Developer: MINTROCKET, Nexon
Publisher: MINTROCKET, Nexon
Available On: Nintendo Switch and PC
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
WELCOME TO THE SUSHI HUT! - Introduction
I began playing Dave the Diver mere days before my dog, Rhino, passed, so bear with me because this review may be a mess. His labored breathing is forever associated with the gameplay, music, and visuals. I guess that’s apt, though, since when I first saw this game, I felt as indifferent as I do currently. There was an aversion to the fishing premise prominently shown in trailers. Nothing was convincing me that fun awaited, but then I began hearing praises. Now, I can admit when I’m wrong, and judging by the hype, it seems I might be again. Sure, the marketing did little to entice, but there’s no evidence that peer pressure will do me dirty, right?
I’m doing this coverage strictly because of curiosity, but will the cat die?
IS IT SATURDAY MORNING!? - Writing
As a wee tyke, I adored Saturday Mornings and eating endless waffles as I absorbed the latest episodes of Digimon. Dave the Diver hungers to emulate that innocent era of life and nails it. The absurdity is accounted for, as is that Disney Channel snark. It isn’t mature to the degree of being inappropriate, but there’s decent spiciness behind the dialogue. It brought with it a fair amount of smiles and soft chortles. My belly may not have been bouncing due to hilarious quips, but something I reckon is more crucial did occur. My saddened heart felt a blanket of warmth cover it. I felt this strong sense of comfort in the pits of my tum tum. It isn’t easy to articulate, but I felt happy and compelled to continue.
Now, the narrative didn’t surprise me, but I didn’t expect it to. It’s stupid to expect a substantial plot in a romp like this. What we get is as uncomplicated as it can be, seeing the titular Dave being the host of a Sushi restaurant. While doing so, I met some interesting customers, each with a unique personality and, shockingly, an iota of emotional heft.
The main focus is definitely silliness, but a handful of sentiment creeps through. I didn’t crumble to my knees in tears, but it made that particular person feel less like a hollow husk. Sure, it’s a morsel in the grand scheme of things, but it motivated me to fulfill their distinctive orders. Aside from moving the storyline forward, there was a sliver of genuine intrigue.
ALRIGHT, FOOD'S UP! - Gameplay
One of my many pleasures is the time management romps that are commonplace on mobile devices. It’s a good thing, too, since Dave the Diver utilizes their core mechanic. My goal is to deliver food to the patrons of my restaurant in a timely fashion. It’s simplistic, but the engagement that it brings to the table is immense. My eyes were always glued to the screen - concentration firing on all cylinders. I had to be acutely aware of my stamina bar as I ran to ensure it didn’t empty, rendering me sluggish - multi-tasking is a must but isn’t egregious. It provides a quaint challenge, yet there’s assuredly a spike. Eventually, I did struggle as an avalanche of customers rolled in, but to mitigate that, I can hire staff. If you know of Kairosoft, then the execution will feel familiar.
The only difference is I’m Dave's puppeteer, but the employees are automated. They serve without manual inputs and can learn nifty abilities - for example, handling beer is typically a me job, but with training, NPCs can do it. I suggest investing in that, as it’ll be super handy.
If affordability is a question, banish those worries - it’s inexpensive. These folks are cheap floozies until a savant applies, then entitlement rages and wages grow, but it’s warranted. They’re amazing, being speedy at cooking and waiting tables. Their usefulness can’t be understated, especially when they get the talent to fill up drinks. The tutorial is awful for this facet, and I succeeded more on dumb luck. At least with the computer, it’s always perfect. Recruiting had me irrationally stoked - the idea of stumbling on a mysterious peak applicant to further increase my efficiency is thrilling.
STABBY, STABBY! - Gameplay
Dave the Diver’s gameplay loop consists of two parts. I’ve already outlined the first, with the second having me gather ingredients I later use at the Sushi establishment. To get those, my objective is to scour the erotically named Blue Hole, equipped with a harpoon. What leaves me especially chuffed as nuts is how hunting fish mimics RPG combat.
Each one has an invisible hit point bar that, as it hits zero, results in a catch. Penetrating them isn’t the only lethal means at my disposal, though, as guns are also available to build. Yup, there’s a crafting system, and I can construct myself a bang-bang stick alongside a handful of other tools. To do so it requires materials scattered along the ocean floor. While not extensive, I like how it highlights exploration.
Sadly, from an accessibility standpoint, I’m no fan of how aiming isn’t assisted. I have to line the reticule using the right joystick manually. To the Average Joe, it won’t be troublesome, but due to my nerve damage on that same side, it’s an annoyance. Granted, I managed to somewhat adapt to situations, but that extended as far as the docile sealife. If I could take my time, it was a nonissue, but toss in a hostile shark, and I’m dead meat.
Their attacks are fast and furious, making evasion and retaliation tough. My shots were rarely accurate, leading to avoidable frustration as the strikes caused me to run out of oxygen. I suffered what I consider unfair deaths due to panicked misfires. If there were an auto-aim feature I could toggle on or off, it would help wipe such a nitpicky blemish from this otherwise pristine hidden gem.
GATHER THE BENJAMINS! - Gameplay
What makes the world of Dave the Diver revolve goes by many labels - moolah, the green cheese, and paper. Sums of fat stacks are dropped into my bank account at an alarmingly fast rate. I earn that living by, you guessed it, selling fish. Determining their valuation is easy as anything closest to the surface is lesser than whatever’s in the depths.
Of course, getting the best catch also positively affects the overall quality of the sushi. It’s an ingenious way of nudging players to go deeper to avoid stagnating near the surface. By being proactive, I can create a wide selection of dishes. Then, with the profit earned, I can buy an upgraded oxygen tank, dive suit, and other supplies to continue further. It’s a seamless cycle that feeds into itself - it’s so satisfying.
When I began my session, I made the grave error of meandering around the initial 50 meters because I wanted to grab certain types of fish. See, for a set fee; I can level up the sushi that specific kind provides. Doing so elevates the taste and, by proxy, tip frequency. That’s crucial to consider, as improving the build of my restaurant depends on hooking followers and likes on social media. If my clout stinks, I ain’t seeing numbers.
Not only that but with every uptick, I start to see fresh clientele walking in. I have to balance cooking a mix of new and older delicacies. In that way, I suppose it isn’t farfetched to claim there’s a modest bit of strategy that, at first glance, isn’t obvious. Thankfully, many options exist, meaning that constantly hitting the depths is supported.
ROLE-PLAYING DAVE! - Gameplay
If you were to ask why I resonate with Dave the Diver, despite the circumstances surrounding it, it’s the RPG DNA. Traversing the semi-open waters and locating items, blueprints, and ammo made searching every nook and cranny rewarding. I’m egged on to do so, too, with oxygen tanks randomly dispersed throughout. It gave me the means to remain underwater without needing to emerge for air. It allows me to enter the dark abyss where, sometimes, a side-quest objective may be waiting.
Any aimless wandering is negated due to clearly depicted waypoints. Tedium is essentially absent, with the only real presence being self-inflicted - the repetition I felt was due to my refusing to progress and hanging out at the start to grab fish.
THE WATER'S COLD, GUYS! - Performance
Because of the wonderful pixel aesthetic, I didn’t anticipate any problems. For a healthy bulk of my hours entrenched in the ocean, there’s nothing. Framerate had a peanut butter smoothness to it, and button responsiveness was snappy. Yet, I still suffered a soft-lock during my session. The UI just vanished, forcing me to shut down Dave the Diver before rebooting and fixing itself. I couldn’t repeat it, though, telling me that maybe it's connected to overheating. If so, perhaps that’s what occurred when it also chose to crash. Luckily, the auto-save function is generous. I never lost much time and could jump right back in. Both incidents were rare, as well, as in my 28 hours, they were the only ones.
THAT'S UNEXPECTED! - Presentation
Without question, the best part of Dave the Diver is the short cutscenes that play at certain points. There’s no way of describing and doing them justice. It might not have had me rolling, but they tickled me sufficiently, especially the one centering around being a Weeb. It’s glorious, and you can tell an enormous amount of passion was tossed into this project from how crisp the animations are.
Speaking of, when talking, character portraits will make the slightest of movements that accentuate the Saturday morning cartoony feel. It also adds a ton of charm. It went far to make this universe feel lively. It’s because of them, as well as the scenes, that so much character was injected into this game, helping it stand out.
WOAH, WHAT A THUMP! - Sound Design
The score perfectly fits the atmosphere of Dave the Diver. See, when I think about water, my head immediately likens it to tranquility. I want to listen to soft instrumentals while gliding amongst the manta rays and barracudas. I get exactly that, but when I throw on earbuds with bass capabilities, I also get a treat. The beats pack a modest punch, bringing the music to life. Even now, I hear the song that plays while in the Blue Hole. It sucks that I’ve tied it to my dog, sullying it, but I can still recognize how well-done it is. Maybe one day, I’ll truly appreciate it. There’s no disputing how it matches and is the bow on a superb package.
AND THE DEEP SEA VERDICT...
Dave the Diver surpassed my every expectation, proving to be sublime. I had no clue that the adventure awaiting me would be so magical. After 28 hours, new content is still being heaved at me. None of these mechanics will be innovative, but their genius lies in their simplicity. I was astonished at how so many genres were squeezed into this game. Yeah, they’re watered-down versions and stripped, but the fact they exist and nothing feels shoehorned is a testament to the care devoted by the developers. It makes sense I’m harvesting crops or breeding fish in a sushi simulator.
This title has no right to work as well as it does, but it does. Without a doubt, Dave is the best sort of addiction.
DAVE THE DIVER IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Special thanks to the Publisher for the review code used for the purposes of this coverage