Published on November 11th, 2023 | by James Davie
Dave The Diver Review
Summary: If going under the depths of the ocean and experiencing a buried treasure is your kind of thing, then Dave The Diver delivers the goods.
Buoyancy clearly isn’t an issue for Dave The Diver. Despite his portly size, he can still dive underwater, explore and get nipped by the marine life as though he was somebody half as heavy as he is. As the title perspicuously states, Dave is a diver, but on top of this, he’s also responsible for providing the raw ingredients of a menu from a financially struggling exotic sushi restaurant. What on the surface comes across a little bit like Black Salt Games’ DREDGE from earlier this year, turns into one of the most intriguing games of this year, it becomes quite simply a subterranean sensation.
The way Dave The Diver stays afloat, is in how gameplay is split between underwater exploration to collect fish hides and raw materials during the day, and partaking in restaurant management during the nighttime. Much like dipping under the ocean, Dave The Diver has a story-related depth to it as well, pertaining to a mystery called “The Blue Hole,” massaging your curiosity along the way.
If it’s not already clear enough, Dave The Diver does a lovely job of mixing things up by keeping proceedings engaging through a routine that keeps you busy inside and outside of the sushi joint. When dealing with restaurant-running, your key responsibilities include keeping the menu stocked with new items, pouring tea for customers, creating new dish combinations out of the sea life you’ve caught whilst diving in the ocean, and using the money acquired for good service on redecorating the eatery.
Restaurant Management in Dave Diver is smooth and relatively hassle-free, save for the more demanding customers who come into the restaurant daily insisting that you whip them up a specialized dish, and they’ll keep coming back until you pony up what they want. Fortunately such requests are remedied when you don your wetsuit for another dive, but the challenges of gathering the ingredients for these fussy Freddies and Florences aren’t always going to be a simple dip in the ocean.
Dropping into the deep blue in Dave The Diver is both soothing and foreboding at once. You’ll marvel at the marine life going about its business and the general exploration, but simultaneously dread the unpredictability and viciousness of what you’ll discover below the surface. Dave is alone during his underwater excursions, but he’s by no means defenseless, carrying a harpoon on his person to pierce fishy flesh until it turns into a pulpy pile Dave can add to his inventory and use for crafting new menu items.
The danger of the depths is all too apparent in Dave The Diver. Oxygen is of course an essential resource you need to breathe easy underwater, and the oxygen meter on the left side of the screen will keep dwindling until you locate sporadic oxygen stations that’ll restock that life-giving energy. Another way you can save yourself from becoming a drowned body is by accessing escape pods to safely ascend you up to the open-air, again these are sparingly placed, but they’ll be a miraculous find if you’re getting savaged by seeking snappers.
The fishes themselves come in various shapes and sizes from harmless tail-wavers vulnerable to your harpoon and easy to capture, to brutal full-blown carnivorous sharks who’ll need to be dodged and neutralized from a safe distance. Dave won’t be catching any breaks during his excursions as the marine life can be as deadly and nasty as lacking oxygen to breathe comfortably. If you take too many nabs you’ll bleed out and reset at the boat ready to dive again, so there’s no unnecessary traipsing from the sushi place to the boat, you can simply retry your underwater activities.
Besides main objectives, secondary character will pipe in and give you side objectives to satisfy like collecting a certain amount of raw materials or pillaging a set amount of fish. These objectives are super easy to navigate thanks to arrows indicating every resource you need to extract, a task that’d prove laborious and aggravating if pointers weren’t placed, but thankfully Dave The Diver is as accommodating to players as it is a fascinating indie curio.
One of the most moreish and pleasing elements of Dave The Diver is the more you invest in its gameplay loop, the more rewards and upgrades you’re able to attain, it’s like an abridged RPG running on a roguelike-like cycle, except it’s never controller-crushingly difficult and it always rewarding to play. You can unlock bigger nets, hire staff for the sushi restaurant, buy more advanced weapons to get fishes to go night-night, so Dave The Diver keeps on giving it’s essentially the size of the big guy himself contained in an indie presentation.
If you don’t like the gameplay loop though, there’s not a lot here to change your mind. Performing the same activities day and night may grow cumbersome, but the story allows Dave The Diver room to breathe, so it never once sinks under the weight of its own ambition, it’s the kind of game you can pick up and play in session for however long you feel, and you don’t need to be fully committed to get the best out of it.
If going under the depths of the ocean and experiencing a buried treasure is your kind of thing, then Dave The Diver delivers the goods. With a sumptuously moreish gameplay hook, a continuous sense of being reward thanks to a stellar upgrade system, a perilous and foreboding mood underwater juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of sushi restaurant management, and a story containing as much depth as the blue hole Dave dives into, Dave The Diver is an indie offering worth checking out.