Anyone in the mood for sushi? Or maybe managing a sushi restaurant? Running a fish farm? Growing crops? What about harpooning fish, fighting off massive sea creatures, and discovering a lost civilization of Sea People? If any of these sound interesting, then Dave the Diver is the perfect game for you.
But Dave the Diver isn’t just a game; it’s a rich tapestry of experiences and challenges, woven together with a thread of endless surprises. Whether you fancy management simulations, heart-pounding adventures, or enigmatic explorations, there’s something here to capture your interest. So strap on your diving gear and ready your sushi knife, because Dave the Diver is about to submerge you into a whole new world of gaming possibilities.
Note: On October 27th, 2023, Dave the Diver was also released on the Nintendo Switch.
This game was originally played and reviewed on a PC with an NVIDIA RTX 3060 Ti. A Steam Deck was also used but mostly for testing.
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Dave the Diver Review
Dave the Diver is truly a unique game. It’s a very strange combination of adventure, RPG, and tycoon gaming. It’s rare to have that many game genres blend together as they do here.
Gameplay is largely divided into two parts, exploring the “Blue Hole” and managing the “Bancho Sushi” restaurant.
Here is where you will spend the majority of your time, diving in the Blue Hole. During the daytime, you can explore the Blue Hole twice. Starting off, you do not have a lot of oxygen and will need to use it conservatively to catch the most fish. The main method of capturing fish is by using your harpoon. Simply aim it at a fish within range and fire. If the fish is too strong, it will pull away and escape. If the fish is strong but catchable, a minigame will proceed where you can catch the fish. The minigame depends on the type of harpoon tip you are using.
For example, using a shock tip harpoon will have you shake your joystick back and forth repeatedly. If you don’t succeed in the minigame, the fish will get away.
Fish and ingredients caught in deeper areas can be sold at the sushi restaurant at an even higher price. Not to mention, fish in deeper areas tend to be tougher and more dangerous.
Your oxygen supply is your indicator of how long you can stay submerged, but it also doubles as your health bar. Getting attacked by sharks and other predatory fish will quickly deplete your oxygen, causing you to die.
You will find a plethora of items along the ocean floor, including different guns, melee weapons, weapon enhancements, oxygen tanks, underwater scooters, and tons more to help you navigate through the blue hole.
Once nighttime, you are able to open Bancho Sushi and start serving customers. This is where you will earn most of your money. Funds raised here can be used to upgrade equipment, which allows you to explore even deeper areas in the Blue Hole.
Starting out, it’s just you and the head chef, Bancho, whipping up dishes to serve to customers. You are not able to cook but instead tasked to deliver cooked meals to customers. The faster you get a cooked meal to a customer, the happier they will be. You want your customers happy so they leave tips and become followers on Cooksta, Dave the Diver’s cooking-themed spinoff of Instagram. Getting more followers on Cooksta will level you up through their various tiers, unlocking different perks along the way.
Occasionally, you will also be asked to pour Tea for customers, clear dishes, and grind wasabi. All of these involve short mini-games and quick-time events. Each one is easy to accomplish on its own, but balancing these with serving customers can be quite a challenge.
Once you progress far enough, you will unlock the ability to hire staff to work for you. Each staff member is unique and brings secret abilities, all of which can be unlocked by training them. The quality of staff you can hire varies depending on your Cooksta tier. Some staff are better at cooking, while others are better at serving. Staff that is leveled up enough can even pour drinks to customers or grind wasabi.
Oh, and you also get a cat, Momo, who hangs out at the bar with you when it’s closed. And yes, you can pet (and feed) him.
The mix of restaurant management and diving for fish is surprisingly deep. The Blue Hole will look slightly different every time you dive. This is intentional, as the ocean layout will change each time you dive. It’s not truly random though. Fish will spawn at certain depths and points of interest will always be in a similar place. For example, the first shipwreck will always be on the left side of the map around 130ish meters deep. I really like this system. You always have a general “sense” of where you are, but areas still feel fresh to swim through.
Another cool part of this system is the spawning of items and fish. There is also no guarantee on what items or fish you will find. Being a fan of rogue-like games, this scratches the itch. It’s not a true rogue-like game, but it provides a similar type of enjoyment to what those games provide.
Items you collect while diving will disappear if you die. You are, however, allowed to take one item back when you die.
The game features a strong risk/reward system used when diving. Want to look for more fish even though your Oxygen tank is low? Well, you better hope you find an escape pod shortly thereafter.
The visuals are perfect and the art style is super charming and appealing. I love the pixelated art style and the 2.5D game world. Dave the Diver has a resemblance to Katana Zero in terms of art direction. It’s borderline eye candy to look at and is really well done.
The cutscenes are absolutely bizarre and incredible. They give a ton of flavor to each of the characters. Even though some cutscenes are repeated for specific events, I haven’t skipped one yet, and I don’t plan on it. They are THAT good.
One cool effect is fish and objects in the ocean get more blurry and develop a red/blue parallax effect the further you get away from it.
This is intentionally done so you can’t immediately identify the fish or objects when they come into your field of view. The parallax effect and others do a great job of immersing you in the world and making the Blue Hole feel a bit more mysterious.
Dave the Diver boasts a very simple, yet catchy soundtrack. It’s impossible to not bob your head when listening to Bancho Sushi’s various soundtracks. Not to mention, you can pull up all the soundtracks in your “Music” phone app.
“Restaurant Prep”, Bancho Sushi’s pre-opening soundtrack, is my personal favorite. However, all the other tracks are a joy to listen to. You’d be hard-pressed to find one you don’t like.
Music aside, the sound design of Dave the Diver is solid. Various melee weapons and guns each have their own signature noises. Ranging from the cracking shot of the sniper rifle to the thumping of the grenade launcher, they all sound satisfying to use. Plus, nothing feels better than booping a shark on the head with a squeaky hammer until it passes out.
Dave the Diver offers intuitive controls that are quickly grasped by newcomers, involving simple point-and-fire weapons paired with simple character movement. However, achieving mastery of the game poses a challenging yet enjoyable task, as it requires precise timing, strategic movements, and an understanding of creature behavior.
Not once does it feel too hard or too easy. It has a perfect balance of difficulty. If you die, it’s most likely because you got greedy and wanted to take on too many enemies or had too much cargo.
It also never feels like a grind to play. A constant stream of new content is thrown your way as you progress through the story.
It does have some FPS drops in the busier areas of the blue hole. The boss fights with large creatures have the “worst” FPS dips, but it’s nowhere near unplayable. I believe these are limitations of the game engine used, or things not being optimized enough. Objects like fish, items, and landscape textures are constantly being loaded as you navigate through the Blue Hole. Being an indie game with a limited budget, you can understand some of the technical limitations MINTROCKET was facing.
This is still a very small gripe and doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
Update 8/18/23: A patch has been released that fixes the small UI of the Steam Deck.
While I played the vast majority of the game on PC, Dave the Diver is also Steam Deck Verified, meaning it plays great on the Steam Deck without any tweaks or adjustments. With the 3-ish hours played on Steam Deck, I mostly agree with this verification. The game runs and plays well. I did however notice more FPS drops when playing on the Deck (especially in the Sea People Village), but this is expected given the portable hardware.
I was, however, a bit disappointed with the scaling of the UI. It looks pretty small. You really have to look closely at the Steam Deck to read everything, which is not ideal for long gaming sessions. I really wish there was a way to increase the UI size, as the Deck version really needs it.
Not just unique to Dave the Diver, there is also a common issue with some Steam Deck games; the horizontal black bars.
Now, this isn’t completely the fault of the developers. The Steam Deck runs at a 1280×800 resolution, which is a bit taller than the standard 1280×720 resolution (720p). Since most screens have a 16:9 (720p, 1080p, 4k, etc.) aspect ratio, this makes for a strange resolution to run a game on.
If developers don’t program this resolution to properly scale on the screen, it will either be stretched vertically, or the game will just run at 720p in the center of the screen, which is what Dave the Diver is doing. A lot of games on Steam Deck have this problem though. Still, I would expect a game that is “Steam Deck Verified” to have a fully compatible resolution, so this is a bit disappointing.
Flat out it’s a blast to play. I haven’t been this hooked on a game since God of War: Ragnarok came out in late 2022. Right when you think you get the gist of the game, another feature or area is introduced. Every day in Dave the Diver is unique. The sense of progression is perfect, and you are constantly experiencing new events and unlocks.
I constantly thought to myself “Okay, I think I’ve finally unlocked every feature”, and then was shocked to unlock new things. “Wait, I can have a fish farm?”, “Wow, you can upgrade your weapons?”, “Oh, you can dive at NIGHT?” are all things I said to myself while playing.
It’s also a very chill game. Much like Stardew Valley, you have a manageable amount of “timed” events/missions, and none are detrimental to your success if you don’t complete them. There are also scheduled events and birthdays to look for. For example, the first event you will run into is a jellyfish party. You will get extra money and more followers for Bancho Sushi if you serve patrons jellyfish on that night.
20 hours in, and I’m not even close to finishing all of the missions. Dave the Diver packages an ungodly amount of content for just $20.
Dave the Diver belongs right next to Stardew Valley and Katana Zero in the Mount Rushmore of the best Indie games. The enticing blend of ocean diving, combat, and restaurant management is something I didn’t know I wanted. There’s a very good reason why this game has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam. MINTROCKET put their heart and soul into this game, which clearly shows. Dave the Diver is a must-play for anyone with a pulse. Do yourself a favor and buy it.
You can pick up Dave the Diver on Steam. A Switch version is also coming out in late 2023.