A diver looking at 2 whales

Dave the Diver review

Dive for fish by day, run a sushi restaurant by night, and get swept up in adventure in your free time.

(Image: © Mintrocket)

Our Verdict

Charming, deep, and constantly surprising, Dave the Diver is packed with activities and full of heart.

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Need to know

What is it? A spearfishing and restaurant management adventure
Expect to pay: $20.00/£16.99
Developer: Mintrocket
Publisher: Nexon
Reviewed on: RTX 2080, Intel i7-9700K, 16GB RAM
Multiplayer? No
Link: Steam

How it started: Oh, this looks like a cute, simple little fishing and restaurant management game. I bet it'll be great on my Steam Deck. 

How it's going: Oh, this is easily the best game of 2023. I'm routinely up playing until 2 am, even after 30 hours it's still throwing fun and creative new systems at me, and every time I play I'm delighted, surprised, and utterly charmed. 

And, yes, it is great on my Steam Deck. 

In 2D pixel adventure Dave the Diver, you split your time between spearfishing in a colorful patch of ocean and using the fish you catch in the sushi restaurant you manage. It's simple at first: Each day you spend the morning and afternoon swimming around in scuba gear, minding your oxygen supply, impaling fish with a harpoon and reeling them in, and collecting crafting resources and other ingredients like seaweed from the reef. The diving is a delight, mostly a chill and soothing experience with colorful fish darting here and there and kelp gently swaying in the ocean currents—though that relaxing vibe can abruptly turn into a frenzied panic as a sawtooth shark tries to cut you in half or a pelican eel tries to swallow you whole before you escape to surface with your precious haul.

In the evening you put together a menu for your inscrutable sushi chef, Bancho, who makes the meals while you serve a parade of customers in a frantic Diner Dash-style minigame. You can use your earnings to redecorate the restaurant and upgrade your diving gear, and as your restaurant grows more popular on social media you can have Bancho research new recipes, which will require new ingredients, which gives you new goals for the next day's dives. The fishing and restaurant portions of the game feed perfectly off one other, but things don't stay simple for long.

Starfish Valley

(Image credit: Mintrocket)

Nearly every time I sat down to play Dave the Diver it threw a new feature or activity at me. Night fishing opens up the pursuit of new species and turns the once comforting ocean spooky, and new gear like tranquilizers and submersibles give you new ways to catch fish. A staff management system for the restaurant lets you hire and train workers to help out, increasing the amount of customers you can serve and the speed at which you can serve them. 

There's a farm to breed fish so you don't have to rely entirely on daily dives, and a farm to grow rice and vegetables for new recipes, and eventually even an underwater farm to grow different types of seaweed. As soon as you've gotten comfortable with one system, the game throws a new one on top. There's a comfy daily routine to Dave the Diver, but it's constantly growing to incorporate new parts and pieces.

Some weird lady just paddled over to me on a raft and convinced me to enter a mysterious underwater vortex to get revenge on a great white shark.

And that's just a few features sprinkled into the fishing and sushi portion of the game— there's way more to Dave the Diver, which is filled with diverting little surprises that pop up regularly throughout the 35 hours it took me to finish the main storyline. Regularly I set out for a day of catching fish and wound up somewhere I'd never expected to go, like when I followed a cat through the woods in a surprise stealth sequence or when I was roped into solving elaborate switch and mirror puzzles in an ancient underwater temple.

(Image credit: Mintrocket)

A normal night at the restaurant was upended when another chef challenged Bancho to a cook-off and I needed to spend a few days gathering specific ingredients—and most excitingly I actually got to do the cooking myself for a change in an entirely new and fast-paced series of minigames. And then there was the day where some weird lady just paddled over to me on a raft and convinced me to enter a mysterious underwater vortex to get revenge on a great white shark.

That's the wonderful thing about Dave the Diver: you can sit down to do a simple day of diving and have absolutely no idea where you'll wind up. You might abruptly become involved in a speedboat chase sequence or find yourself photographing evidence of an undersea society or in the midst of an unexpected boss fight with a furious jellyfish the size of a bus. There are even moments where you control other characters besides Dave—and in one fantastic sequence you control both Dave and another character at the same time, briefly turning it into a co-op (but still singleplayer) puzzle solving adventure.

I'm also amazed at how often Dave the Diver takes a fun little idea, like seahorse racing, and squeezes every ounce of potential out of it. Because you don't just race seahorses, you can also collect different species and ranks of seahorses, add them to your roster, and even use them together in relay races… so what first seems like just a cute button-mashing minigame turns into Seahorse Racing Manager 2023. 

(Image credit: Mintrocket)

Nothing but net

Tying it all together is the stunning pixel art, with roughly 200 lovingly detailed and animated sea creatures, and characters that manage to be expressive whether they're filling the screen in a cutscene or just wiggling around as tiny little figures on your monitor. 

It's charming as heck and filled with good vibes.

I'm not sure I can describe Dave the Diver as truly "wholesome" since I did spend a fair amount of time murdering sharks and squids with depth charges, grenade launchers, and samurai swords. Plus, one of the characters you meet is a body pillow-loving weapons fanatic (that's who I got the grenade launcher from). But it's charming as heck and filled with good vibes. 

When I finished the final boss at 35 hours in I felt like I'd been on a real adventure, and the ending gently, but genuinely, tugged at my heartstrings. Naturally the game still wasn't done with me yet: even the credits sequence gives you a great new game to learn and play, and you can keep diving and serving sushi even after the main quest is complete.

Dave the Diver is a real treat, the biggest surprise of 2023 and hands-down my favorite game of the year so far. 

The Verdict
Dave the Diver

Charming, deep, and constantly surprising, Dave the Diver is packed with activities and full of heart.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.