Who knew that a game about fishing and serving sushi could be an instant classic? Dive into the details of this underdog triumph in our Dave the Diver review!
Every gamer remembers games that catch them by surprise. Typically, it’s an indie title that they heard about via word-of-mouth, or maybe it’s a bargain bin title that looked like it was worth the low price point. My first was The Binding of Isaac, which was both of those. It could be any game on Steam that sits at an “Overwhelmingly Positive” reception. In this instance, I think Dave the Diver could be that game for the masses.
Dave the Diver is set in paradise, but paradise is work. Thankfully, you’ll love your job.
The premise is simple enough: catch fish by day, serve them by night. An easy mix of a fishing minigame and a Diner Dash minigame, right? Wrong! Beyond its easy-to-grasp foundation lies one of the most polished, engaging video games I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Dave the Diver is the full package and makes for an experience that is simultaneously relaxing, enthralling, and satisfying. How does this title pull it off so seamlessly? Check it out below!
Dave the Diver Review – Gameplay
In what is one of the most addictive gameplay loops of all time, Dave the Diver is a game that can be accessible for casual players, whilst a rewarding jaunt for those that love to tick away checklists and feel that sense of accomplishment that keeps players playing for hours on-end. Your goal is to catch fish with your trusty harpoon during a morning and afternoon period, and during the evening, you’ll open Bancho Sushi to serve the fish you caught to hungry customers.
In Dave the Diver, there’s always a bigger fish. And not every fish is friendly.
The easy pace in Dave the Diver means you can catch fish as long as your oxygen holds out and you need to surface. If you want to complete objectives during the day, you only have to spend a little time fishing and can center your focus on the breadth of missions that will keep you more than occupied in the game.
Tons of apps on your phone add a lot of gameplay to be had in Dave the Diver.
Having two spans of time to do so during the day means you can dedicate fishing to one and mission completing to another, too. The freedom is ample and the difficulty is a cinch – if you venture out of your comfort zone, you can gauge what you’ll need to bring and prepare with for the next time you decide to head there.
Managing the restaurant in Dave the Diver is intuitive and low-stress, but you can really sink your teeth into it to make Bancho Sushi pop off.
Managing your sushi restaurant, Bancho Sushi, is an in-depth expedition, but there’s plenty of tutorials and room for risks so as not to be intimidating. I loved how many recipes were available, and doing the mental math to list high-costing items vs. low-costing items in higher quantity. Tons of upgrades on display meant that Bancho Sushi can transform from a run-down dive into a sensation thanks to your efforts.
Dave the Diver Review – Performance/Visuals
As a pixel-oriented affair, its performance is a breeze on most modern hardware. Only requiring a graphics card dating back to 2010, it’s a safe bet that if you’re reading this, your computer can run it. Despite its paltry point of entry, it’s still a visual marvel – I’ll never tire of the pixel art style, as it’s a true treat to watch when the artists involve intricate, evocative motion that’s simultaneously easy on the eyes and on the hardware.
Enhancing anything in Dave the Diver prompts one of several stylistic, gorgeous cutscenes for a sense of poise and dramatics.
I was hoping that Dave the Diver would be a title I could spend on slow work days plugging away towards on my Steam Deck. And while its performance is an easy, steady 60 frames-per-second on the device, it’s not particularly catered towards the small screen. This is because some fish are so tiny that they’re nigh invisible on a 7-inch screen due to the zoomed-out presentation underwater. Nevertheless, if your eyes are better than mine, this won’t be an issue, but I continued the rest of my playthrough on my 27-inch monitor.
Dave the Diver Review – Story
For a game where you’re fishing and restaurant-managing, I was surprised to see Dave the Diver contain such a nuanced tale. Clearly, there’s story beats in how your restaurant progresses and fares in its rise to success, but there’s also so many sub-plots going on that drive you to dive deeper and deeper as the days progress. For the first week or two in-game, you’ll be bombarded with more things to do, but thanks to clear instructions, you’ll never feel lost or overwhelmed.
Interacting with an underwater civilization is one of the many goings-on you’ll encounter as you explore the depths in Dave the Diver.
Not everyone is happy that you’re pilfering the marine wildlife, as you’ll encounter resistance not only from some hypocritical Greenpeace-like folk, but sea pirates and other forms of human resistance that aim to end your day. Should you encounter a game over, don’t worry; you’ll at least get to keep a single item you found and you’ll surface unscathed and allowed to continue your adventure.
Dave the Diver Review – Audio
The music in Dave the Diver is quite simply full of bangers. Considering the hours of game-time you’re expected to spend, you’d have to guarantee the song that plays each time is still enjoyable the 30th time around. And, somehow, Jukio Kallio’s “Deep” is just that – an immersive, engrossing piece that plunks you right in the water. Every time you hit the boat, Neo Sound’s “Ocean Peace” exudes refreshing, idyllic vibes. And should you tire of a song, there’s a jukebox you can set the songs to.
Inside its pixel aesthetic, Dave the Diver accompanies this with charming lo-fi sound bites. Talking to Bancho creates a low-pitched, monotone delivery, whereas you can expect Cobra to laugh a lot. The voices have been subtly autotuned to expand upon their flair, too. Firing a weapon underwater packs some punch, while the struggle of pulling in a bigger fish in your harpoon creates a sense of urgency. Pouring the perfect amount of tea rewards the player with a positive chime. The audio supplements everything on-screen magnificently.
Dave the Diver is an easy first-ballot game-of-the-year contender for 2023. It’s that rare game that checks every box, does something fresh, and is a shoe-in to recommend to just about anyone. There’s no pain points, nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb; on the contrary, it’s hard to say what Dave the Diver does best because it does everything so well. I will be delving the depths of Dave the Diver for dozens of hours to come.
So, why should you play Dave the Diver?
- So much to do, so much to see, and you can do it with no pressure or stress of deadlines or time limits
- You’ll never feel lost or stuck – it’s an easy-going, yet fulfilling game
- Games like this come in short supply – spend $20 and forge memories for years to come.
But why shouldn’t you play Dave the Diver?
- Fish can be hard to see on a Steam Deck
- It’s so addictive that it’s hard to put down.
A review code was kindly provided courtesy of Nexon for the purpose of our Dave the Diver review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out our Viewfinder review for more unexpected gaming goodness and join the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about Dave the Diver!