Game Review: Dave the Diver, a fresh drink of water

Dive into this casual underwater RPG with a unique story and gameplay.

Game Review: Dave the Diver, a fresh drink of water

What secrets does a large unexplored lagoon hold? It is up to you to discover them all. 

In Dave the Diver, you unsurprisingly play as Dave, a guy who loves sushi and diving. When your old friend Cobra calls you up with an offer to combine your two loves, you can’t say no. You meet him on a giant body of water called the Blue Hole. He tells you about an opportunity to run a sushi bar with Bancho, an eccentric but fantastic chef. The restaurant overlooks the Blue Hole, and your job is to supply it with the fish required. 

Initially, the game is broken up into two parts, diving for fish during the day and working in the sushi restaurant at night. However, the Blue Hole is no ordinary lake, and the community knows this. You will often be asked to do research or find certain items in the lagoon, making diving for fish almost secondary. Also, the Blue Hole is constantly changing and evolving. While the basic structure remains unchanged, what you will find on each dive is often quite different. 

After completing a morning and afternoon dive, Dave heads back to the sushi restaurant to serve customers. Dave is also responsible for the nightly menus. As the restaurant becomes more popular, you can hire additional staff, expand the menu or change the decor. Occasionally special customers will come in, asking for a certain dish. Dave will often need to find the ingredients the next day during his dive. If he does, the rewards are often worth the trouble. 

Early on, the game can be somewhat difficult. With limited air, storage for fish and depth you can dive, you might find yourself restarting a level when an aggressive fish attacks. Fish attacks reduce your oxygen, and when it reaches zero, you become unconscious. However, the game does a good job quickly ramping up Dave’s income, so he can afford better equipment. 

The game and the story evolve the more you play. Players unlock resources that help with the mundane elements and allow more exploration. A group of quirky non-player characters provide guidance, support and move the story forward. Resources that make it easier for Dave to meet his quota of fish for the menu also give him more opportunities to explore underwater quests. 

The real story in Dave the Diver is the Blue Hole, and what resides in its depths. Various scientists and other curious individuals hire Dave to explore it for them, while others try to prevent his research. The restaurant funds his diving by providing money for equipment to dive deeper and learn more about the Blue Hole.

Visually, Dave the Diver is beautiful. Swimming around the Blue Hole surrounded by different species of fish and plants is relaxing. The music that accompanies the dive fits well, as it is fun and chill. Suddenly stumbling upon a shark or aggressive fish brings a moment of anxiety, but they often can be avoided if you are not looking for a fight. As the story progresses and you dive deeper to learn more about the lagoon, the visuals and music are even more impressive. The designers do a great job pairing the two for each moment. 

While Dave the Diver excels in many areas, one where it falters slightly are the controls. The controller scheme for aiming and firing your harpoon (as well as your gun, because some underwater creatures are more aggressive than others) is not intuitive. While most games use the left trigger to aim and the right to fire, Dave uses the A button for aiming. Throughout most of the game, the left trigger is unused. Even after playing for a while, it requires some thought, and never really feels natural. 

Dave the Diver is the story of the Blue Hole, and the creatures that live within it. It combines RPG elements, beautiful scenery and a unique story with casual gameplay. It plays great on a Steam Deck, and is a perfect game to pick up and play when you have a few free moments. Controls are annoying and unintuitive, but become tolerable the more you play. Overall, I give Dave the Diver 4.5 of 5 stars. It runs for $20 on Steam, and is worth picking up at that price. The Switch version is available for preorder, and comes out Oct. 26. 

Review Haiku:

Oh the big Blue Hole
What secrets are you hiding
Dave is on the case

Editorial note: the author received a review code for this game.

via How Long to Beat