There have been a lot of games over the years that explore the mysteries of the ocean. From horror games to more relaxing and exploration-driven titles, there’s a deep well for anyone intrigued by the deep unknown. Despite this, Dave The Diver is one of the most unique and fun underwater-themed games I have ever played.
The events that lead up to the game’s opening are unusual, to say the least. A mysterious blue hole with an ever-changing terrain and selection of fish has appeared in the ocean and Dave’s friend, Cobra, has set up a sushi restaurant nearby. Dave is tasked with catching the fish for the restaurant and, for some reason, is also the manager. Dave The Diver is therefore split into two sections: half deep sea exploration and half restaurant management sim. While the diving dazzled me with its mechanics, and the excitement of uncovering new mysteries pushed me to go on just one more dive, it was disrupted by the restaurant sections which act as little more than a distraction to break up the game.
Fish for a sushi restaurant
The diving mechanics are reasonably simple and yet are still entertaining. Each day you are given at least two opportunities to dive, during which time you can catch fish to turn into sushi and other related dishes. Your initial tools for this are a small knife for close encounters and a harpoon for range. The harpoon is considerably more useful since the majority of the fish become skittish and swim in the other direction when you approach. It took me a few dives to become really comfortable with using these tools, particularly in regard to aiming the harpoon, but it quickly became second nature.
By picking up crates scattered throughout the terrain, Dave can find weapons, tools, and crafting materials to help make each dive easier. Some fish take several attempts to catch, though this can be made easier by finding a shock or poison harpoon which can do more damage and catch them quicker. The weapons and tools you find while diving only last for that particular expedition, so there is no pressure to commit to any particular gun or harpoon. The upgrades can lead to the occasional frantic button mashing as some trickier fish present you with mini-games in order to be caught, which vary depending on what tool you are using. While these are never complicated, it can be a little cumbersome to get from the mouse to the keys you need to press while still having enough time to catch the fish.
The best tool in the whole game is the mobile phone. Dave’s phone is such a lifeline as there are a million and one things to keep track of at any given point. It has the ability to build weapons and upgrade your dive equipment, as well as apps to keep track of what fish you have caught and an Instagram-esque food app to share photos. But when you are doing up to three dives a day and having frequent interactions about various quests, the best tools by far are the calendar and to-do list apps, which help you keep track of exactly what you should be doing and see when events that are not quest related are coming up. Ultimately, the usefulness of these two apps is a testament to the sheer number of things going on in Dave The Diver.
The management sim side of the game is pretty standard. Each shift you set the menu before frantically running around fulfilling green tea orders and serving sushi. After about a week of operation, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with orders without hiring additional staff, but that is to be expected as there is a rapid increase in customers. Occasionally quests tied to the restaurant management side of things pop up, but more often than not it is just a fun but kind of stressful way to break up the diving expeditions.
While it is enjoyable, particularly for fans of management sims, the restaurant is probably one of the weaker aspects of the game. It is not particularly memorable and the enjoyment pales in comparison to the thrill of diving and discovering the ocean’s secrets. I never minded doing the restaurant tasks, but I never particularly looked forward to putting in a shift at the end of the day either.
The mysteries of the deep
My initial worry when starting out was that the dives would become boring after a while. There are only so many fish that you can catch, after all. While the layout of the ocean does change slightly from dive to dive, the majority of it stays the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each time you think that the dives are getting a bit dull, you find yourself thrown into a new side adventure: an underwater battle to save some dolphins or a quest to save an anime figurine. It is quite easy to get lulled into the rhythm of completing just one more dive and suddenly become embroiled in a new mystery to solve.
This is in part thanks to the stunning pixel art graphics which really make you want to explore and find those unique fish. There is something about the art style that is extremely appealing, with adorable, colorful fish and quirky and creative character art. The characters themselves are all very unique and easily recognizable, both through their appearances and dialogue. They are all written so differently and have fun quirks that, each time Dr. Bacon’s boat floats into view or Duff calls about a new weapon advancement, I get a wonderful feeling knowing that something exciting is about to happen.
Really it is the unknowns and the mysteries that make Dave The Diver so addicting. Without spoiling anything, the quests that researchers and other friends of the restauranteers send you on constantly unveil new and exciting challenges that are hard to step back from. Each time new information is unlocked, or a new area is discovered, it reignites a newfound interest in the story, sometimes I have to remind myself to actually step back and catch fish to prevent Bancho, the sushi chef, from running out of ingredients.
Dave The Diver is one of the most entertaining and intriguing games of 2023 so far. It is graphically beautiful, the plot is engaging, and there is always something new to do or a new corner of the ocean to explore. There is the occasional moment where the amount you have to do can become a bit overwhelming, but it becomes manageable after hiring more restaurant staff or upgrading diving equipment.
With the constant excitement of exploring the ever-changing underwater landscapes, I have had a whale of a time playing and know that Dave The Diver is going to be one of the games that I return to time and time again.
Dave The Diver was reviewed on the PC with a code provided by the team. It is available now on PC.
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- Stunning graphics
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- Constantly changing and evolving dives
- Addictive gameplay
- Fiddly quick-time events for fishing