Nintendo Switch Just Added the Most Inventive Indie Adventure of 2023
Women want me, fish fear me.
The idea of “too many cooks in the kitchen” certainly doesn’t apply to Dave the Diver. Despite the way this indie darling constantly throws new systems at the player to the point it’s nearly bursting, none of these get in the way of the other. Instead, the game’s cornucopia of features helps enthrall the player into what would otherwise be a monotonous routine. Roguelike, farming sim, management sim, and more all wrapped into one, Dave the Diver probably checks every box there is and will have something for everybody.
Meet Dave, he is — shocker — a diver. Dave likes to spend his time exploring the waters of a spot called the Blue Hole, and one day, he is convinced to take over a local sushi restaurant as well. So, Dave isn’t just a diver anymore, he is Dave the diver... and restaurant manager. These two jobs make up the game’s core loops.
During the day, Dave makes a trip to the Blue Hole, a diving spot that takes on the properties of a roguelike game. Each day, the Blue Hole has new fish and items to discover within its depths. Dave has a limited supply of oxygen that determines how long he can fish and explore. Over time, players can upgrade Dave’s gear with a larger oxygen tank, a better speargun, and the ability to carry more fish. The diving sections also include threats like sharks and large boss fights. If you fail, Dave will lose his entire haul — excluding one item — for the day.
This is important because the haul Dave brings in during the day directly impacts Dave the Diver’s second gameplay loop — managing the sushi restaurant. In the evenings, Dave returns to run the restaurant and makes a menu consisting of items from the day’s catch. Customers will request meals and drinks that you need to deliver promptly to keep satisfaction up.
While the two mechanics of diving in the Blue Hole and managing the sushi restaurant are complementary, neither gives the player what could be considered downtime. While exploring the Blue Hole can be slower at times, it is full of stress. The player must be conscious of how much they can carry, watch their oxygen, and look out for sharks. The restaurant portions are equally anxiety-inducing, only it’s a faster-paced loop of delivering the proper orders to customers. The differing pace is what differentiates the two, and it’s enough to make the transition between each refresh the player every time it happens.
And that’s only scratching the surface of Dave the Diver. As the player gets a grip on the basics of the game’s two main loops, it continues to add new systems. You can post on an in-game Instagram clone, convince influential customers (like a food critic) to come to the restaurant, hire employees, decorate the restaurant, and complete quests in the Blue Hole for a cast of characters that includes (but is not limited to) merpeople.
As a playthrough of Dave the Diver continues, the list of systems to manage stacks up. The possibility of the game falling apart like a house of cards constantly seems imminent — but it never happens.