new project via Channel 4’s now dissolved digital innovation brand 4iP just over two years ago, and since then have been working on the game tirelessly, and it really shows.

There’s often talk about whether or not video games are “Art”.
More often than not, this talk relates to the cinematic experience of a title, the way that Heavy Rain or the new Tomb Raider tell the player a story, rather than looking at the game design itself; And yet it’s that sense that Derrick The Deathfin prevails. This is a wonderfully undeniable work of art.

Set entirely amongst a papercraft world, each level has been lovingly crafted with original and vivid puzzles to solve and characters to meet eat.

Originally conceived as a 2D underwater world, designed with multiple layers of paper, the game already had a unique slant about it. Things really got creative when contemporary London based artist Ronzo dived into the game’s design, however.
This isn’t just CGI. Derrick’s world isn’t just a pseudo-created environment based on concept drawings in the same way Little Big Planet or Media Molecule’s upcoming papercraft game Tearaway is.

Be they the ridiculously cute Sea Turtles you’ll encounter throughout your adventure, or Derrick himself, each and every character model in the game was sketched by hand, before being crafted from cardboard and brought to life in Ronzo’s studio. Mock levels were staged and the models filmed in various movements to capture the authentic papercraft feel. The technical wizards at ten24 then used this ‘show-reel’ as a solid foundation for recreating the objects in game.

It’s a beautifully presented game, which plays with a refreshing simplicity.

Use the controller’s left analog stick to navigate your way through 32 stages, generally in an old-school left-to-right fashion, without dying. That’s it.
There’s 11 different environments, set over 4 continents and these range from sunkissed Africa to the wintery Arctic ocean. Each of these new surroundings has their own challenges to master, enemies to encounter and of course, like any good video game, epic boss battles to triumph over!

The most common level type is, as I mentioned, a simple left-to-right affair. Tasked with guiding our fishy friend to the exit, It’s a battle against Derrick’s overactive teenage metabolism.
Chomping your way through an entire smuck of jellyfish with the X button or dashing out of the ocean and jumping through a flaming tyre like some sort of post-apocalyptic Ecco The Dolphin, with a well timed press of R2, will not only keep keep Derrick alive and allow you to explore your gorgeously designed environment further, but also to accrue points along the way, ultimately working towards a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal for each stage.
As a rule of thumb, every sixth level or so you’ll be greeted with a timed maze, which requires you to do nothing more than reach the goal marker as quickly as possible; This isn’t always as easy as it seems when great gaggles of scuba divers get in your way, or you come nose to nose with a congregation of hungry crocodiles.

As a break from the repetitive nature of the other levels, once on each continent Derrick’s fight against the villainous M.E.A.N. Corporation is returned to, with the inclusion of an all-too-easy puzzle area; These stages acting as playable cut-scenes over anything else, designed to keep the game’s otherwise invisible plotline swimming along.

Derrick The Deathfin’s uncomplicated control scheme and generous learning curve mean that no level is a chore. As you’d expect, in his natural surroundings, Derrick is responsive and a joy to handle – occasionally though, he’s quite literally a fish-out-of-water. When leaping for tyres or other collectables you’ll find yourself requiring a sometimes frustrating degree of precision that the game just hasn’t taught you in the underwater areas. Due to the nom-and-on nature of Derrick’s journey, I more than once found myself running out of food trying to land an intricate jump over a particular ledge – If there’s not a well placed foodsource, you can’t afford to hang around.

The stages are, for the most part, short and sweet, and if you’re ooking to just reach the goal and move on, a relative walk in the park. Unfortunately, this means the game’s over before it’s really begun – my first playthrough taking around 2 hours.

Derrick does hold a limited degree of replay value thanks to the game’s collectables and the 14 included PSN trophies, which will reward you with a prized virtual gold cup for picking up every gem or attaining a high score in each stage.
A disappointing omission then, is that of online leaderboards; Whilst the game has local score tracking, integration with the PlayStation Network would be hugely beneficial. Allowing players to challenge scores or speed runs from their friend’s list would add longevity and give Derrick that much needed buoyancy after the first couple of hours.

In the long term, there’s no reason Derrick The Deathfin couldn’t make a transition to platforms like Steam & XBLA or more fittingly iOS or PlayStation Mobile for Android.
(It was originally slated for a PC & Mac release alongside that of consoles, although the former was canned at some point along the way, much like Derrick’s parents.)
The stunning stylised visuals would look crystal clear on the Vita’s OLED screen or the new generation of iDevices, and with each level taking a five or ten minute sitting to complete, it’s a real shame Derrick hasn’t found his way into our pockets already.

The game is currently a PlayStation 3 exclusive and Different Tuna’s ‘Head Of Fresh Produce’ Gordon Midwood has gone on record at the PlayStation Blog as saying there’s no plans to change this anytime soon, although the requests for a Vita version have been noted – presumably on a scrap of bright orange paper, that was at one point, a monstrous crab’s claw.

In conclusion, It’s not a long-winded story heavy epic, but Derrick The Deathfin is a wonderfully creative example of indie gaming, right through from design to creation.
I highly recommend you all give this papercraft gem a couple of hours of your time. You won’t regret it.

Derrick The Deathfin (817MB) is available to download now via the PlayStation Network Store for only £5.49.

Review: Derrick The Deathfin (PS3)

Building The Meccano Gears Of War Armadillo APC

A week or so ago, I heard word that Meccano UK were holding a press event down in London to launch three new ranges of their popular construction toys, inspired by the Sonic The Hedgehog, Raving Rabbids and Gears Of War video game universes.

To say I was more than a little excited by this branding crossover is an understatement – As a child I adored making all sorts of things with my big box of random Meccano and Lego pieces, from tower-blocks to cars and fully functioning winch operated cranes. I loved it.

I’d been playing video games for a couple of years, but Christmas 1992 brought a Super Nintendo into my life, and that box of assorted blocks and bolts moved from the bedroom floor to the cupboard, only to be lifted out ever so occasionally. At the age of eight, it was starting to lose it’s appeal for me.

Interestingly, that’s the age this newly licensed Gears Of War Meccano range is targeting. (The Rabbids are recommended for ages 7+, whilst the Sonic The Hedgehog sets are aimed at a slightly younger 5+ audience.)

I was super-excited to see how Meccano was going to pitch itself as relevant to the 8 year olds of today. Those who are wired on the pre-imagined worlds and instant gratification of some of the most loved console game franchises available.

After speaking to the guys at Meccano, they invited Teflon from TheSixthAxis down to the press launch, and he ever so kindly got his hands on a Gears Of War Armadillo APC Construction Set for me to have a tinker with.

My immediate thoughts were mostly positive. The kit comes in a sizable box, with plenty of familiar Gears Of War branding and a slightly larger that scale picture of the model itself. Inside there are “80+ parts and pieces”, including fully pose-able 2” figures of Dominic Santiago and a Locust Drone, along with all the expected fixings of nuts & bolts. What’s missing amongst the 13 clear bags this kit contains is most surprising though – there are very few metal pieces, only 4 in fact.

Ironically, my Gears Of War branded vehicle is missing any actual gears, and the traditional metal plates of old I was expecting. The majority of this new look Meccano is moulded plastic. Of course, the sculpted plastic bodywork allows for far more complex and precise shapes than flat panels or rods ever could back when I was playing with Meccano in the early 90s, but nonetheless, my inner child felt massively disappointed by the omission.

Looking briefly at the items in Meccano’s other video game ranges, the Sonic sets are much the same. Thankfully, for those who want a bit of that classic engineering feel with their new toys, the Rabbids have all sorts of projects available, including a battery powered washing-come-time machine and a miniature shopping trolley racing kit which instantly wheeled it’s way onto my Christmas list.

Anyway, I cracked on to my build. Hopeful that the finished piece, marketed not only at children but collectors like myself too, would be more than simply the sum of its parts.

In the box there’s an A4 glossy full-colour instruction booklet, with plenty of easy to understand diagrams. Strangely, although these are numbered, the pieces corresponding to that part of the build could be in any of the included bags, seemingly at random.

I tore them all open, and carefully worked my way into connecting the bland looking grey plastic together, using the tools provided where required. Again, the instruction manual came in useful, with 1:1 scale images of the bolts to help easily identify the correct fixings for each section. I did have a little difficulty with the fiddly nature of the nuts and bolts at times, but this was almost definitely down to the fact that I don’t have very childlike fingers nowadays.

For the most part, the reassuringly lengthy bolts tightened with a couple of satisfying twists of the Allen key, and the nuts sat nestled in handy little guides to stop them slipping out of place. This is a nicely thought out touch which eliminates one of the biggest problems I had with my Meccano as a child.

Midway through the 23 step build I had to undo an earlier fixing as it was impossible to move on until I did so, but aside from that the step-by-step process was extremely easy to follow.

After clipping this and screwing that, before finally applying the assortment of Gears related stickers to make the bland grey shell look a little more exciting, my Armadillo APC was complete.

With regards to both the vehicle itself, and the character figures, the kit looks great and will certainly attract fans of the Gears series. Unfortunately, it all feels much less appealing.
Now don’t get me wrong, It’s a solid toy featuring rotating gun turrets and fully working wheels that seem rugged enough for even the most hyperactive child to play with; The figurines however are a different story. Whilst wonderfully detailed, Dominic Santiago literally fell apart in my hand when I tried to manipulate him into a threatening Lancer wielding pose. This, combined with the smaller pieces of the APC bodywork simply clipping together like an over sized Kinder toy, mean that if your child is of an age where they like to pull things apart and see how they taste, or even just a bit inquisitive, you’re best to steer clear.

There are more toys planned to coincide with the launch of Gears Of War: Judgement in March 2013, including a series of blind-bag mini figures which have proved to be a massive money spinner for Lego and Megabloks with their licensed models in the past.

In my opinion, this is a wonderful selection of toys and a brilliant first attempt to get kids and their dads building real things again, rather than blowing virtual things up. There’s some way to go with the Gears kit, but if Meccano can improve upon their production values and polish up their pieces, there’s no reason these new ranges can’t hit mainstream and sell millions in the same way that Star Wars Lego or Halo Megabloks has. The Gears Of War models are a little misplaced for the market currently too – The toys, although aimed at 8+ year olds, without any real moving parts or electronics, feel more like something I’d have enjoyed at 5 or 6. There’s nothing going on here to appeal to the higher age range, aside from the branding of an 18 rated video game. It’s all a well meaning but badly implemented brand juxtaposition that I sadly don’t think will be enjoyed by many this Christmas.

The Armadillo APC Construction Set is well priced for the market at £24.99 (RRP) and took me roughly an hour to complete (including making notes, I’d expect half that for a competent child or collector), but from what I’ve seen, and what I’ve experienced during this build, I fully expect the Sonic sets and the rather more traditional Rabbids range to do a lot more business in the long run.

Unfortunately, it’s a Mecca-no from me.

For more information on the Armadillo APC, please visit Meccano online by clicking here.

Building The Meccano Gears Of War Armadillo APC

Review: Tokyo Jungle (PS3)

Set amongst the now deserted streets of a near-future Japanese capital, Tokyo Jungle is, at it’s core, a survival game; Humankind has vanished and all manner of animal now litter the once bustling streets of the city.

From the domesticated Pomeranian or Beagle pups, to the more exotic Pandas and Crocodiles you would normally only expect to find in a Zoo, they’re all here – roaming free and fighting for survival.

Continue reading “Review: Tokyo Jungle (PS3)”

Review: Tokyo Jungle (PS3)

PlayStation, Mobile?

Yesterday, as previously announced and completely separate to the usual PS Store update, Sony’s new games-and-app service PlayStation Mobile rolled out onto a select number of PlayStation Certified mobile devices, and, more importantly perhaps, the PlayStation Vita.

It is certainly a step in the right direction on Sony’s part, but in my opinion, in the world of iOS and Android devices aplenty, it may well be too small a step to really garner the attention it requires or influence Sony’s intended market.

Now, there’s no denying that the launch, albeit rather subdued on the part of pre-launch hype or marketing, has already thrown up some brilliant ‘mobile’ games – Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box and the ever reliable Futurlab’s Fuel Tiracas are two such gems.

Alas, my concerns don’t lie with the content thus far, it’s simply too early to tell what PSM holds in that regard, but rather with the way in which PlayStation have chosen to implement their foray into the already oversaturated app-based market.

The first thing to niggle was the realisation that although the PSM titles are available on your Vita, at launch at least, they are missing PlayStation Network Account integration, with regards to trophies and friends-list based leaderboards.

Sony have been quoted as saying that full trophy support will be coming to new PSM games at a later date, but currently it’s up to developers to implement their own achievement and leaderboard system, which will rather surprisingly, not be tied to your PlayStation ID trophy count or player level.

Why is this the case? The Vita had trophy support from day one, and similar protocols are in place with rival services. The world’s most identifiable and profitable mobile based app platform, Apple’s iOS, has its own “Game Centre” service and whilst not implemented in all titles, leaderboards and system wide rankings are at the developer’s disposal should they choose to utilise it. Currently PlayStation Mobile developers, and subsequently their customers, don’t have that choice.

With the arrival of the newer Windows 8 handsets and SmartGlass tablets, Xbox Live on Windows is becoming more and more prevalent. Again, this service allows players to unify their achievements and gamerscore – leveling up whilst at home or mobile, and has done for quite some time.

As such, although not entirely expected, I’d have liked trophy implementation within all PlayStation branded gaming going forward from the Vita’s launch. The omission somehow makes one part of the brand feel inferior to another, and certainly makes cross platform titles feel lacking to their counterparts on iOS, for example.

Another major problem with Sony attempting mobile purchases, especially on phones or tablet devices, is the transaction process itself. Sony’s chosen method of payment, the PlayStation wallet, has a minimum funding limit of £5. Five pounds.

If I’m browsing the store and see a game I like the look of for, let’s say, 69p, I’m not going to leave £4-odd of my hard earned cash sitting in a virtual no-man’s land on the off chance. It’s probably worth a punt at 69p – people will impulse buy at that cost, and again Apple’s App Store proves this.

It’s a given however, that considerably fewer apps would have been sold if you had to drop £5 rather than 69p on the off chance that the latest Angry Birds or Draw Something wasn’t absolute drivel after an hour.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of browsing for a game – you’ll have to do just that. Currently, unlike the Game and Video areas, the PlayStation Mobile section of the storefront doesn’t have a dedicated search feature.

I also feel the urge to voice a couple of concerns pertaining to the Vita’s uptake of PlayStation Mobile content particularly, which will not have any bearing on your enjoyment of the games on Certified Android devices.

Your Playstation Mobile games for Vita aren’t necessarily always entirely mobile.

There’s two reasons for this – Firstly, The Vita’s strangely thought out restrictive UI, and it’s 100 icon limit; Less than a year into it’s proposed 10-year supported cycle, and I’m already using 66 of my allotted bubbles on the 10×10 homescreen system. This is before PSM’s launch. To me it doesn’t seem like a brilliant plan to bring inexpensive mobile gaming to a market who can’t actually carry the games.
Of course, Sony’s Content Manager lets you back-up your old titles to free up the essential screen real estate, but when every other device I own has folders or recursive directory listings, why doesn’t my Vita?

Secondly, If you’ve purchased a PSM title, be it on your Android or Vita, did you read the description clearly?

“The licence verification for this product will be performed periodically via Wi-Fi or mobile network connection. If the licence cannot be verified as valid, the application will not start.”

In basic terms it means that without an internet connection of some sort your game may not work. This type of always-on DRM, presumably to combat piracy and the like, has been adopted with a select few apps elsewhere, and is widespread amongst PC titles.

This isn’t as bad as it first seems for the Vita though, and the majority of users won’t notice the underlying license check. A look at the newly published PlayStation Mobile FAQ reveals that the check is once every 30 days. So as long as you don’t try and start the game for the first time without an internet connection, or after a long hiatus, you should be fine. Still a bit of a faff though isn’t it?

This is still a worry for me though. There’s a large proportion of gamers, particularly in the younger bracket (which some of these pick-up-and-play apps will appeal to) who are not connected to the internet.

There are no official statistics from Sony, but from a my own research and early sales figures I believe that around 60-80% of Vita’s in UK households are Wi-Fi only. Elsewhere this figure is at best rising to a 50/50 split between that and the 3G enabled model. In theory, this means that without the hassle of these customers finding a hotspot or similar, PlayStation Mobile’s audience just halved.

Taking everything into account, how many people are going to willingly tie up £5 for a mobile game they may not be able to play?
I don’t have the time to back up an old game, download and subsequently run a new one before I hop on the train of a morning.

I will undeniably enjoy a select few PlayStation mobile games on my Vita at home and occasionally on my Xperia phone too; But truth be told in it’s current form PlayStation Mobile is not Mobile enough and this will ultimately limit my impulse buying – the impulses on which this market relies.

I guess only time will tell for the fledgling market place, but unless it addresses these issues, its originality can be its only saviour. Other ‘mobile’ app stores have a proven formula, and I don’t think this is it.

PlayStation, Mobile?

The Value Of PlayStation Plus & Its Worth

Today’s PlayStation Store update brings with it a rather tempting offer; For two weeks, starting September the 5th, you’ll be able to pick up a PlayStation Plus subscription from Sony’s online storefront with an impressive 25% discount – This means a yearly subscription will be coming in at the more than reasonable price of £29.99 or €37.49.

Sadly, even with this discount, the subscription model adopted by PlayStation Plus just doesn’t work for me. Because I’m an idiot.

That’s not to say that the service doesn’t appeal to me; It certainly does, and that’s great, it’s a probable certainty that the next generation of consoles with have some sort of tiered subscription models. PlayStation Plus & Xbox Live as we know them are just a glimpse of things to come within the near future.

My problem lies with the practicalities of subscriptions. I don’t have the time to play games of somebody else’s choosing, nor do I have the hard drive space to store them indefinitely.

I signed up for a year of Playstation Plus shortly after it’s launch. Grabbing myself a couple of cheap PSN points cards as a birthday present and looking forward to a year of promised discounts and exclusives. It really was the gift which kept on giving.

After the initial excitement waned, sure I found myself downloading the occasional great hidden gem, and benefiting from a few discounts on titles I genuinely wanted here and there, but ultimately, I got a whole lot of faff. My hard drive was slowly filling with games I’d paid for, albeit at a ridiculously low price, but really didn’t want.

Towards the tail end of my 12 months I was playing the majority of my Plus games only once or twice before discarding them into the ever increasing “PS+ Junk” folder on the XMB, alongside last month’s update.When the subscription ended I happily went back to playing the games I wanted, and thought no more of PS+, save for cursing the occasional 10% discount on this or that HD remake I was missing out on each Wednesday.

This past June with E3 rumours circulating and my shiney new Vita in hand, I took the plunge and jumped in for another 90 days. I didn’t want to miss out if there were any perks or freebies for existing users now did I?As it turns out, the talk of PlayStation classic titles streaming to my Vita via OnLive inspired tech was all but hearsay and the “big announcement” Sony had promised was the “Instant Game Collection”. Again, another brilliant service with amazing value for money – for those who have plenty of time, and don’t mind their gaming being diluted by somebody else’s choices.

This isn’t how I want to spend what precious little gaming time I have.

The 90 days have now run their course and I’ve purged my PlayStation of the expired content.The exercise of slowly deleting fifteen months worth of files one-by-one was a laborious task but it got me thinking – What is the monetary value of PlayStation Plus, and does this equate to an equal worth?

I warn you now – if you’re not a numbers geek, the rest of this piece probably doesn’t appeal, and it’s also worth noting at this point that I have not taken into account any DLC, discounts, themes or avatar content from which I benefited during the subscription period.

Here goes…

During my clear-out I deleted 89 games in total; This breaks down into the following categories:

  • 43 PlayStation 3 / PSN full releases.
  • 30 PlayStation Minis.
  • 14 PlayStation Classics (PS1/PS2) titles.
  • 2 NEO-GEO Station titles.

As mentioned earlier, my original 12 month subscription was courtesy of some inexpensive points cards, but for the sake of numbers let us assume I purchased both subscriptions at the PlayStation Store RRP.

Total subscription costs: £39.99 + £11.99 = £51.98 Now, for £52 and change you might get yourself the latest FIFA or Call Of Duty on release, and a few beers for the weekend with the lads, but to be honest, not a lot else. Certainly not 89 games.

Let’s not forget that’s 89 games over a period of 65 weeks or to put it another way, a new game every 5 and a bit days.

I’m sure we can both agree that these are fairly impressive numbers already – but it’s the financials which really show just how generous Sony are being with their profit margins.

My £51.98 subscription allowed me to download content which would otherwise have cost me (in excess of) £554.76.
Five hundred and fifty four pounds.

I know you’re all here for the sums, so I won’t disappoint. £51.98 is just 9.4% of the normal cost for these games.

Breaking these numbers down further tells me that each game has cost a paltry 58 pence for the entire time I’ve owned it. With my subscription running for a total of 65 weeks, that’s less than a penny per week, per game (.089p) – I’d say that’s a pretty cost effective way of renting some of the PlayStation’s big hitters. Wouldn’t you?

“Sure, but I’d never usually have bought a Minis title.” I hear you cry; Well that’s fair enough, they do take a significant chunk of the downloads, 30 games in fact.

Let’s do those same sums again, this time, without including Minis.
£51.98 / 59 = £0.88. That’s still 455 days of gaming for just 88 pence per game. That’s batshit mental.

In this example each game has cost me less than a fifth of a penny per day. Five full, unrestricted, magnificent, games per day… for a penny! The value is undoubtedly there.

Whilst scribbling those figures down and writing this accompanying blog, I’ve come to realise that although the subscription model of PlayStation Plus may be a model subscription for many and is undeniably amazing value, it’s worth, to me however, still isn’t there. Yet.

The service is ever evolving and the latest “Instant Game Collection” push is a brilliant step in the right direction. If your system is home to a super-sized hard drive and a super-speed broadband connection, as long as you’re willing to download, play and then delete content, you can’t go wrong with the offering of titles like Dead Space or Red Dead Redemption at these prices.

Alas, bringing me full circle. I don’t have the time, the space or the network speed to enjoy PlayStation Plus as much as I should.

These factors combined ultimately mean that as I slink back into picking my own releases on my own time, I will miss out on some of the lesser promoted gems that the PlayStation brand has to offer, alongside that initial buzz of excitement the gaming community has for new releases, and that’s a real shame. But like I said – I’m an idiot.

Unless the service changes significantly over the coming months, I don’t think I’ll be back. I’m very tempted by discounts on vita titles, but full games of somebody else’s choosing isn’t how I want to shop.

I don’t send my neighbours to ASDA for this very reason.

The Value Of PlayStation Plus & Its Worth