Dave the Diver: Review
This game was reviewed on PC.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov
At the start of 2023 I'd have never suspected that a 2.5D indie game would ever be in the same conversation as bigger titles releasing in the same year, yet somehow…this absolutely magical adventure has left me incredibly satisfied. There's just something here that most games nowadays lack – and it's called heart and soul. DAVE THE DIVER has exceeded every expectation I ever had about it AND then some.
The game seems incredibly simple at first glance. You play as an overweight diver who along with his friend Cobra goes to the newly found Blue Hole, a pit in the ocean, where the ecosystem changes daily due to unknown circumstances. However, that's pretty good for business – so you start working with a sushi chef called Bancho and run your own restaurant at night, while harpoon hunting during the day. And although that is the main premise of the game and stays that way until the very end, there is much to be discovered here, namely the main story and side missions.
Before talking about the story, I need to mention the absolutely undisputed best aspect of the game – the characters. Each and every single one of them has a distinct personality, and I found myself remembering most of the cast's names, which happens only when I'm very invested in them. The protagonist is your lovable, helpful and quite oblivious Dave, Bancho is the incredibly serious over-the-top cooking master, Duff is an anime-loving overweight incel who is incredibly talented at making the best guns in the world, and so much more. I could go on and on and on…every character is likable in their own way. Not just humans too – there are some friendly animals you meet along your adventure and of course, you get attached to them as well. So much heart was put into the making of each and every living being here, so much soul into their writing, and so much creativity into their cutscenes. These things absolutely carry the game. That's not to say the rest is bad at all though.
I won't be spoiling the story at all here, you should check it out for yourself. But it keeps the sense of danger that every underwater exploration game has, while mixing it with the light-hearted tone of the rest of the game. You meet a Doctor who wants to explore the Blue Hole because he believes there are Sea People living there – mermaids from Atlantis, essentially. He needs your help to uncover the mysteries of this small, yet beautiful part of the ocean. I won't say much more, because my explanation wouldn't be doing the story justice.
But of course, what's a game without its gameplay? The videos may trick you into thinking that just swimming around and harpooning fish for your restaurant while fighting off sharks with your underwater sniper rifle is all there is to it. That couldn't be further from the truth. DAVE THE DIVER does something most games do not – it constantly changes and introduces new things, therefore eliminating any sense of repetitiveness that other titles suffer from. There are several DOZENS of mini-games that are so incredibly unique it's insane how they're cramped in this little 20 hour adventure – farming simulator, fish breeding simulator, cooking dishes, seahorse races, stealth missions, following the rhythm to an anime opening, Matching Pairs with underwater creature cards, riding a beluga whale and SO MUCH MORE. I've barely even scratched the surface of the mini-games and side missions – that are honestly, just as essential to your experience as the story, if not more. Also the bosses are all very different from one another and are very fun to fight, with one or two of them proving a real challenge, while other were relatively easy. I can't stress this enough, this game is jam-packed with content, and you'll never get tired of it.
The performance of the game was also excellent, and swimming while looking at the gorgeous environment and listening to the soothing tracks of the sea is just as fun as it is in Subnautica. But it can't be all sunshine – and here is where my one and only gripe with the game comes from. In a very specific part of the story you have to control two characters at the same time – which is hard enough to do by yourself, and no, my brother wasn't at home to help me. But even if he was, the second character has to interact with objects with the right control button (RCtrl). Well, as it turns out…not every keyboard has that button! Especially laptops (such as my own HP Omen 17) so for that 15 minute section, I had to either use the Win+LCtrl+O command for the digital on-screen keyboard, or plug in an actual PC keyboard which has the button. I know, VERY specific problem, but it's one some users like me may face! So if you don't have RCtrl on your keyboard, prepare for a difficult section towards the end of the game!
All in all however, it's hard not to love this game. With the amount of passion that went into making this aquatic adventure ever-changing, you never get bored. The game is still new, so the developers over at Mintrocket have the ability to change what's problematic – which isn't much to begin with! At the end of the day, DAVE THE DIVER is a must-play experience for every single lover of the ocean genre and is a strong recommendation for players who want a fun and truly special trip to the depths of the Blue Hole.
Reviewed by: Nikola Hristov