There’s big value in legwork, because it’s the work that gets us all the materials and resources we need to do our jobs properly. The developers at MINTROCKET explore a type of lesser-known legwork in Dive the Diver. In this game you’ll plunge into an ocean of 2D roguelite action where you’ll need to dive deep, gather special items, and catch as many fish as you can. When you’re back on land after you’ve done all your diving, you get to take your catch to the sushi restaurant that you manage. You’re challenged to be a good diver as well as a successful restaurateur. But does the combination work?
Who is Dave the Diver?
When the title of a game is a character in the game, it’s sensible to think that the story revolves around them. That’s definitely the case in Dave the Diver, but it’s not as one-note as it may sound.
You play as Dave, a freelance diver who is hired by businessman Cobra who has just opened a new sushi restaurant. Since it’s located next to a diverse part of the ocean called the Blue Hole, Cobra hires Dave as a diver to procure all the varieties of fish within it for the restaurant, called Bansho Sushi. As he dives, he’ll meet the locals and learn that the Blue Hole may hide more than just a wealth of marine life.
Looking Up To Diving Down
As someone who has undertaken a diving course, I can tell you that it is no easy activity, so it can be a challenge to make it fun. The minds behind Dave the Diver have managed to do just that. Despite all the conflict and tension introduced throughout the story, the overall experience never stops being enjoyable.
Even though the Blue Hole is always changing, it always feels serene and relaxing, even when sharks are charging toward you. The act of diving and swimming around is surprisingly relaxing while catching fish and fighting larger creatures feels very satisfying. It’s not long before you get the urge to stay down there as long as you want.
Though there’s been criticism for how swimming and water are handled in games, this one handles it very well. The controls are tight with good coverage so that you can feel confident in exploring further and pushing your limits. The firearm controls are balanced with the Harpoon Gun being your main tool when it comes to fishing. As you upgrade it and aim to catch stronger and larger fish, you’ll have to master several fishing mini-games, which are all quite well balanced.
They’re also affected by the type of harpoon you’re using, which can cause a variety of effects like poison and even chaining electricity. With the other firearms, you have tremendous range in terms of style and ammo which can change up your fishing tactics.
After swimming through a roguelite playground, a shift to a restaurant management game can seem quite jarring, but here it’s introduced effectively. After a brief presentation and going through the basics, you know a majority of the business. You can take as much as you want to set up and then start the customer rush when you’re ready. There’s no holding back with the customers, even at the start. Although at first, it’s manageable to get you into the swing of things, it escalates at a pace that causes you to think strategically and wisely about the restaurant.
You become invested, both literally and figuratively, in making it work because you want to do more and earn more since the restaurant profits are your main source of income. It’s tied directly to diving which requires money to upgrade your gear and craft weapons so you can explore deeper.
Lastly, there has to be some credit given to the overall presentation of the game. Though it’s pixel art, the world feels full with bigger elements being rendered in 3D but it doesn’t clash with the pixels at all. The colors are vibrant and the animations are detailed with each character being distinct. The animated cutscenes are over-the-top, dramatic, and very entertaining to watch whenever they occur. The add onto it, the soundtrack accompanying everything fits perfectly with songs tailored to environments and scenarios which you can listen to at any time in-game.
Doubting the Dive
Even though Dave the Diver does a lot right, there are a couple of things that could let air out of his tank. The biggest is the difficulty with combining timed events with roguelite RNG.
There will be times when you’ll get special guests that will want a specific dish, and you’ll need to find all the ingredients by the time they show up. In order for that to happen, you need to have all the right gear available, and the Blue Hole needs to have an arrangement that lets you reach those ingredients. Since there’s no way to predict what these customers will want, it can be kind of frustrating to depend on the RNG to help you catch up.
There’s also an imbalance between some of the enemies. The game will build up encounters with pirates and giant creatures only for them to be formulaic or easy to power through. After such encounters, they still don’t hold a candle to trying to escape a shark that can down you in a few hits.
Take the Plunge with Dave the Diver
Dave the Diver is a 2D roguelite game about diving into an ever-changing ocean for ingredients to be served at the sushi restaurant that you manage. It has a beautiful presentation that supports the enjoyable feeling captured in both the relaxing and tense parts of the gameplay. The diving and management aspects feel connected while still being distinct and fun to play on their own. There’s so much to do and see, it’ll be very hard to get bored with this game. You just need to overlook some of the timing RNG and some of the encounters not living up to their buildup. If you did meet Dave, you’d want to dive right in alongside him.
Dave the Diver was played on PC with a code provided by the publisher. It is available for download on PC via Steam.