Out of nowhere, Dave the Diver emerges as one of the biggest indie hits of the year. In particular, its distinctive style is finger-licking good and immediately catches the eye. That alone makes Dave the Diver an enticing game. Behind that inviting graphic style also lurks an excellent gameplay loop that we just can’t get enough of.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to dive for the first time myself. That was an experience never to be forgotten. Underwater is a whole other world, brimming with undiscovered mysteries and unusual species of fish. The deeper you go, the stranger the creatures you encounter. Everyone remembers the fish with a kind of headlamp from Finding Nemo. Reality, oddly enough, is not far from that.
Also in Dave the Diver, this world is recreated in a special way. This RPG consists of several gameplay loops. One of them revolves around the diving adventures of main character Dave, a somewhat sedate diver. It’s not very easy for Dave, as jokes are made about Dave’s build all the time. That first run where you take control of Dave is immediately my favorite. In it, Dave the Diver immediately demonstrates the beautiful graphics that such a 2.5D pixel art piece can house. In this genre, I think it is one of the most beautiful games I have seen in ages. This is mainly due to the bright colors and beautiful lighting the game has. Not only are the sprites of the characters and fish you encounter in the world of Dave the Diver beautifully designed, but also the backgrounds are packed with interesting details that will make you feast your eyes.
Dave doesn’t dive equally deep everywhere
So the goal of the game is to catch fish during such a trip in order to eventually use them in a sushi restaurant. With the proceeds from that restaurant, upgrades can be bought for Dave’s suit, his weapons, his air tank and so on. While the game may seem somewhat superficial at first, over time the player is given endless options. For example, weapons can be found in the world, which can be used to unlock new blueprints. These blueprints are used to craft new weapons.
So in certain areas the game does go into quite a bit of depth, but after a while the combat does become more of the same. Dave only has a melee weapon and a harpoon or pistol. So you only have two slots of abilities that are really important. The game tries to play chess on multiple boards at once, and that seems to come at the expense of combat. After all, you do spend much of the game underwater. Despite this, the game does invite you to keep doing this, in part because of an interesting story tied largely to this section.
On one such diving expedition, you find out that Dave the Diver does represent the ultimate comfy game, which may be placed directly down the street from Stardew Valley. Making sushi at the restaurant Bancho Sushi seems hectic at the misschie, but soon you get help from co-workers. In any case, the stress never rises to the level of a game like Overcooked. In Dave the Diver, almost everything seems soothing. From the jazz-like music in the restaurant to the electronic soundtrack under the surface of the sea, which at times is reminiscent of Amsterdam duo Weval.
The game does lean a lot on the fact that you have to like both gameplay loops. Personally, scuba diving appeals to me a lot more than preparing sushi for guests in the restaurant, but I can also imagine that you’re going to find unlocking the various dishes for chef Bancho one of the most gripping parts. When diving to the depths of the ocean with Dave, Dave the Diver is the ultimate relaxing game for me, perfect as a change from shooters or other games that often require you to try incredibly hard.
Game full of charm
In addition to an appealing story and beautiful graphics, Dave the Diver is also packed with interesting references and strong humor. This starts with the funny voice acting, which is a kind of gibberish like in the Sims. Despite not speaking full sentences, this still manages to give the characters in the game a certain character. This gives the characters in Dave the Diver much more personality than you might think.
The references are expressed in the most brilliant ways, culminating in the Marinca app. Perhaps it would be better to call it Fishmon because the first character you encounter with the introduction to this part of the game is very reminiscent of one Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town. It’s a hilarious way of conveying that one of the game’s many side quests is to collect as many fish as possible. It even goes so far as to give you cards of the species collected that are then supposed to resemble Pokemon cards.
That charm of the game can also be found in Bancho Sushi, where the chef does put a lot of love into the food. In this respect, Dave the Diver is sometimes reminiscent of the anime films from Studio Ghibli’s repertoire. The drawn food and the animations involved in its preparation are still made up of pixels and are as yet finger-licking good.
Dave the Diver is an indie game that stands out for its unique style and gameplay. The combination of diving, catching fish, making sushi and upgrading your equipment makes for an interesting mix that keeps you enthralled. The beautiful 2.5D pixel art graphics, soothing music and humorous elements add a lot of charm to the game. Although the combat can get a bit repetitive after a while, this is compensated by the depth of the other gameplay elements and the engaging storyline. It is clear that the creators have paid a lot of attention to the details, from the design of the underwater world to the animations in the sushi restaurant.