DAVE THE DIVER – a diving and restaurant management game about the consequences of not being assertive – is a great fit for the Nintendo Switch. It’s designed around short but involved gameplay sessions with some rogue-like elements, but it’s a casual experience with minimal consequences for failure. There’s a steady sense of progression, both narratively and mechanically, with pacing and level of risk almost entirely dictated by the player. When you couple that gameplay loop with vibrant, expressive pixel-art visuals and an amazing soundtrack, it makes for a surprisingly chill experience ideal for lounging around on the couch or in bed – albeit with longer loading times than on other platforms.
DAVE THE DIVER kicks off when the titular and somewhat out-of-form Dave is lured to “The Blue Hole” – a mysterious and improbably deep tropical lagoon – by a former companion with a shady past. Always looking for adventure, incapable of saying no, and chronically under-appreciated, Dave finds himself juggling daily dives into the ever-changing depths and managing a sushi bar in the evening. An overarching story, which gets progressively weirder with each chapter, unfolds as new characters arrive at The Blue Hole. Some are intent on studying it, others intent on exploiting it, and some just coming for the sushi. One thing they all have in common is making constant demands of Dave.
Now as far rogue-like games with daily loops go, DAVE THE DIVER’s narrative was an unexpected highlight. Each chapter has several missions clearly designed to push Dave deeper and deeper, on the hunt for rarer and rarer items – think components and mysterious relics, fish and ingredients for the sushi bar, or blueprints and crafting material for new gear – but the writing, oddball characters, and frequent retro-styled cutscenes always entertained. Encounters with ultra-competitive sushi chefs and food critics, dodgy ex-military groups, crazed environmentalists, and a secret aquatic kingdom all provide a steady flow of narrative context for your excursions.
Talking excursions, DAVE THE DIVER’s optimal flow involves item-hunt or fishing-based missions during morning and afternoon dive sessions, before returning to the sushi bar in the evening to manage the menu, staffing assignments, and help out behind the counter. Your responsibilities rapidly expand with another restaurant and farms to manage, compounded by no shortage of optional quests and checklist-style busywork – most of which is smartly designed around phone apps you can check any time Dave returns to the boat. Mercifully, there are no time limits on the critical mission path and the increasing difficulty is offset by a steady flow of incremental gear upgrades, new weapon blueprints, new sushi recipes, and the ability to hire and train staff. DAVE THE DIVER rewards caution and efficiency by providing more than enough money to buff Dave’s gear and automate management elements.
That said, while DAVE THE DIVER is a busy game, it never feels overwhelmingly complex with the action playing out on a 2D plane or within intuitive menus. Under the waves, you explore increasingly labyrinthine caves for fish and items, avoid natural hazards and aggressive fish, and test your pattern recognition during multi-phase boss fights that force you to dodge choreographed attacks while lining up your own shots. In contrast, managing the restaurant involves navigating several menus before dashing to and fro serving customers increasingly elaborate sushi dishes, green tea, and beer. Regardless of what you’re doing, DAVE THE DIVER spices up basic gameplay with frequent quick-time events, mini-games, and the odd auto-scroller section.
The rogue-like elements are smartly integrated and never punishing unless you’re playing recklessly and pushing too deep, too soon – but even then, mission-critical items are retained when you’re rescued, so story progression is rarely impacted. Examples include how The Blue Hole changes configuration each time you enter it – albeit with certain regions, species, and resources always found at the same depths; how your oxygen meter doubles up as your health, forcing you to manage diving time, hunt for tank refills, and avoid damage; while gear and consumables brought in from the outside – found in conveniently colour-coded containers – only last one dive, so you need to gather blueprints and craft persistent gear using resources found within. All traditional genre contrivances, but they never feel like an insurmountable roadblock in DAVE THE DIVER thanks to the forgiving progression systems.
Wrapping up, DAVE THE DIVER is well worth a look if you’re a fan of less challenging rogue-like games with a short but intense daily loop. On paper, these rogue-like foundations mean a shifting environment, escalating threat level, and a risk-reward mechanic that might see you lose most of your bounty – but in practice, the player-controlled pacing, charming aesthetics, quirky characters, frequent story beats, and steady flow of impactful upgrades make for a far more chilled experience than you’d expect.
DAVE THE DIVER was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. It is also available on PC.
DAVE THE DIVER (Nintendo Switch) ReviewDAVE THE DIVER (Nintendo Switch) Review
- Short intense sessions perfect for handheld play
- Simple but addictive gameplay loop that pushes you too dive deeper
- Engaging restaurant and farm management elements
- Player-controlled pacing and impactful upgrades offset the rogue-like challenge
- Memorable characters and plenty of narrative context for your actions
- Charming aesthetics and great soundtrack
- Soft visuals and longer loading times on the Nintendo Switch
- Those looking for a traditional rogue-like challenge might be dissapointed