Dave The Diver Review
Dave The Diver Review
Dave The Diver is a unique title from Mintrocket Games that blends roguelite elements such as exploration and combat with base management and upkeep seen in titles such as Moonlighter, Overcooked, and Ship of Fools. It employs an interesting premise of deep sea diving during the day and running a sushi restaurant at night, something you rarely see these days. Sounds like a great retirement plan!
You take on the role of the titular character Dave, who buys into a business venture of running a sushi restaurant next to The Blue Hole, a mysterious cove that changes every day. Seeing an opportunity to catch rare fish for serving and propositioned into other tasks like finding a lost underwater civilization and other scientific research ventures; Dave dives headfirst into adventure!
What are you waiting for fellow divers? Strap on that diving gear and that harpoon. We’re going fishing!
Diver By Day
Game time in Dave The Diver follows a linear calendar day progression seen in games like Persona. The day is divided into three parts: Morning, Afternoon, and Night. The two main gameplay loops: one is the underwater dive, which you can utilize twice a day, and helping run the sushi restaurant at night. You can progress time either by skipping, going for a dive, or completing a full restaurant service. It sounds complicated, but it’s really not, and the loop is something you’ll get used to within a couple of cycles.
Diving is one of the main components of Dave’s life in this adventure in the Blue Hole. Every dive will be fundamentally different, with the layout of the underwater cove changing every dive. This means that with each randomly generated area: the types of fish, loot, and placement of area exits will change. It makes every dive fresh and what changes are the many missions you will be engaging in and what you will be prioritizing.
As running a sushi restaurant is your main quest line, catching fish would be the fundamental recurring task you’ll have to accomplish every time you jump into a dive. There is a wide variety of fish to catch and they range from docile fish, which run away from you when approached, and aggressive fish that will attack to either protect your territory or attack you as prey (You actually look like a seal, so that tracks). You can defend yourself with a melee weapon or with an equipped gun.
Catching fish in Dave The Diver requires aiming your harpoon gun with A and firing with your right trigger button. It takes a bit of time to get used to, so it will be confusing at first, and it’s not the most intuitive use of a targeting system. Once you are able to hit a fish, and depending on the fish, you’ll mash A or enter various mini-games where catching the fish requires you to beat it. You’ll be able to pick up different harpoons types such as fire, shock, sleep, and poison; each one with a different mini-game of either inputting a button prompt, wiggling the analog stick, or mashing A to increase the shock damage.
You can also pick up tools to aid you in your diving trips. Portable oxygen tanks increase the time you can spend underwater, motorized engines boost your dash speed, and you can even pick up remote-detonated mines to slow down larger predators such as sharks and giant squids. You can pick up ammo boxes and oxygen tanks to reload your guns and stay underwater longer.
The roguelite aspect of Dave The Diver does not stop with the randomly generated maps, but most of the equipment you pick up will reset every time you end your dive. Certain gun models become blueprints, which you can craft at a gun shop. Completing scientific research rewards you with charms that grant you status increases such as faster swim speed or allow you to breathe underwater when you run out of oxygen in your oxygen tank.
While dying is a staple in roguelites, Dave The Diver punishes you when you hit a game over screen by only being able to return with one item. You don’t necessarily die, but it’ll make your gameplay loop more difficult. You’ll return with fewer ingredients and also slow down your progress in the main missions. By upgrading your equipment and collecting better weapons, you will be able to further your dives.
As you progress in your quests, you’ll be able to procure more resources, non-fish ingredients, and components to better expand your equipment and your business. Gold is rewarded through quests, selling items, and profits from your restaurant.
Dave The Diver is a great example of a game that takes tried and tested mechanics and wraps it up in a unique shell that makes the loop of repeating dives and catching fish always rewarding and interesting. there are smaller systems such as mini-games and upgrading equipment in between that make the diving aspect of it fun as it is, even without the other half which is the restaurant part of the game.
Cost of Doing Business
The entire restaurant management sim is its own game cycle in Dave The Diver, which is a complete contrast to its diving component. You’re able to manage your restaurant throughout the day without progressing the game time. This allows you to research your menu, manage ingredients, hire and manage your staff, and decorate the restaurant.
As you open the restaurant for night service, you will serve your guests the best that you can by pouring tea, serving sushi, replenishing wasabi, and cleaning tables. It requires quite a lot of micromanaging seen in the likes of Overcooked, but it’s manageable and definitely fun. You can use your dash function by speeding up your movement speed until the end of service, where you will receive your nightly earnings that can be used to hire staff, research new dishes, and more.
The basics of managing your restaurant is to maintain your menu, which directly ties into the diving aspect explained earlier. It’s dependent on your daily catch, and the rare types of fish you bring, you’ll be able to enhance your sushi grade by using the quantity of the fish caught to increase the quality of your sushi. Researching new menu items will use your non-fish ingredients by creating special menu types to keep bringing guests in and during special days, be prepared for VIP guests who want items off the menu.
Managing and hiring staff in Dave The Diver is also important because as you increase the rating of your restaurant, you’ll receive more customers and that’s more than enough for yourself and Bancho, the sushi chef. Good staff will help you serve more guests and prepare more sushi at the cost of higher upkeep. It’s the same with changing the interior of your sushi restaurant to make it look more chic and increase your likes on the Cooksta App.
Dave The Diver employs some quirky phone apps such as Cooksta, where you can improve the popularity of your restaurant through social media. By getting enough followers and unlocking new menus, you earn accolades, which unlock more slots on your menu and increase your staff members. But the more popular you are, the more you will attract more guests, and VIPs, which then increases the difficulty of Dave The Diver.
What really brings Dave The Diver home is its quirky cast of characters that ropes in the laidback Dave into a turbulent world of characters who want to profit from the mysterious Blue Hole. From your associates: Cobra, the shady business owner; Bancho, the eccentric sushi chef; and Duffy, the weapon otaku; it keeps every cut scene interesting and motivates you to move on to find out what happens next. It’s never a dull moment.
I wish I could’ve played Dave The Diver on a better console as the loading times on the Nintendo Switch are atrocious. The controls also could’ve been better calibrated, especially the shooting. Otherwise, once you get used to the system’s quirks, Dave The Diver is really fun and one of the most unique titles of the year.
What We Liked
- A unique premise that combines the roguelite aspects of dungeon crawling with the hi-octane restaurant management that keeps the gameplay loop engaging.
- A cast of quirky characters and a story that motivates you to keep playing.
- A ton of side activities, crafting, and extra content that doesn’t tire you out, providing hours of gameplay.
What We Didn’t Like
- Nintendo Switch loading times are terrible.
- Controls take some time to get used to.
Verdict: Buy It!
Dave the Diver is a really fun experience with two disparate but complementary mechanics. With its quirky characters and a ridiculous main story that investigates the mystery behind the Blue Hole, it is a great indie game that will keep you engaged through its many mechanics and almost never-ending content until you’re finished with the story or when you’re ready to move on from catching fish and serving sushi.
Dave the Diver is a breath of fresh air for the indie scene, especially for the highly saturated genre of roguelites. By adding the restaurant management mechanic to an enjoyable and addictive story loop, Mintrocket Games has a winner in their hands for the many hours you will drop into this game. If there’s one recommendation I have for Dave The Diver, it is to play it on a PC for better load times.
*Dave The Diver was reviewed on a Nintendo Switch with a review code from the publisher.