Dave the Diver Review - Screenshot 1 of 4

If Dave the Diver proves anything, it's that one shouldn't make judgements based on appearances. Not only does the loveable lead character exceed the expectations of his cohorts at every turn, but the game itself goes well beyond what it looks like. At a glance, this is a charming adventure about exploring the sea, catching fish, and running a sushi restaurant. It is all that, but it also refuses to settle, constantly evolving the experience in surprising and compelling ways.

It all begins with a strong core loop already in place. Every time you dive into the mysterious Blue Hole, its layout and the marine life within it will be slightly different. It's your job, armed with a harpoon and secondary weapon, to catch various fish species in order to then serve them up in the nearby sushi restaurant. Only open during the evenings, this side of the game is a management sim of sorts, as you place dishes on the menu, enhance them to earn more money, and serve the customers Diner Dash style. The cash you earn from the restaurant can be spent on upgrades for your diving equipment, letting you catch bigger, more dangerous fish, stay underwater for longer, and go gradually deeper.

For most games of this ilk, that would be enough; the two halves of Dave the Diver work wonderfully, perfectly feeding into each other as you discover new creatures beneath the waves, research new dishes, and explore the Blue Hole more deeply. However, it doesn't take long before this simple, addictive cycle is supplemented with more layers, and it's this commitment to broadening the game that makes it stand out.

Soon, you'll be able to hire and train staff for the restaurant. Guns found in the water become blueprints so you can craft them permanently. You'll get a camera to take photos at certain spots, earning you a little extra money. Special events and VIPs will demand specific foods on certain days. Nighttime dives are introduced, letting you catch nocturnal species at the cost of a shorter night at the restaurant. Collectable cards, boss battles, new diving gear, minigames galore — the game is never sitting still. The good news is that every addition — and there are far more than we've mentioned — makes perfect sense and enhances the overall experience.

Dave the Diver Review - Screenshot 2 of 4

These extra complexities are added at a fair pace, but it doesn't feel overwhelming at any point. It's an impressive achievement, because the game becomes so dense with features by the end, and you'll barely notice. We will say that some aspects of Dave the Diver aren't particularly well explained, or not touched on at all, leaving us scratching our head on occasion. However, most of the game's systems are simple enough that the short tutorials are sufficient.

Running hand-in-hand with this gameplay evolution is the story. Similarly, it starts off small as Dave, business guru Cobra, and renowned chef Bancho work together to start a sushi restaurant beside the ever-changing Blue Hole, but things escalate quickly. New characters are folded in fast, whether it's Dr. Bacon and his research into the mythical Sea People civilisation, weapon expert Duff, or the strangely antagonistic environmentalist John Watson. Whether they play a big or small part in the game, each new face is given a lot of personality, especially if you take the time to go through all the side missions.

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What adds to this is some brilliant presentational flair. The art style combines pixel art sprites with colourful 3D environments and it's very visually pleasing, but we have to give a shout-out to the amazing cutscenes peppered throughout. These capture the characters so well. Duff's love of anime is ever-present as he builds new weaponry; VIPs fed the dishes they request have their minds blown by flavour; and Bancho will quickly become a favourite as he stoically hones his culinary craft in badass form. Dave the Diver throws buckets of personality onto its growing pile of ideas.

It's a bit of a miracle that it all hangs together as well as it does. The simple fun of exploring underwater regions and catching new fish is never lost, and the consistent extra features complement the core loop and stop it from becoming too repetitive. Some additions are better than others, of course, but by and large it all feeds back into the diving and the restaurant in some fashion, meaning everything has worth even if some parts are less well executed.

It's certain parts in the main missions that are of slight concern. Often there are unique events, puzzles, minigames, or encounters throughout the story, and while they all keep things fresh, it's not all made equal. Aggressive fish can be a pain to fend off if you're caught out; some boss fights are fiddly affairs, especially with your limited aiming angles; and one particularly fussy puzzle had us questioning our sanity for a moment. Any frustration is short-lived, though, and frequent autosaves mean you'll never lose much progress if you fail.


Dave the Diver, like the sea, is far deeper than you think it is. It charms with its attractive visuals and addictive loop of diving for fish and running a restaurant, but it never rests on its laurels, always finding new ways to enhance the fun. There's never a dull moment, whether it's a whole new feature expanding the gameplay, an unexpected new story beat, or another hilarious cutscene to enjoy. It's this constant reinvention and surprise that makes the game so compelling, even through the occasional rougher moments. If you've yet to experience it for yourself, we'd highly encourage that you take the plunge.