I like to play games I can endlessly explore and take my time with, like Vampire Survivors or Animal Crossing, on handhelds. It just feels more comfortable to pick up at any time. Which means when I finally did get to play Dave the Diver, the Switch version felt like a dream for me.
Dave is a diver lured to Blue Hole by his associate Cobra. Cobra and Bancho are opening a new sushi restaurant at an anomalous Blue Hole in the ocean that is constantly shifting and changing. Your goal as Dave is to supply the fish and help in the restaurant to ensure it is a success. However, along the way other people will eventually ask for your help with researching things like the environment or mythical sea people as well. So in so doing, you get to learn more about this strange part of the world.
Because this is both a diving game and restaurant management simulation, Dave the Diver is broken up into two parts. The first is the actual diving into the randomized Blue Hole. This is divided into morning and afternoon sessions, taking up two portions of the three-part in-game day. Each time you dive, the area will be different. However, for quests items will remain in general areas and you’ll see icons and indicators tipping you off to specific items you may need. This is great for accessibility and to keep things recognizable. The same sorts of icons also appear over hostile types of fish, which is yet another boon. All fish can be caught and turned into sushi. Resources litter the ground. Chests can contain equipment or ingredients. The ocean provides.
Dave’s oxygen tank, suit, and carrying capacity all affect how much you can do that run, with your current guns and weapon also determining your starting strength. All of these can be upgraded, as you continue on your journey. I appreciated how quickly Dave the Diver gets you into customizing him and improving yourself. Likewise, I appreciate how the upgrades feel like attainable goals. Even when getting new weapons involves randomly encountering them multiple times first in the Blue Hole, it still feels very manageable.
At night, Dave helps Bancho in the restaurant. Every shift begins with setting the menu based on your “catch of the day,” checking with staff in terms of hiring, training, and placement, and keeping an eye on upgrades and VIP requests. Starting service means Dave works alongside Bancho and any other employees to deliver sushi to the folks that ordered it, poor tea, prepare wasabi, and take part in other tasks for a limited window of time. Performing well results in customers promoting the place on social media and earning points that let you make it a better place. It’s satisfying, again, and the rewards are doled out in such a way that you regularly see progress and get to enjoy watching effort result in better results.
I think what I love most about Dave the Diver is how it doesn’t have too many restrictions in place, so I can really savor each moment on the Switch. Yes, there are some VIPs who want their items now, which results in some side quests having a time limit. But when it comes to everything else, I can take my time and explore the Blue Hole at my leisure. If I want to spend a few in-game days stocking up on fish to improve my sushi, stock up on ingredients, increase my profits, and add to my weapon catalog? I can do that. If I want to spend an in-game afternoon seeing how deep I can go and what I’ll find, that’s fine too.
Though the general presentation also makes Dave the Diver feel pretty incredible too. There’s some fantastic pixel art here, from the character designs, fish, environments, and event scenes. It’s just a lovely game with a lot of care put into it. So when you get these moments where Bancho is upgrading a type of sushi and you see that cinematic or something special happens, it really feels like it carries weight and matters because of that extra art.
There’s only one thing that does get to me, and that’s the mechanics involving the Harpoon Gun. It feels like the controls there could have been simplified a bit. In the Dave the Diver Switch version, it involves pressing a lot of buttons. You need to press and hold A to ready the Harpoon Gun, use the left joystick to aim it, then press ZR to shoot. If the fish you pierce still has some life in it, you then need to take part in a quicktime event minigame to catch it. It’s a lot, and I get why it is the way it is. (Releasing A lets you immediately back out.) It’s just a bit cumbersome in an otherwise very well optimized game. You can fortunately automate the QTE events, so they’ll trigger if you just hold a button, which is a nice accessibility nod and helpful if this does get to be a bit much.
Even though Dave himself is likely in very stressful situations, I find no pressure or duress when playing Dave the Diver on the Switch. It’s just such a soothing and delightful experience. I can take my time diving, dealing with fish and people, and running a restaurant. All the while, I can enjoy the moment. It’s well optimized and wonderful.
Dave the Diveron the Nintendo Switch and PC.
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