Give Dave the Diver a purchase if you like a good laugh, a relaxing exploration experience, and a colorful cast of characters you can’t help but appreciate. Steam reviewers are loving it, so I think there’s a good chance most of you would too.
- Wonderfully charming art design and characters
- There are several ingenious UI decisions, like the smartphone menu
- Fun components that drip with potential
- Improved depth in the restaurant management portion
- The game could stand to be a little goofier
Dave the Diver is an Early Access combination of Overcooked, Subnautica, and Stardew Valley. You fish by day; you serve sushi by night. While still in Early Access, the game has charming pixel-art graphics, a soothing soundtrack, some really amusing takes on game systems, and a lot of potential. It was such a trip because whenever I thought I had seen it all, it threw something else at me to chuckle about.
I played this game for 14 hours at the time of publishing this review; here are my thoughts.
Firstly, a big thank you to the MINTROCKET team for providing us with a review code. We really appreciate their generosity and hope that they enjoy this review as much as I enjoyed playing the game.
Dave the Diver is certainly one of the most unique simulation/business games I’ve played in recent times. There’s quite a lot to like and, simultaneously, quite a lot to be excited for.
To readers who may be unaware, Early Access is the moniker given to a game that is available for purchase, but that is still under development. This obviously results in a bit of risk because your money has been spent on a product that exists in an unfinished state dependent on a developer’s schedule that you have no control over.
It’s not something to freak out about, but it’s something to be aware of.
The Early Access version allows you to play up to Day 29, after which the timer will not advance.
You play as the titular character, Dave, who is an extremely gifted albeit portly diver.
Dave is dragged from a beach somewhere by his friend Cobra, a former arms dealer, by the way, to come out to the Blue Hole and start up a small independent sushi restaurant. You team up with a master sushi chef named Bancho, and the three of you set up shop to take advantage of this truly unprecedented business opportunity.
There really isn’t much else to go on; while you get brief glimpses into certain characters’ pasts, the game focuses more on expanding an increasingly goofier cast of supporting characters who all seek to deepen your expeditions into the Blue Hole (wink wink).
One thing you will understand very quickly is that this game does not take itself too seriously, and that is a huge asset. Each sub-character has a distinct and amusing personality that shines through in the brief interactions you have with them.
Take Bancho, for instance, a man who strives for perfection and creates sushi as an art form. He is so committed to his craft that he has canonically been fired from a luxury hotel for producing a Sharks Head fish dish that looked revolting but tasted wonderful. An artist is never truly appreciated until they are gone, it seems.
In the same vein, my favorite character besides Bancho is the weapons crafter called Duff, as he is a full-on weaboo and unabashedly so.
He has a body pillow, he has small figurines exclusively of busty anime women, and he looks like he views showers as merely a suggestion. It’s just incredible to think that this is the guy you’re trusting with your arsenal, but that’s the charm of Dave the Diver!
All the characters speak exclusively in gibberish and are only comprehensible by reading subtitles. However, in true showing, not telling fashion, there is more personality in these two-dimensional NPCs than in a lot of AAA studio characters.
Most of the time, your interactions with the characters are when they pop up to provide you with a quest, and that’s typically how the narrative progresses.
A stranger shows up at your restaurant one night, requests a very specific dish, and after whipping it up with the appropriate resources, Dave is able to utilize a new game mechanic, such as hiring additional staff. Or a very drunk farmer shows up, and after giving him what he wants, you can get access to quality rice.
This is a great way to move the plot along without just shoving the player into new mechanics and provides a sense of accomplishment.
There is also a subplot of sorts involving discovering a long-lost village of mermaids/mermen and getting in touch with them, but after a certain point, it is locked until the full version of the game comes out.
So What Do You Do?
Dave the Diver is a game divided into two parts: Diving/Exploration and Restaurant Management.
You get two dives per day (basically until your air runs out) into a MOSTLY ever-changing underwater sinkhole called “the Blue Hole.” This biome has many different types of fish from all over the world, concentrated in a single area.
If you are a One Piece reader (or watcher), consider this Sanji’s ultimate wet dream, that’s the setting of the game.
So how does diving work?
Simple, you get to stay underwater as long as you have oxygen. Your oxygen functions as your health, stamina, and countdown clock simultaneously.
Taking a hit from a predator decreases your oxygen level, as does swimming faster to escape an underwater current. Especially at the beginning of the game, the primary resource you must manage is the time spent collecting ingredients for the customers above.
The other limiting functions are your carrying capacity and diving suit. Your suit will protect you against the depth pressure based on how much you upgrade it, but it will also allow you to mask your presence in the water.
This not only keeps you safe from sharks, but it also allows you to creep up like that dude outside a subway station and harpoon your ingredients in the face without them panicking.
Carrying capacity may seem kinda boring to upgrade, but it is probably one of the most important things in the early and mid-game to have ample amounts of.
In order to upgrade your equipment, you obviously need money, and this is generated by the business.
Being able to catch more ingredients per dive obviously boosts your in-game economy, but if you are carrying too much at one time, Dave will actually swim slower and take up more oxygen to sprint away from danger.
When you run out of oxygen, you lose everything in your inventory sans a single item, and losing a bounty of fish can really set you back, especially in the early days when you are struggling for cash.
As you swim around, you will be able to grab equipment lying about in chests that only last with you for that particular dive. Use them if you got them because you’ll have to find them again on your next run.
These can come in the form of new weapons, new elemental effect harpoon tips, or traversal equipment to help you speed around under the water.
You will only be able to take improved side arms into the Blue Hole after building them with components scrounged on the seabed. I personally like the tranquilizer gun because it allows you to capture fish of higher quality, as they can be scooped up while they sleep.
Higher-quality fish yield more ingredients, and as you might expect, a sleeping fish is more intact than one with a harpoon-shaped hole in them.
While at the beginning of Dave the Diver, the focus is on getting the restaurant up and running; you will very quickly transition into doing side quests for the various folks popping in and out to take advantage of Dave’s generosity.
For example, a man who looks suspiciously like an alcoholic deadbeat Ash Ketchum, provides you with a means to track every fish, and you will get trading cards when you seek out and capture fish in each specific depth subrange of the Blue Hole.
If “gotta catch them all, gotta catch them all” isn’t ringing in your cortex right now, you should watch this.
You will also be given random quests by just exploring the depths. For instance, an octopus keeps shooting ink at Dave, so he understandably gets pissed and hunts down the squishy creature. Eventually, you find the little bastard, and he will unlock a charm that adds a 10% modifier to your damage output.
In another instance, you keep freeing a pink dolphin from nets until you are thrown into a boss fight with the owners of the net, PIRATES!
“Bossfights??” you may ask. Yes, there are bossfights in Dave the Diver.
While neat additions, I didn’t find them all that impressive sans unique introductions screens that seemed almost WWEesque. Defeating these giant creatures/enemies move the narrative along but also provides you with unique resources to upgrade your harpoon and other weapons.
Now that covers most of what you need to know about the exploration aspect, but how about the restaurant?
As discussed, Bancho Sushi is run entirely by the ingredients that Dave pulls out of the Blue Hole. After the first two diving segments of the day, the restaurant is available for business.
You can choose to do a night dive after a certain point in the story, which allows you to catch different types of fish than during the day, but you will sacrifice some time to generate revenue.
In the beginning, it’s just you and Bancho, running a dilapidated restaurant, with the paltry peasantry of the fish world comprising your menu. Seeing as Cobra looks like an absolute dirtbag; he’s obviously not helping out much, so it’s up to you two.
Taking stock of your inventory, you can slot in dishes that customers will order at random based on what is available.
It is entirely up to you what to put on the night’s menu, just don’t forget to do so because if you run out of Bancho’s concoctions, you can only serve basic ass cucumber rolls, and those are nasty.
An important thing to note is that you can produce as many dishes as you have the ingredients for, but you will be asked how many of each you would like to prepare.
This is important to think about because, at the end of the day, you will dispose of any extras you’ve created but haven’t been ordered. Being more judicious about your resource allocation is something you will learn to do very quickly, or you’ll go bankrupt.
As you discover different types of fish, you will quickly be able to see which would net you the best price when sold. Typically larger and more dangerous fish are more expensive due to them being harder to catch and exotic to the average palate.
If you have a surplus of ingredients available, you can enhance lower-quality dishes to improve how they taste (leading to increased customer happiness) and how much you can charge for them without causing a mass protest.
This is a great strategy for small and easy-to-catch fish up near the surface, as you can grab shitloads of them without much hassle.
Speaking of ingredients, for more complicated dishes, you will also need supplementary foods/sauces to create them.
These can be found in chests on the ocean floor as rewards for completing side quests or procured by a staff member. These will also be consumed when enhancing a dish, so keep an eye on what else is using them, or your highest revenue generator may not be able to be cooked.
Managing your menu is all about hitting that right balance of providing just enough to turn a maximum profit while maintaining a solid stash in your back room to remain solvent.
When it comes to actual restaurant service, it essentially becomes a gigantic “squeaky wheel gets the grease” experience where you will be running around to the various icons and doing your utmost to prevent a customer from losing their shit because they waited too long.
Bancho automatically makes the order as fast as he can, but being a man of culture, he does absolutely nothing else.
It is up to you to make sure food is delivered correctly, that tea/beer is poured to the appropriate level, that the dishes are cleared, AND that wasabi is properly stocked.
This isn’t such a problem at the beginning, but when you start trying to make some real stacks of cash, Dave’s big ass clearly can’t do it alone. You will need help.
When you consistently produce dishes of a certain quality, the restaurant will gain social media followers, and upon reaching certain amounts, you will be able to upgrade the standing of the place. This brings you more customers and more money if you can handle it.
Hiring additional waiters and cooks is essential and can be done by putting out various forms of advertisement to the world at large.
A higher investment yields potentially stronger candidates that are not “bound” by your current social media level. In short, if you don’t have clout, you typically won’t be able to hire top-tier employees.
In this Early Access demo, I found having two waiters and two chefs was more than enough to satisfy all my customer needs.
What’s more, you can train your staff to not only get better at their jobs, but they will also be able to develop special skills or give you access to new recipes.
There isn’t much explanation when it comes to how the numbers next to each skill relate to increased employee performance, but based on observation and logic, cooking and serving skills relate to the speed at which these actions are performed.
Procure skill roughly means a higher value leads to an increased yield when you send out a worker to grab some supplies like soy sauce, and “appeal” may have something to do with increased tips/social media rating per dish served.
Again…the game doesn’t explain too much in this regard, so forgive me if this doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Speaking of unlocking more complicated recipes, you will have to stockpile enough of a resource called “artisan’s flame” and spend those to “research” these masterpiece dishes. Artisan’s flame corresponds with how many customers have been satisfied successfully during that particular evening.
After each day, you will get a little summary as to how much profit was generated, as well as what dishes have made you the most skrilla in the past week. Sooner or later, you will identify what your customers are ordering more of and hunt those fish specifically to maximize your returns.
Two other core methods to funnel resources into your restaurant are the fish and rice farms that unlock after whipping up a specific dish for the drunk farmer I mentioned earlier.
The fish farm allows you to store eggs collected from your rampant harpooning and produce an endless supply of fish of that type, provided there are two of the same species in the tank.
If I had spent more time with it, I would only cram these pools full of rare fish like sharks or components for my 300-dollar sushi platter so I could go to the freaking moon in record time. You get nine pools to play with at maximum, so you could absolutely specialize as well if you desired.
The restaurant seems simple, but it’s more complicated than you think; I just wish there was more to it; I’ll elaborate below.
The final thing that needs to be mentioned is the ingenious way in which you track ALL this. Your in-game menu is actually a smartphone (perhaps a OnePlus?) and is by far one of the most charming methods I’ve ever come across when it comes to navigating game systems.
Each specific app is a different mechanic tracker. You have a “to do list” of quests to complete, you have your “farm tracker” that allows you to get a report on when you need to weed your rice plants, and you have your “idiver” upgrade app that allows you to purchase better equipment; you even have a music player that plays tunes from various ocean depths or around the restaurant.
It’s really cute, and this small feature is indicative of what this game represents, keeping it light and fun but still very organized.
Things I’d Like to See in Dave the Diver
I want to be clear that despite this section’s length, I think this game is very fun. It’s an unfinished product that still provides several hours of entertainment and amusement, and the team has done a very good job thus far.
By the time you read this, most of the issues I see may be implemented, and that would be amazing. So keep that in mind that these aren’t criticisms, more like pointers as to what can be improved.
Let’s rename this section as “Things I’d Like To See” because, very much like Dave the Diver, we want to keep it jovial.
My first suggestion is that the component I was most interested in quickly fell to the wayside the further you go into the story; that component is actually managing the restaurant.
Expanding the capabilities of your dives and introducing RPG side quest elements are good, but that’s 2/3 of the game. The remaining 1/3 seems like it could use a little more refinement because, right now, it doesn’t seamlessly connect to the diving portion as I would like.
After a certain point, the only thinking I had to do was “crank out this expensive dish and call it a day.” There isn’t much of a long-term hook in this action plan because why experiment when things are going so well from a monetary standpoint with a singular dish?
I suppose you can argue that the restaurant purely exists to fuel the dive and story elements, but then I think for this game to really excel, they need to shore this up more than any other component.
Even the official Dave the Diver marketing bills the game as an “exploration and fishing during the day, sushi restaurant management by night” setup. It cannot be underestimated that there is an entire subpopulation of gamers who will devour a restaurant simulator with this zany humor, and that includes me.
Here are some rapid-fire ideas that I think would improve the depth of the business portion. I am not a programmer, so I have no idea how hard these would be to implement, but these are just gaps I see in the experience.
1. Increase in Financial Analysis/Customer Trends
I think that merely having a tracker of what sold the most and a very basic graph of your profits doesn’t lend much to strategic thinking.
I would love for there to be long-term sales data and, after some monetary investment, allowing you to talk to an NPC to track consumer trends.
For example, maybe there is a recent news report in this world about how stingray sushi increases performance in bed, so for the next week, stingray dishes are in higher demand for a few days. Sure, I can see what my top earners are, but why are they selling so well? This change would increase immersion dramatically.
2. Marketing Mechanics and Restaurant Signature Dishes
Basically, after a while, slapping the most expensive thing on the menu gets tiring.
Bancho, as a character, strikes me as someone who would want to put some juice into a dish he had been working on, so maybe adding mini-quests where Bancho approaches you with a concept and requires Dave to collect ingredients of a certain caliber for him to cook with.
Then investing money would allow customers to order it more through promotions, advertising, or even through Bancho’s “persuasive” insistence.
3. More Holidays and Unique VIPs/NPCs Visiting
In the Early Access version of the game, there is a holiday involving Jellyfish and the moon.
What that means for you is that during that specific evening, Jellyfish becomes cocaine to everyone in your restaurant. You are notified a few days in advance, and I absolutely loved the preparation for this festival. It requires you to take specific equipment, explore dedicated areas, and make sure you have ample inventory space, all to net a few more jellyfish for the evening.
What’s more, when NPCs attend and request their favorite dishes (or maybe something new), it made the experience transcend into new heights of enjoyment for me. More of this, please.
Let’s get that basement dweller Duff into the restaurant so Bancho can whip him up something that isn’t microwaved hot pockets.
4. Better Explanation of Procurement, Staffing, and Auto-Supply Mechanics
It is entirely possible that I missed it, but I do not recall ever understanding that I could send my workers out to procure ingredients if needed. Apparently, they disappear from your roster for a bit but will resurface the next day (I think) with a random amount of the ingredients specified.
In an extension of this, there really isn’t much explanation as to how the training and rostering of your various staff members occurs. A little bit of detail here would go a long way rather than having the player sift through by trial and error.
On a final note, the auto supply menu mechanic 1000% needs to be better described. It is integral to not waste your resources, especially in the early game, and I had to go on a Steam forum to find out what it actually does.
As written above, you will dispose of whatever you create but don’t sell.
Autosupply allows you to set a dish to always have one created and ready to be served. When that one is sold, you will automatically pull the ingredients, if available, and whip up another one.
The downside is at the end of the day, you will always waste one plate of that particular sushi, but this is miles better than preparing 6 and only selling 3.
It’s a pretty important tactic, but Dave the Diver didn’t explain it well at all.
These are small changes, but the game has plenty of tutorials already, so it should not be too difficult to improve upon these.
5. Tracking Your Ingredients Underwater
Sure, I could write this all out on a piece of paper, but why not give us the ability to do so in-game on our trusty smartphone?
I would love the ability to mark certain fish I’m hunting for, whether to enhance a dish or for dinner service. While it’s obvious which shark I’m fighting based on its features, the smaller fish can look really similar.
6. Additional Bancho Sushi Products
With the sheer level of versatility that something like a vegetable farm/fish farm provides, plus the ability to rack in oodles of cash, there needs to be something else to invest in besides interior decorating.
Bancho Sushi is the only food spot at the edge of this mythical Blue Hole; why not get some merchandise out there? Franchises with your trusted staff members, caviar production, DoorDash deliveries, Bancho Sushi branded rice wine, etc., etc.
I want to do all of this and build up Dave from an overworked diver into a business mogul. The dude seems like he deserves it.
Besides all these ideas about the restaurant, I think another way MINTROCKET can improve Dave the Diver is by getting even goofier.
Hear me out. They’ve already got the classic manga world tropes, and the game is positively OOZING with good-natured charm…..but they should go even harder. A game experience as charming as this needs to be maximized to truly set itself apart from the competition.
A clear way they could do that is by introducing additional crazier weapons.
When you’re diving as Dave, you can grab silly melee weapons like a clown hammer that has the chance to put a fish to sleep, but all your sidearm guns are super serious; the net launcher, tranq gun, grenade launcher are definitely useful, but they don’t quite fit the theme.
You can upgrade these guns with components through Duff’s Weapon shop, but why not just go wild and introduce a gun that shoots piranhas?
What about an underwater boomerang or a projectile boxing glove?
These aren’t essential because there isn’t really something in existence called a “Lightning Rifle,” so we do have to break from reality for a little as is, but my point is such kooky weaponry and items would fit right into this setting.
They should take this and run with it.
Like any good expository piece, we will cap this out with three suggestions, and the last is that I feel the pacing needs to be improved.
I am unsure if this is merely the structure of their Alpha-build game, but I felt like a lot of the mechanics were rushed or not explained so that they could hurry you along to show what else was possible.
It’s partly why I played for probably four hours longer than I expected because I was constantly finding out that there was something else that could be done.
While this may sound like a dream, at this stage, in addition to feeling a bit harried, some of the new content didn’t seem to add that much besides “oh cool, you can do that too.”
Two quick examples:
After you complete a few quests for the underwater village of sea people, you develop enough goodwill to garner the trust of their king, as humans aren’t exactly popular down under the surface.
One such quest is actually a setup for seahorse racing and betting. You can catch seahorses outside in the Blue Hole to race on the tracks. Should your horse win, you get some money that can be used for……playing a deep sea shell game in the mermaid casino?
There isn’t much to buy with sea people’s money, so right now, horse racing is merely a “nice to have,” if you can even call it that.
Likewise, our friend Duff goes into a fever dream one night. In this dream, he is unsurprisingly attending a K-pop concert where the singers are his anime figurines.
You control Duff’s glowsticks, and it becomes a Guitar Hero experience where you match the rhythm of the song with your actions. It’s funny, and I enjoyed the complete shock of having something like this in a restaurant/diving game, but it doesn’t really do much and exists on an island.
Again, if they are trying to show you a snippet of their grand vision, I totally get that! It’s Early Access, after all.
I just want to point out that pacing, as of now, isn’t ideal, and they need to be mindful to spread it out a bit so that players have time to learn what they’ve just been introduced to and have it be meaningful to the rest of the experience.
Conclusion: Dave the Diver is Freaking Cool and Knows What It’s About
This is an exemplary start! I am genuinely impressed with the level of humor and art style that kept me going to the end. The development team seems to be very engaged with improving their product and has even engaged in fan art competitions with their customers.
While the game is a smorgasbord of concepts that need some additional tinkering to fit together, there is no doubt that this is a title made with care and imagination. This is 3.5/5 for the 10-15 hours I played, and I can’t wait to see what it becomes.
Right now, if they continued with the trajectory they are on, in my opinion, the game could be a solid 20-25 hour experience when it’s all said and done. If they can expand the design in a way that keeps the content fresh and challenging as the playtime lengthens, I think they’ve got the potential for double that.
Simply put, I believe in Dave the Diver and MintRocketGames; I’m really excited to see where this goes.
Give Dave the Diver a purchase if you like a good laugh, a relaxing exploration experience, and a colorful cast of characters you can’t help but appreciate. Steam reviewers are loving it, so I think there’s a good chance most of you would too.
Dave the Diver sells for $19.99; It can be purchased from Steam,
Source: Developer Provided Review Code
What I Like: Wonderfully charming art design and characters; There are several ingenious UI decisions, like the smartphone menu; Fun components that drip with potential
What Needs Improvement: Improved depth in the restaurant management portion; The game could stand to be a little goofier