Published on August 30th, 2023 | by Ali Arkani
Dave The Diver Review @DaveDiverGame
Summary: Dave The Diver is a true indie gem. It is a simple delight like a cup of coffee in the morning or an ice cream in the summer heat; its true value is felt only when you taste it yourself.
The Ultimate Minigame
If someone told me that the most memorable gaming experience of the first half of 2023 for me would be a part fishing part restaurant simulator pixel art arcade title, I would ask them to stop hitting the bottle for a while. Yet, Dave the Diver made me spend 24 hours diving and cooking sushi and still craving more!
The game follows a diver named Dave who is recruited by a man called Cobra to help him grow his new investment which is a sushi bar on a remote gulf called the Blue Hole. Dave is responsible for catching exotic fish for the chef Bancho. This apparently simple task soon turns into a race against the clock to save the whole local ecosystem from imminent extinction as well as prevent a hidden ancient civilization from annihilation.
Story-wise, Dave the Diver is surprisingly professionally written. Although the main storyline is not so hard to predict or anything out of the ordinary, the character arcs implemented in the narrative are emotionally compelling enough to make the player invested in them. New characters are introduced in every chapter of the game. They either give the player new side quests or provide them with new services. Their pasts are revealed as the game advances, answering questions like why Bancho is always so serious about cooking. Eventually, all the characters get enough attention and find closure before the credits roll; whether it is making a great discovery or being reunited with a loved one.
When it comes to gameplay, Dave the Diver shines brightest. The game has a day and night cycle in which the daytime is dedicated to fishing in the Blue Hole and the nighttime is spent serving sushi to the customers in the restaurant. Most of the player’s time during the fishing phase is spent swimming in the 2d side-scrolling semi-open world of the game hunting diverse types of sea creatures with a harpoon. Reeling in the fish with the harpoon gun ends up as a mixture of button mashing and QTE. There are tools and secondary weapons like underwater sniper rifles and bombs that make hunting bigger fish much easier, but they harm the meat and reduce the quality of the fish.
All the exploration also happens in the waters of the Blue Hole. There are side quests to complete, collectibles to find as well as resources and ingredients to collect all over the Blue Hole. Dave also encounters mini bosses or friendly creatures while exploring the sea, which encourages the player to uncover the secrets of this mysterious underwater ecosystem. New places and depth are gradually unlocked either by upgrading Dave’s swimming gear or doing the main quests. There are also chances to dive and fish during the night later in the game so special nocturnal creatures and events can be discovered.
The restaurant side of the game is mostly choosing the types of food being served based on the fish caught and delivering the cooked meals to the customers before it is too late. There are also special food festivals during which specific types of fish are sought by the customers. These festivals provide a chance to earn more cash. Dave can also hire staff to help Bancho and him prepare and serve the food. Hired staff can also be trained to increase their effectiveness and eventually unlock new skills such as making double the food with the same ingredients. The better the food and service, the more people hear about the restaurant through social media, and consequently, more money can be earned for upgrading the diving equipment or restaurant decoration. While the restaurant cycle is more like a half-baked restaurant tycoon mobile game, exploring Blue Hole is where the game shines brightly.
Dave The Diver is what I call a minigame simulator. The whole game is a collage of gradually added minigames. There is seahorse riding and casino-style minigames, one-time or quest-based minigames, chopping and cooking minigame, farming and fish production minigame, and even minigames in which you can play arcade Guitar Hero and Beat Saber style games with Dave’s cellphone! The variety of the minigames and how they are added at the right moment throughout the story is one of the main reasons why I could play Dave the Diver for 25 hours and barely feel bored.
Dave The Diver is a true indie gem. The story acts as the glue that holds things together while most of the weight of the game is on the shoulders of gameplay mechanics that are gradually added, new areas that are unlocked in each chapter of the story, and new weapons and equipment that can be found in boxes scattered in the Blue Hole. This game is a simple delight like a cup of coffee in the morning or an ice cream in the summer heat; its true value is felt only when you taste it yourself.