Where do you start when talking about a game called Dave the Diver?
I’ll be honest, the name of the game doesn’t give much away, other than letting you consider that you might be doing some kind of diving. Which is correct.
You play as the titular character “Dave”. An experienced deep sea diver who’s been asked to come in and help an old friend who’s set up a new sushi restaurant in a mysterious place in the ocean “The Blue Hole”. Naturally, in Dave the Diver, you also work in the sushi restaurant…….
So the brass tacks, are that you’re a diver, diving for fresh fish to stock the sushi restaurant, that you then work at in the evening to serve customers and support the chef.
It doesn’t sound like my kind of game at all. Yet, I’m absolutely bewitched by Dave the Diver (the game, although I do like the character!)
Fishing is fun
The very core concept of Dave the Diver is pretty straightforward. The basic loop is that you dive once in the morning, once in the afternoon and then you sell your sushi in the evening.
From the very first moment you jump in as Dave, you’re in this colourful world of pixellated fish and seabed.
The Blue Hole is an ever-changing landscape, so no dive can ever be the same. A little roguelike in that regard. Different fish at different depths and times of day, and then bigger, worse prey that requires some steely determination and true aim.
Movement underwater is lovely, it looks and responds so perfectly, and it really makes the diving element of Dave the Diver, a joy.
Armed with your harpoon gun (or other weapons as you proceed with the story), you’re finding the best fish and ingredients to help deliver the best sushi in the world. Shooting a fish might be safe (some of them are nasty buggers!), but you can get lesser-quality meat, so it’s survival vs profit.
Oxygen is your health, your health is oxygen. If you swim, you use up oxygen, if you use your knife or carry more weight (more fish/objects) than your maximum allowance, you drain oxygen faster. Being attacked by a fish drains oxygen, as does speeding up your swim. So you’re always managing oxygen as your resource.
You want to dive for longer and dive deeper for better fish and items. But you have to balance that out against getting back with the fish you already have. In Dave the Diver, if you run out of oxygen, your dive is over and you can only select one item to keep from your dive. So you really need to constantly consider overall survival and getting back to the surface, even when in pursuit of better fish and items.
As you earn money in your restaurant, you can use it to upgrade your gear. Dive longer, take more damage, and carry more weight.
There’s a weapon builder that’s a typical basement-dwelling nerd-type. He’ll help you craft new weapons to make fishing easier, but you need to find the resources in the first place.
Your restaurant can be upgraded, too. Aesthetically, you can really drill down into making it your own and helping it shape the impact you have on customers.
Your dishes can be upgraded, too. The cool chef Bancho will improve dishes as you find new ingredients, giving a cool cutscene as he enlightens himself to new opportunities.
So, yeah, you dive, you sell, you use that money to essentially improve everything that you have. Dave the Diver is more of a resource management game than a roguelite, but the random customers, random dives etc mix it up.
Oh, Dave. You might be Dave the Diver, but this start-up sushi house needs as many hands as it can get. So fishing/diving and upgrading aside. You find yourself each evening as the front-of-house staff.
Serving green tea (pouring it to the right level), fetching orders from Bancho and delivering them to customers on time.
It’s easy enough, but the pace and patience of customers are just short enough to make it a mad dash when the restaurant gets busy. It’s not going to stress you out, but it’s far from the more relaxed diving and swimming around you do earlier each day.
The all-important social media app that’s a take on Instagram “Cooksta” means that you need to keep the plates coming and the variety of dishes at all times. We all know that those posts will go a long way to attracting new customers. So get a liking on anything you’re tagged in!
Each evening before you open, you select the dishes to serve, and the quantity. So depending on what you’ve caught, your menu could be a selection of dishes. Or it could be one or two but in greater quantity.
Hiring staff, and helping hands in the kitchen and front-of-house becomes an absolute must as you see success in the restaurant. Running ads, getting recruits and making hires is all a part of the game.
Managing the day-to-day of the restaurant is low-effort but feels deep and like you’re really running the show.
Looks and sounds
Dave the Diver is simply charming. The colourful palette, the character design, and the variety of fish and dishes. There’s so much going for it, it’s really hard to not fall for it immediately.
As you dive deeper or start to dive at night with your head torch, lighting up the dark ocean is a lovely vibe change.
Different areas have different theme songs, all of which are equally suitable and tone-setting. The soundtrack is lovely, and having the opportunity to pick those tracks on your mobile in-game and just chill with them briefly is great.
I don’t want to keep using one word, but “charming” really does fit for Dave the Diver. And the minute you start a game, I promise you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Overall thoughts on Dave the Diver
In a year where Tears of the Kingdom, Baldurs Gate 3, Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty and a whole host of other massive, incredible releases. I find it astounding that Dave the Diver is in my mind as a part of the Game of the Year conversation.
I never thought I’d fall in love with a rotund middle-aged chap, but here we are.
If you want to learn more about the developer behind this game, then head to the Mint Rocket website. You can get this game now on Steam for PC, or on the Nintendo Switch eStore. And don’t forget, you can catch more game reviews here at FULLSYNC, just click here to check them out.