Dave The Diver Is the Perfect Summer Adventure

Dave the Diver
Reviewed On
Steam (PC)
Available For

Dave the Diver is one of those games that, when you initially look at it, you think it might be a cute title to waste a couple hours in and then go back to something else. Interestingly, Dave the Diver happens to be one of the most addicting experiences of 2023. It’s a 2D adventure game at its heart, but Dave the Diver also intermixes underwater exploration with a restaurant management sim. And each system expands on top of the other until you’ve spent way too much time finding the perfect seahorses to win the big race and it’s two in the morning, and you are asking what are you even doing with your life?

Dave the Diver is currently available on Steam and will be swimming over to the Nintendo Switch later this year. It plays amazingly well, even on the Steam Deck, and will almost certainly also offer a smooth presentation when it lands on the Switch.

Dave the Diver begins with a group of friends opening their own sushi bar near a magical location called Blue Hole, a gigantic underwater chasm that changes both its topography and ecology on a daily basis. The story goes through a variety of places, and presents challenges to you in the form of animal rights groups, a secretive kingdom of merfolk, and the backstories of a wide variety of characters. Many of Dave the Diver’s characters are so goofy and loveable, and you’ll always remember when you order a new gun to fend off sharks underwater but the cutscene involves the weaponsmith recreating the painting The Creation of Adam with his robotic manufacturing arms.

The core gameplay loop of Dave the Diver is immensely addictive. Diving for fish every day and seeing new things, which in turn gives you more recipes to make at the sushi bar, gives you whatever the diving equivalent of, “One more turn syndrome” is in this game. Diving allows you to prep the sushi bar with various dishes to earn money, but you can then spend the money on upgrading Dave’s gear so you can dive deeper or stay longer underwater to bring back even larger hauls. It doesn’t take long to get into a loop of chasing some upgrades and not noticing that it’s been three hours and your dog desperately wants her dinner. Sorry, Eva.

You’ll split your days in Dave the Diver by spending time diving into Blue Hole, gathering resources, and catching fish for Bancho to cook at the restaurant. Using a harpoon gun, among a great number of other weapons you can use to incapacitate aggressive aquatic wildlife, you can gather a bunch of different fish varieties for use above water. You’ll also find treasure chests, abandoned underwater ruins, and maybe even an entire civilization beneath the waves.

When diving, you can kill fish and carve them while still underwater, which lets you bring back portions of their meat. But capturing fish without killing them will provide greater yields or even allow you to set up a fish farm so you don’t have to entirely rely on your daily dives. While completing story or side quests, however, you’ll encounter delightfully entertaining bosses like a gigantic hermit crab that uses a dump truck as its shell. All of the aquatic life is edible, if you put your mind to it, and money is on the line, so you need to make every dive count.

Once you’re finished diving, you get to enjoy the other half of Dave the Diver’s gameplay loop: The restaurant management sim. Since the chef’s completely busy making everyone’s plates, it’s up to Dave to pass the plates out to the increasingly demanding customers. You’ll need to pour customer tea, grind wasabi, and even partake in a variety of minigames, sometimes even getting to cook the dishes yourself.

You’ll also spend your money on upgrading Dave’s gear, as upgrading your harpoon gun and diving suit, for example, will let you explore locations even deeper underwater and defend yourself better. You can hire and train new staff to help the bar run more smoothly or efficiently, run both an agricultural farm as well as a fish farm (which requires captured fish), upgrade the restaurant and its menu, and loads more in which you can invest your resources.

Sometimes, you’ll be given challenges on a time limit, such as when a VIP comes to visit the restaurant. These VIPs, for whatever reason or another, think of themselves as important enough to order items not on the menu, which means it’s up to Dave to procure the items needed for the dish before the date the person visits. You’ll also be visited by characters who may yearn for a specific kind of dish, oftentimes involving some element of their backstory, and preparing that dish for them will give you a fun cutscene and even more insight into the character.

Dave the Diver does a lot of great work with regularly throwing new things at the player, sometimes in surprisingly in-depth minigames like seahorse racing, a Tamogachi app on Dave’s phone, hermit crab shell games, and more. In the 25 to 30 hours of your time with Dave the Diver, it allows you opportunities to solve puzzles, prepare and run the restaurant, or just go exploring- I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer breadth of enjoyable things to do in this title.

The visuals are phenomenal, with the characters rendered as well animated 2D sprites, and backgrounds that are polygonal in nature with 8-bit textures rendered over them. There’s nothing better than doing management sim tasks in the sushi bar and being treated with a cutscene of a crotchety businesswoman overcome with joy at a mere bite of your latest creation. Similarly, while diving, the lighting and usage of layering in the backgrounds really give the player an appreciation for the vastness of the oceans. The graphical presentation of Dave the Diver is simple, but the developer managed to make a very memorable aesthetic, overall.

Dave the Diver is equal parts goofy, endearing, and addictive. Sporting a low price of only $20 on Steam and fantastically designed gameplay components that complement each other perfectly, Dave the Diver is the perfect title for people looking for a more relaxed 2D adventure. Of course, if you’re looking for something that’s more action-packed, Dave likely won’t be able to help you there, and you should probably check out a 2D roguelite platformer like 30XX, which was recently written about on Save State right here.

For those wanting a relaxed and enjoyable experience, though, Dave the Diver will have you completely set.

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