Deep in the middle of the ocean lies the mysterious Giant Blue Hole, where the layout changes every day and fish from all over the world can be caught. On the edge of the Hole is Bancho Sushi, specializing in high-quality sushi dishes from the Blue Hole’s legions of fish. Deep within the Hole are untold secrets and mysteries – possibly even including legendary monsters of the depths like the famed Kraken. Charged with exploring the Hole, discovering its secrets, keeping Bancho Sushi well-stocked, and simply staying alive… is Dave, a hapless diver who just wants to get back to his vacation, dangit!
This is Dave the Diver, an ocean exploration/sushi-making adventure RPG from MINTROCKET. During the day, Dave dives deep into the Blue Hole, seeking fish for Bancho (and, eventually, various other people living around the Hole – Dave is apparently incapable of saying no to a single person). At night, he helps the chef by populating the menu, serving the customers, and keeping the restaurant clean. But this is no mere “dive and serve sushi, rinse, repeat” process – there is a story here. The deeper Dave dives, the more he learns about what lurks within the Blue Hole – and it isn’t always friendly.
The centerpiece of Dave the Diver, and its strongest element by far, are the dives. The Blue Hole is the aquatic exploration equivalent of a procedurally generated dungeon, changing layout and fish population each time Dave explores it. There are dozens of fish to catch and secrets to discover. Each time I ran out of oxygen I found myself disappointed upon returning to the surface, wishing I could have gone just a little bit deeper. Luckily, you can as Dave can improve his gear throughout the game, enabling longer and more complex dives. Once on the surface, you can choose to stick exclusively to the tasks Bancho and the others set you – typically collecting various fish and other resources – or you can simply explore and see how deep you can go (although, unfortunately, you can’t shirk your main objectives for too long, because Bancho and his terrifying associate Cobra are not the kind of people you want to have mad at you!).
I cannot emphasize enough just how good the dives in Dave the Diver are. The controls are smooth, with Dave relying primarily on his harpoon and dive knife (and later gun) to catch fish and fend off the occasional aggressive creature. The pixel art style and bright, colorful palette makes each individual fish and piece of coral “pop,” creating a truly stunning landscape (er, seascape) to observe. There were several times that I failed a fish-collecting mission because I simply spent so much time observing the beautiful surroundings and ran out of air as a result. I especially love the little “struggle” animation that happens when Dave has to pull in an especially big fish with the harpoon.
Plus, you can even learn something through playing Dave the Diver; you get some facts about each fish you catch, which was really cool, as the game features several kinds of fish I had never even heard of before! Sometimes, I would seek out different types of fish than the ones I had been instructed to catch or collect just because I wanted to learn more about them. Later, you unlock marine-themed trading cards with more info about the fish… which I may have spent way too much time collecting.
However, Dave the Diver is far more than just a resource management and exploration game, there is a story here, and it’s a surprisingly deep one (pun fully intended). There’s a reason most of my screenshots in this review come from early sections of this game; I do not want to spoil the secrets lurking in the Blue Hole! All I’ll say is… there is some strange stuff down there, and the rumors of a massive tentacled beast are just the tip of the iceberg. Seriously, Dave the Diver may look shallow on the surface, but, like the Blue Hole itself, it goes way deeper than you might imagine.
While the dive sections of Dave the Diver are the strongest, I did feel that the sushi-making at night was ever-so-slightly weaker. These parts are fairly standard restaurant sim fare: feed customers on time, stock the menu with items based on what you caught that day – and this can definitely get a little stressful as your restaurant’s popularity grows and more and more customers show up. These parts aren’t bad, and they definitely form a necessary part of Dave the Diver‘s story and gameplay loop, but there were a few times when I was disappointed that it was night-time and I had to go serve some sushi because I just wanted to get to the next dive. Still, they are quite fun, especially once you unlock the Cooksta app and get to see customers posting selfies and reactions to their meals!
Although the core gameplay of Dave the Diver centers around diving during the day and working at Bancho’s Sushi at night, there are a TON of other mechanics available. Do you want to raise a virtual pet? You can do that! Take pictures of the fish you discover? There’s that too! Track reactions on Cooksta, spend time with characters to learn more about their backstory, upgrade your equipment, have Bancho research new recipes, complete side quests for various characters researching the Blue Hole – there is so much to do in Dave the Diver. Without question, there is a little bit of something for everyone.
And that brings me to the absolute best thing about Dave the Diver – it is so incredibly hard to put down. Seriously, this is one of the most addicting games I’ve played since Stardew Valley. You can play for hours and hours, telling yourself “just one more dive”, “just one more mission”, “just need to catch X fish” and suddenly you’ll look up and it’s dark outside (this may or may not have happened to me more than once). So, if you’re looking for an absolutely engrossing game that will offer hours and hours of engrossing undersea exploration, then Dave the Diver is for you!
Kate played Dave the Diver on PC via Steam using a provided review code.