Steam is a vast ocean of games and only a select few really make it to the top. Every now and then, though, a smaller indie gem makes its way to the surface and emerges as a smashing success. We’ve seen this before with games like Between us, Hero of the cycleAND Valheim, but this summer’s surprise hit is making a big splash. I mean, when was the last time you saw a 2D fishing game earning more concurrent players than Call of Duty? This is exactly what is happening with Dave the Diver.
DAVE THE DIVER | Official launch trailer
Developed by Mintrocket, Dave the Diver is a unique fishing RPG that has achieved overwhelmingly positive status on Steam with over 20,000 reviews. While it may seem like something that came off the pitch, the indie is actually an Early Access success story, as Mintrocket has been slowly building the project together with fans since it launched in 2022. A big 1.0 release at the end of June pushed the promising project over the top and made it a real hit with PC gamers.
So what makes Dave the Diver so special? There’s a lot to love about this summer blockbuster.
Dave the Diver is a unique blend of 2D adventure, submarine RPG and sushi shop simulator. Think Here is the dolphin meet Diner Dashthough even that doesn’t paint a full picture of its wealth of creative and addictive gameplay hooks.
The basic premise is for players to assume the role of Dave, a diver who is tasked with gathering supplies for a seaside sushi shop. During the day, he dives into the ocean to harpoon fish and gather ingredients. That part plays out kind of like Steamworld Dig, where players grab what they can carry and bring it back to the surface before their oxygen runs out. There’s good old-fashioned risk-reward there, as wiping out means abandoning almost everything. Though that healthy stress is offset by almost zen-like underwater exploration, while lo-fi beats and colorful pixel art turn every ride into an enjoyable vacation.
Each night, Dave then takes those materials to a sushi bar and is in charge of managing the dinner turnout. Players create a menu every night, serve impatient guests as quickly as possible, and try to raise the reputation of the shops to unlock more recipes and features. It’s a classic restaurant simulator premise, complete with a few small service minigames and an eventual staff management component.
These two ideas work together like a well oiled machine. Scuba diving gives Dave fish that he can turn into sushi, which can be sold to upgrade his scuba gear for more fruitful runs. It’s a tightly wound progression cycle that makes every day and every night productive. And this is also only a small part of his gratifying loves of him. Diving can also reveal weapon blueprints that can be built and upgraded on Dave’s boat, bracelets that give him passive boosts, research tasks that bring their own rewards, and much more. He is constantly introducing new systems without overcomplicating his elegant sea-to-table core.
That design philosophy also runs through its history, which is equally multi-layered. What begins as a simple tale of the comeback of a rundown restaurant expands as Dave meets activists, battles pirates, and uncovers the secrets of a lost underwater civilization. It may sound a little messy, but all those threads neatly come together to paint a complete picture of the inner workings of his world.
The only narrative piece that’s got me thinking so far is its way of waving away some of the moral questions of a game about killing thousands of fish presents. An early story thread sets some boundaries, separating Dave from what the game paints as a significantly more damaging commercial fishing industry. It’s a little difficult to separate the two, however, considering the basic progression hook is built around Dave’s ability to kill and carry more fish as time goes on. I’m still working on the main story, so I’m yet to see if there are a lot more nuances, but that thread already seems to take a back seat to a merman fantasy story.
Regardless of how well it attacks me upon landing, Dave the Diver it has already become my July obsession. It’s the perfect summer game to take on the go this holiday season, as it runs flawlessly on my Steam Deck. If you’ve heard the name but don’t know what the hype is, don’t be afraid to dive in. The waters are more than beautiful.
Dave the Diver is now available on PC.
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