Dave the Diver Review - Low Pressure Diving
Updated: Oct 4, 2023
Dave the Diver is a laid back game about diving into a semi-randomized ocean trench in order to catch loads of exotic fish to supply a sushi restaurant. Or, at least, that's what it is at the beginning. Dave will still be a diver at the end of the game, but along the way he'll end up moonlighting as a waiter, a farmer, a gambler, and many, many other things. There have been plenty of games over the years that start with a ridiculously ambitious concept and only implement half the systems you'd expect, but Dave starts with a very simple concept and dumps an MMO's worth of subsystems on top of it. There's no denying that it's unique, but does it work?
The early systems certainly do. Diving has a whiff of roguelite about it since the things you'll encounter are slightly different with every round and you're forced to find most of your equipment in the water. The first biome mostly has your standard tropical fish that you'd expect from a glance at the game, but you'll find more interesting encounters as you go deeper. Although the diving gameplay is largely the same from start to finish, boss fights and one-off encounters shake things up occasionally. It does feel pointlessly restrictive that some of the boss fights can only be done on a specific day, especially since you're allowed as many retries as you want, but none of them are hard enough for that to be a huge issue. Outside of some tedious puzzle sections about 80% of the way through the game, the diving is consistently enjoyable.
The restaurant is similarly mostly solid. There's almost no depth to it, but it's satisfying in the same way that old Flash-style time management games were. You pick some fish to use as sushi ingredients for the night and then spend the rest of your time running back and forth between customers and the kitchen to deliver their food or server them drinks. You can hire staff to be able to handle more guests or prepare sushi more quickly, but in either case you're really just spending money to make the game play itself faster. A very late side quest introduces a Cooking Mama-style minigame that I wish had been used more, and I'd also have liked to see decorations have any kind of discernible effect. Buying them feels very wasteful when they don't obviously do anything and the game constantly wants your money for more impactful items.
The systems introduced later in the game are a mixed bag at best. Most of them fit a pattern of being basically fine, but not terribly fleshed out and collectively tedious. You'll have three different farms producing five different kinds of resources by the end of the game, but each of them basically amounts to spending money and then waiting to get the outputs. Any seahorses you catch can be used for racing, but that's just button mashing where you'll win easily as long as your stats are decent. Many of these systems are also extremely grindy. You can improve sushi recipes to boost their stats, for example, but doing this requires spending increasingly huge amounts of fish meat for each level. Similarly, prices to upgrade your farms or equipment escalate quickly and have many levels, so even with an efficient restaurant it can take quite a while before you're able to make relatively marginal improvements. And don't even get me started on the stealth level.
In the end, Dave the Diver is a game that would've benefited greatly from more focus and a shorter run time. It has several solid systems, but they wear thin before the game's 30 hour run time is up. The bucketloads of shallow minigames and side activities it dumps on you can't make up for that. I was expecting to give this as high as a 90% early on, but that had to drop significantly as the game went on and on and I stopped caring about most of what it was doing. You may have a better experience if you have a high tolerance for grinding or ignore side activities in order to finish the game more quickly.
Time to beat: 30 hours
For more reviews, see my Steam curator page: https://store.steampowered.com/curator/43219041