Why have a game that centers around one gameplay loop, when you can have one that focuses on three different ones? It is an arduous task to make a compelling game on its own, but to have different styles of gameplay be both polished and engaging is nothing short of a feat. This is why developer MINTROCKET has to be commended for their work on Dave The Diver, the latest indie sensation that has taken the internet by storm.
Thrust into a colourful pixelated world, players take the role of the title character, a lovable diver hired by a restaurant owner to jump into the Blue Hole (a deep sinkhole in the ocean), catch as much fish as possible, and serve it as sushi in the evening. It is a simple enough hook, but the deeper Dave goes into the ocean, the more secrets he starts to uncover, from giant creatures to underwater civilizations, with new quirky characters being introduced every few days to keep the story from ever getting stale.
That is the secret ingredient of Dave The Diver. It is a simple game, but never simplistic. Every day is split into two diving sessions in the sea in the morning and one night of managing the restaurant and serving customers. The underwater exploration feels basic enough: use a hook to capture fish or a knife to kill them (as well as recover algae and other useful ingredients). However, after a while, Dave is given a rifle to defend himself from dangerous marine creatures, and then he discovers more guns with different purposes, and then he can upgrade them to add extra features to them, and so on.
Every gameplay mechanic of Dave The Diver works like that, which is ingenious. There is a clear sense of progression, regardless of how well the player is performing in either catching enough fish or keeping the restaurant’s clientele satisfied. If all of the gameplay elements were introduced at once, it would definitely feel overwhelming, but sprinkling them throughout the game, and adding them once every two or three in-game days gives newcomers time to get accustomed to each element.
What is surprising is how fun the whole experience is, lacking the stress and chaos of similar titles that go all in with simulation. The restaurant management is in-depth for those who want to spend much time on it, keeping track of expenses, upgrading meals, and training the staff. Otherwise, it is enough to simply prepare a couple of fresh meals to the menu and hire a waiter and extra chef to be sure that every customer gets their food on time.
Even the deep-sea exploration can be as complex or as simple as the player wants it to be. Each dive is procedurally generated, adding a rogue-lite element to the proceedings, but key areas and landmarks are untouched, making navigation intuitive despite the RNG. Plus, the further the player explores the ocean, the more surprises are unveiled, expanding the scope and gameplay variety in unexpected ways.
Overall, Dave The Diver is well worth its success from Early Access to its fully-fledged release. The humour from the character interactions is infectious (the anime-inspired cutscenes are a treat for all the hard work), the gameplay is highly addictive, and the vastness of the Blue Hole is a lovely place to get lost. The casual nature of the adventure makes it so that both die-hard gamers and those looking for a relaxing experience will have a great time fishing, cooking and serving with Dave.
Copy supplied by the publisher.