Some games are good at doing a little bit of everything. It doesn’t always work out, as being the jack-of-all-trades—master of none—is a tough spot to find yourself in an industry filled with experiences that are the best at what they do. Taking that idea a step further and taking a game out of the indie space, while filled with darlings and hits, is an even steeper hill to climb for most. It’s not very often that you find a Stardew Valley or a Hollow Knight that blows everyone’s minds and takes things to the next level, but Dave The Diver has joined that conversation.
As a laid-back, casual title, Dave The Diver is one of those games that take hours of your life away in a blink of an eye. Adding in the fact this title has fishing, farming, mini-games, cooking, exploration, and restaurant management, and you’re looking at a ton of variety in the package wrapped up by the developer and publisher MINTROCKET, which could have easily gotten it in that realm of mediocrity too often found by teams spreading themselves too thin. Dave The Diver does not falter in its design or mechanics, with surprise after surprise, all while offering a truly delightful experience from start to finish.
Sipping drinks on the beach while minding his own business, Dave gets a call from a friend asking if he’d like to join in on a new business venture. Reluctant at first, Dave decides to leave his vacation and head towards opportunity, where an epic partnership through a sushi restaurant begins to unfold. Bancho—the knife-wielding badass of a chef—is in charge of cooking, Dave supplies the fresh fish, and Cobra runs the show, all while several other friends join in to help out along the way. Between diving by day, running the restaurant at night, and discovering the mysteries the Blue Hole has to offer, Dave has quite an adventure ahead of him.
With wacky, lovable characters, tons of quests from all of the different people you meet, as well as all of the side content and additional ways you can maximize runs, and you have an amazing package filled with story after story that will bounce between heart-wrenching and hilarious. The cut scenes when you upgrade a weapon or unlock a new recipe are top-notch, and the deep and differing soundtrack rounds out a package that really shines right from the off. Oh, and the art style is charming and matches perfectly with the 2D gameplay, even if that 3D April Fool’s Day mode would’ve been amazing!
“Dave The Diver’s progression feels closely related to the fellow indie fishing hit from 2023, Dredge, where the additions and capabilities added to your repertoire keep things interesting… “
Starting off with the predominant mechanic of Dave The Diver, and the one that gives it its namesake, the fishing, exploration, and crafting derived from your daily dives. You begin with a basic set of tools and leap in headfirst to see what the Blue Hole has in store each day. Utilizing a harpoon gun, you catch fish of varying degrees of difficulty, in order to supply the restaurant with a variety of recipes to choose from. The deeper you go, the harder the fish become to catch, which means upgrading equipment and truly battling with the fish in quick-time events that let you slowly wear them down.
The process of slowly upgrading your harpoon gun, weapons, diving suit, and air tank is one that is rewarding and paced well, as you make your way further into the depths, making more and more money as the catch gets better. Dave The Diver’s progression feels closely related to the fellow indie fishing hit from 2023, Dredge, where the additions and capabilities added to your repertoire keep things interesting and make it feel like everything you’re doing is worth the time.
” … Dave The Diver takes everything players have loved about restaurant sims, like what you’d find in the classic Diner Dash series, and has perfected it.”
Adding in the fact that every trip underwater can also include photo opportunities with your local fishing publication, filling out your trading-card-game-esque, “catch ’em all” compendium, exploring for shells and taking out jellyfish in order to complete side quests, or gathering resources and materials for crafting, and you’ve got a lot of ways to fill out your time as you go from oxygen tank to oxygen tank. Dave The Diver is the king of finding several things for you to do all at once, while rarely making it feel overwhelming—with exciting new adventures happening every day.
Once you’ve done your best to survive the waves and have a pack filled with tasty seafood, it’s time to head over to your sushi joint in order to prepare your menu and serve those hungry customers. With the ability to hire additional staff, unlock new and more lucrative recipes, and conduct drink-based mini-games, Dave The Diver takes everything players have loved about restaurant sims, like what you’d find in the classic Diner Dash series, and has perfected it.
Rushing around to get green tea or beers for customers while prioritizing which customers get their order when is just stressful enough to wake you up after playing through the night, while still maintaining that cozy, casual charm. Once you have a full staff that is trained up and you can really start slinging sushi, all while the money rolls in, it’s thrilling as you progress and gets to sit back and rake in the benefits of your hard work. The best part is discovering and planning for high-dollar recipes, where figuring out the right number of dishes to offer each shift is a fun, strategic twist.
“…Dave The Diver really continues to surprise even hours and hours into a playthrough.”
What’s crazy about Dave The Diver is that I have talked at length about the main content and mechanics, but there’s just so much more I could get into! There’s actual farming, like in order to get ingredients for the restaurant (not to mention fish farming as well, to take some of the pressure off those dives), boss battles galore, underwater mining (yes, really), a full crafting and upgrade system, a full underwater civilization to discover, and even seahorse racing! That’s just cracking the surface, and Dave The Diver really continues to surprise even hours and hours into a playthrough. Such variety, and it’s all done at a high level.
Dave The Diver could easily be in Game of the Year arguments in December, but with titles like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Final Fantasy XVI, and Diablo IV dominating the landscape right now, I think it’s safe to say Dave might have to settle for the indie crown, but when a game like this can be in that conversation, it really shows just how much this one really has to offer.