Life in high school is hard enough in one dimension, let alone several.
Enrolling in a new school is never easy, but there are some tips and tricks to remember that can help get you settled in, such as: immediately coming under the ‘employment’ of two manipulative jerks who send you off on self-serving quests, getting in Beethoven’s good books early on by making sure you retrieve his hearing trumpet and making friends with Andy Warhol by bringing him much-needed mortar from the Napoleonic wars. Sounds super simple, right? Well, that’s how life is in Super Daryl Deluxe.
Super Daryl Deluxe is an RPGvania with a brawler-style fighting system. Cast as Daryl, you’ll wander the halls of the inter-dimensional high school Water Falls High, completing quests that might get the isolated Daryl much needed social ranking amongst his peers. In exchange for textbooks discovered along the way, Daryl can purchase skills from Alan and Paul, the manipulative duo that take him under their wings. These skills come in the form of weird and wonderful attacks that will help you on your way as your encounter the inhabitants of this messed-up school, attempting to discover just why so many teachers and students have gone missing.
With the aim of making you laugh as well as giving you enough to do, Super Daryl Deluxe throws a lot at the player from the very start. When we first meet Daryl, he and Alan are being held at gunpoint by a band of trench coat-wearing kids and ‘The Princess’. When Alan is shot by a trench coat kid, Daryl, who is already kitted out with the high-level skills needed for combat, runs in pursuit of the trench coats to avenge his friend. After playing through this noir tutorial level it is quickly revealed that this is all Daryl’s own fabrication, including his super strength.
It’s a clever opening, giving the player a taste of how powerful Daryl will become later and establishing from the off the game’s unique movement between this realm of fantasy and reality. When we emerge from the tutorial level into the school, Daryl’s lack of skills and purpose is a little destabilising. But the game plonks characters throughout the halls that will steer you in the right direction, including the very helpful guys over at the D&D club who teach you that using the bathroom saves the game.
As you wander the school you will discover its various platforming levels, full of enemies to brawl with. Most of these areas are open to discover at all stages of the game, but only through progressing in the main quests and side-quests will it become clear why these areas are relevant to the player. A few boss fights break up the narrative at key points, but the real difficulty to overcome is piecing together what quests are asking you to achieve and where. It may seem simple at first that Alan and Paul need you to get ‘book spray’ from the janitor’s closet, but with the door to the room closed off, it’s only when several other quests are discovered and completed that you can find your way into the janitor’s room. This results in a lot of fairly simple quests becoming puzzles in themselves for the player to solve.
While the quests are deceptively complicated, the environment is blatant in its comic absurdity, with the art style and music changing continuously to match the mood. Portals lead you into impossible realms, the science classroom warps you to a land of floating cubes and the history classrooms plonks you straight to Napoleon and his war camps. A lot of comedy games fall foul of attempting to make you laugh during dialogue and cut-scenes, but Super Daryl Deluxe has humour woven into the gameplay and environment itself.
Unfortunately, this is not to say that all of Super Daryl Deluxe lands perfectly. The frequent cut-scenes in their comic book style are often particularly lengthy, with any dramatic tension lost in the attempts to draw out humour and intrigue from the scene. Characters and their dialogue, despite all their individualised attributes, tend to blend into one after a decent few hours of gameplay with many side-quests boiling down to little more than fetch-and-carry quests.
Objects that you can pick up along the way in combat also end up feeling a little perfunctory. XP gained through combat enables Daryl to wear more impressive items as he levels up. Yet, the items Daryl puts on in his inventory don’t change Daryl’s appearance in-game, and so it’s easy to forget about the additional armour and health these items can bring.
But these are small gripes in the face of such an imaginative, funny and exciting brawler. Using different combinations of the over 40 skills available as Daryl levels up keeps combat continually interesting and the enemies are as varied and weird as the environments they inhabit. Super Daryl Deluxe might just be the most nonsensical fun you can have on the Nintendo Switch, and if you take a turn in the history classrooms, you might just learn something too.