Saturday , May 25 2024

Review: ‘Dave The Diver’ – a Deep Sea Diving, Sushi-Serving Gem of a Game

There has been much discussion about the amazing AAA season of games like Diablo 4, Jedi Survivor, Dead Space and others — but an equally amazing season of indie and smaller titles have come out this year. Games like Aliens: Dark Descent, The Mageseeker, Wayfinder and now Dave the Diver show that stellar experiences are available at all levels and price points.

Dave the Diver is a game that grabbed me the moment I started till the moment I finished, with its sheer charm, expanding mechanics and dual gameplay loops. Essentially the game is about a regular guy (Dave) who dives to catch fish for a new sushi restaurant, but it expands to so much more over the course of the game.

The gameplay loops revolve around diving into the Blue Hole, a body of water that changes its ecosystem each dive, to fish, and then running a restaurant minigame to sell the sushi made from the caught ingredients. Both are equally fun and both evolve in many fun and interesting ways that feature a cast of interesting characters and scenarios.

In the diving world Dave begins very simply with a harpoon and knife, catching fish in relatively shallow stretches of the Blue Hole. As the game progresses new tools, guns and upgrades to gear make the depths reachable and many new creatures are experienced and encountered.

The really cool facets of Dave the Diver come from the ragtag group of characters you meet and interact with. Bancho the zen sushi chef with no business acumen, Cobra the fast-talking business partner, Duff the gunsmith and anime fan, and Dr. Bacon are just a few of the characters who add depth and meaning to Dave’s adventure.

These characters and more get introduced as the game progresses, and open up equipment, missions, stores, fish farms, environmental quests and much more. The initial moments of the diving are simple and fun, and the added elements layered in never get overwhelming but add so many cool facets and story hooks.

Keeping an eye on depth, remaining air, ammo and how much you are carrying is very necessary but intuitive and easy thanks to clever design. Upgrades help with those capabilities and plenty of loot is found during the dives, adding ammo, items, weapons and air refreshes, making some of the dives last a satisfyingly long time as specific fish get hunted.

Obstacles, predatory creatures like sharks and barracudas as well as hard-to-reach areas add further strategic elements to the dives. All of the factors add up to an experience that is simple to pick up but impossible to put down as it is just so darn fun and repeatable, especially as all the materials help with the restaurant.

The sushi restaurant is the other main gameplay loop, and opens each night (Dave can dive twice during the day and sometimes at night prior to opening the restaurant). Head chef Banco prepares dishes planned on the menu which is based on caught fish and ingredients while Dave (alone initially) serves and pours tea.

As the game expands new staff can be hired to help (Dave is slightly out-of-shape above water) and more food and drink options get added. Special tasks like custom meals for VIPs and critics as well as festivals pop up from time to time requiring specific ingredients.

The gameplay in the restaurant is simple, but the planning, harvesting, hiring and decorating of the environment adds depth and, frankly, obsessiveness to the process. I started curating types of fish and upgrade paths to get the most revenue and likes, made sure to hire fast servers, and just hated myself when someone missed out on their meal.

The whole process is incredibly fun and a great counterpoint to the action-heavy and busy diving experiences. The two gameplay loops complement each other so well and add to the just-one-more-round obsessiveness I had with Dave the Diver.

I won’t ruin the overarching storyline but it involves underwater civilizations, giant octopuses, a quest to have the greatest sushi restaurant ever and conflict with pirates and activists. To say it is a crazy and well-orchestrated experience is putting it lightly. I grinned so many times during this game my cheeks hurt from the sheer joy of the experience.

All of this is wrapped in a genuinely lovely artistic presentation that truly evokes the wonder, and danger, of the ocean as Dave explores the depths and hustles to sell sushi. The audio is wonderful as well with a great soundtrack fully explorable in-game. Dave the Diver is as much a joy to look at and hear as it is to play and that is high praise indeed.

I cannot recommend this game highly enough. It is amazingly fun, deceptively deep with its gameplay and story hooks and just looks and plays great. It even runs spectacularly on the Steam Deck where I completed many dives while away on vacation.

We were given a Steam code of Dave the Diver for review purposes. The game is available right now for PC via Steam.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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