Plenty of games have explored the American teenager over the last decade. Gone Home dealt with a dark but ultimately inspiring tale of growing up and discovering one’s sexuality. Life is Strange examined the concept of choice and holding on to our childhood friends. But these games were serious, reflecting on our younger years with a sense of pain and regret. It’s often more difficult to look back on our most awkward period and learn to laugh at it, but that’s exactly what Dan and Gary Games have done with Super Daryl Deluxe. The role-playing game is an absolutely hilarious parody of high school, and it’s a brilliant take on the “Metroidvania” genre.
Set at the fictional Water Falls High School – inspired by developers Dan Plate and Gary Porter’s own Waterloo High School – Super Daryl Deluxe casts you in the role of the titular Daryl Whitelaw, a mouth-breathing Napoleon Dynamite lookalike with a remarkable ability to stay completely silent under any circumstances. As the new kid, which seems to be a rarity for Water Falls, it’s your job to make friends and climb up the social ladder.
More of a doer
As Daryl isn’t much of a conversationalist, this is accomplished by completing favors for the various students and faculty members, starting with two entrepreneurial kids looking to peddle textbooks all over the school. Eventually, Daryl’s activities get more precarious, and he heads into the school’s various classrooms to find them transformed into fantasy worlds filled with monsters and famous figures, both real and fictional. It’s a brilliant narrative device that gives way to fantastic level and character design that showcase the classic MTV cartoon style used by Dan Plate.
Enter the history department, for instance, and you’ll be able to visit Napoleonic France, the Great Wall of China during Genghis Khan’s conquests, and the Egyptian pyramids during the life of Cleopatra. All of these characters are sassy, displaying just enough of their original historical traits while still acting as cartoon characters in a silly story – one subplot involves getting Julius Caesar a beer, for instance, but the game still foreshadows his eventual death in the Roman senate. Despite the game’s enormous size, a remarkable level of thought and care was put into each of these figures, even the ones who exist for a single punchline.
But Daryl’s superficial errands don’t drive his actions until the end of the game’s roughly 20-hour story. Two former students, now famous self-help authors, are pulling the strings behind the scenes, resulting in missing students and a class schedule ground to a halt. It gives Daryl plenty of free time, allowing him to meet up with the school chef, janitor, and, for some reason, a captured princess, without worrying about making it to math class. He must be careful not to cross the paths of the vice principal Mr. Robatto, however, who seems to be just a little less than human.
Terrifying as these situations may sound, Super Daryl Deluxe always puts comedy first. If there’s a joke to be made regarding anything the characters are doing, Plate and Porter make it, all with a sort of optimism and irreverence that feels refreshing in an era of cynical and snarky comedy. Daryl’s own silence is often the subject of jokes, as characters will remark, “Say nothing if you agree” in order to get him to do their bidding. Daryl is seemingly unwilling to turn down any job offer, and he prefers to punch and kick his way to victory rather than use his words.
To do said punches and kicks, you won’t be making use of any sort of default attacks. Instead, with the exception of Daryl’s jump and sprint, every move you use in Super Daryl Deluxe is completely up to you. With dozens of different attacks to choose from, including ranged and melee abilities, dash maneuvers, and even a whirlwind attack, your play style in the game is only dependent on your imagination. By the end of my playthrough, I made use of an ability that saw Daryl surfing on a shark, slamming into the ground as a rhino, and zipping through the air in a bolt of electricity. All of these are gorgeously animated with satisfying sound effects to match, and I found myself often using the attacks when they weren’t necessary just so I could watch them play out again.
That level of creativity is extended to the enemies Daryl fights, as well. Depending on which classroom you enter, you’ll find a selection of enemies inspired by its subject. These vary from the semi-predictable, like cacti and Anubis warriors in Egypt, but they grow more and more absurd over time. Eventually, as areas start spilling into one another and the very nature of space-time is put into question, a mish-mash of enemies will charge after Daryl. From sentient chemistry beakers to evil Christmas presents and – for some reason – an assortment of goblins and trolls, the amount of variety in Super Daryl Deluxe can put AAA games with hundred-person staffs to shame. Even when you do find yourself fighting an enemy you’ve seen before, you almost always have a new move to try out and can bask in the glory of your monster-killing potential.
Don’t get carried away
These power-trip moments are fairly rare, as Super Daryl Deluxe has a remarkable ability to make sure you’re just strong enough to try a new area. If an enemy is just a level or two above Daryl’s, he can beat them with caution, and you’ll find new story missions routinely send you into locations where the enemies are just barely weak enough. Occasionally, you’ll still need to grind and complete some side missions in order to get Daryl’s levels and abilities up to par, but aside from a few difficult boss fights near the middle and tail-end of the game, my progress was never artificially inhibited.
Unfortunately, I did have to repeat several sections of the game over again because of the manual-only save system the game utilizes. Bathrooms are located throughout the high school as well as individual stages (finding a Porta Potty in the pyramids is hilarious) and you have to constantly remember where each one is located so you can save any progress you make toward future levels. Failing to do this before entering a new area can sometimes trigger a boss fight you didn’t see coming. You’ll inevitably lose the first time, and will have to do it all over again before you give the fight another go. Even if there were a cheesy sign indicating “boss fight ahead” or some variation, it would have mitigated this frustration, but this only occurred a handful of times over my playthrough.
Optional, but encouraged
Despite the majority truly being optional, it would be a crying shame if you didn’t try out at least a few of the game’s side activities. Tasking you with everything from collecting flowers to defeating certain types of enemies, the gameplay loop doesn’t vary too much when compared to the main story quests, but they offer some pretty hilarious writing. The cast of characters you’ll come across ranges from a Frodo Baggins wannabe to Albert Einstein and even Babe Ruth, and you’re given a small look into their dark, twisted personalities. Super Daryl Deluxe is almost encyclopedic in its lampooning of history and pop culture, which is remarkable given its two-person writing team.
Super Daryl Deluxe had me laughing out loud more than just about any game I’ve ever played, and it did it without having to resort to mean-spirited or low-brow humor. With abilities to suit basically any type of player and enough unique quests and areas to keep you busy for weeks, it’s the perfect game to play during the slow April game release season. But you should still see the end credits eventually, as the metal-tinged theme song that plays over them is the perfect icing on an already marvelous cake. Keep that pile of unplayed AAA games collecting dusting on your shelf. Play Super Daryl Deluxe. Play it now.
Super Daryl Deluxe was reviewed using a PlayStation 4 code provided by the developer. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch and PC.
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