Comedy games are often risky projects - it’s harder than you’d think to create a game that’s funny all the way through. Super Daryl Deluxe, from Dan & Gary Games, gives it a good go with its surrealist settings, but its base gameplay isn’t exciting enough to distinguish itself from the many Metroidvania-RPGs on the market.
That being said, it’s definitely not lacking in imagination. The backdrop of Water Falls High School, where a robot is vice-principal, most of the classrooms are shut, and the quad is floating miles above in the air, is a pretty unique one that a lot of love has gone into. Though the school corridors are mostly monochrome, things get exciting in the classrooms, which act as the game’s dungeons. The minimalist, neon-filled levels of the science dungeon are an impressive introduction to Super Daryl Deluxe’s variety of art styles, even if things get a little more dull and washed-out in the music and history dungeons.
The game’s standout feature, however, is its fantastic character design. Daryl - the player character - has a Napoleon Dynamite inspired look to him, while the rest of Water Falls’ population are delightfully grimy in their style. Paul and Alan, who act as the main vendors to buy Daryl’s skills from and offer to help him uncover the mysteries of the school, are often subject to disgusting close-ups that reveal their sliminess, plus the design of the many pupils who play Dwarves and Druids - acting as the tutors of the game - is absolutely hilarious.
It’s a shame that that hilarity doesn’t extend much to the rest of the game, though. Though there are some funny moments when encountering historical figures in the history and music dungeons, for example, for the most part the game’s attempts at jokes fall flat. This could be due to the fact that, for the most part, you’ll be reading jokes off an ever-scrolling wall of dialogue, but even then the voice-acted cutscenes aren’t that funny either, and feel like a slog to get through sometimes.
Though not quite a slog, Super Daryl Deluxe’s gameplay feels both a little too floaty and a little too sluggish to be that enjoyable. The game’s combat system is unique in that, instead of having basic combat moves such as punching and kicking, all four of Daryl’s possible moves are completely customisable at all times. Moves can be bought from Paul and Alan using collectible textbooks found around Water Falls’ dungeons, and swapped in and out on the fly using lockers.
While it is fun to mix-and-match different moves and integrate them into combos, the result is that the combat never feels punchy enough to be fun, often degrading into jumping and button-mashing as you avoid enemy attacks while waiting for yours to finish cooling down. Boss fights are fun as they’re the most imaginative, but the fact that normal combat is usually boring and optional means that you’ll find yourself sidestepping it more often than not.
In general, Super Daryl Deluxe seems like a game that would feel much better as a linear experience rather than an open-ended one. The large amount of side quests means that the top-right of the HUD is always swamped with different quests to flick through, making them quite hard to keep track of, and the lack of any indicator on the map as to where you’ll find the items needed to complete them means that they’re usually not worth the effort. The side quests are never as memorable or fun as the main story fare, so they wouldn’t be missed if the game just focused on dungeons and main-line quests.
That’s the most frustrating thing about Super Daryl Deluxe - there is a potentially good game here, but it’s too bloated with needless filler to make the good parts worth it.
Dan & Gary Games has given the Metroidvania RPG genre a fair crack of the whip with Super Daryl Deluxe, but its needless amount of monotonous side quests and its floaty, button-mashing combat negates the occasional humorous highlights. There is a good game in here somewhere, but plenty of fat trimming is in order before you can get to it.