Dave the Diver (2023) Game Review – A delightfully delicious game packed full of charm

A delightfully delicious game packed full of charm

Dave the Diver is a game that, to quote Todd Howard over at Bethesda, “just works”. It’s a simple indie that combines two core gameplay mechanics, packs it full of charm and aesthetic splendor, and tops it off with a moreish gameplay loop.

The game centers on a hard-working diver called Dave, who shows up at Blue Hole ready to make a splash. As you take control of this fella, your task is to explore the ocean and complete a variety of tasks that become more elaborate and intriguing over time.

The main story is split across 7 chapters, and there’s an array of puzzles, boss fights and side quests along the way to keep you busy… but that’s only half the game!

During the evening, Dave the Diver doubles up as a simulator, as you take control of a sushi restaurant and strive to become the best restauranteur. Interestingly, this part of the game relies heavily on your exploration of the ocean during the game, as you catch different fish species and create more elaborate dishes.

Both these systems work harmoniously together, and thanks to the time management system at play (allowing two daytime dives and managing the restaurant at night) the gameplay never feels stale or repetitive.

The other great part about this game is the lack of urgency with the storyline. While that may sound like a negative for some titles, for Dave the Diver it’s actually a massive compliment toward the aforementioned gameplay loop. Don’t fancy diving down to the depths to find a hidden mermaid colony? No sweat, let’s hunt some sharks instead! This sort of simple but efficient style of casual gameplay really helps this stand out next to others in the same field.

The game ultimately plays both these ideas off one another into a comfortable pattern that never grows tiring. During the day you’ll dive down, hunt fish and explore the depths of Blue Hole. There are various treasure chests to open, fish to hunt, side quests to undertake and upgrades coming in the form of better oxygen tanks or more robust diving suits.

These upgrades can be bought with gold, which is obtained by completing missions and progressing the story, selling valuables found in Blue Hole or (most notably) running the sushi bar at night. Depending on how high-value the fish is that you’ve caught, and the dishes you’re offering, you’ll never find yourself grinding too much, even for the top level upgrades.

As the game progresses, both parts of the experience are given extra layers of depth. For the Blue Hole exploration, you’ll be able to dive even deeper, find even more fish, upgrade your harpoon and guns, along with finding more valuable chests.

During the sushi bar sim part, you’ll be able to hire staff, set up a fish farm or start farming crops. There’s even special missions for VIPs that show up to increase the number of dishes offered out. This also has a level-up system in place, with the more “likes” and popularity you gain, the more lucrative the bar becomes in terms of making money.

Dave the Diver never overdoes either of these core experiences either, and even right at the end of the game, there are surprises thrown your way. Some of the puzzles are genuinely a joy to play through and there’s never any real pressure or head-scratching that goes into trying to solve a seemingly impossible puzzle that’s left you stumped.

This is one of those rare games that can be played both casually and more seriously, and the moreish feel of “oh go on, just one more dive” becomes one of the game’s best assets. Even when you finish the main story, there’s plenty to do post-credits, including a litany of side quests, dishes to try in the sushi bar and new variety of fish to hunt.

Of course, gameplay is one of the most important parts of any game (something some AAA titles seem to forget these days) but Dave the Diver backs that up with a consistently great aesthetic and a really good sense of humour. There’s a recurring joke about Dave’s weight that’s played off as tongue in cheek, while a couple of the supporting characters have some wickedly funny arcs too.

The pixel-art style works beautifully to enhance all of this too, helped along by a tranquil, relaxing soundtrack and some impressively rendered cut scenes, all done in pixel art, which only adds to the game’s charm.

When it comes to the discussion of 2023’s best game, Dave the Diver has to be up there. This is a title that has its heart in the right place. It doesn’t Nickle and dime you with microtransactions, it doesn’t give a half-baked story, and it’s not a broken mess requiring the developer to come out and apologize while getting the name of the game wrong (looking at you Lord of Ring: Gollum).

Dave the Diver is a delightfully delicious game packed full of charm. It’s a title that doubles up as both an adventure sim and a restaurant tycoon, and harmoniously blends both beats together to create one of the best symphonies of 2023. This is an an absolute must-play.

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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