New farming and life sim Dinkum takes the cozy island living formula and soups it up with what the genre desperately needed: crocodiles. This Australian-inspired island won't dispel any of the memes about the outback being dominated by wildlife waiting to murder you. Given that, I'll be planting crops and petting the excessively large wombats back in town instead, thank you.
Dinkum launched last week in early access, wrangling a peak of almost 9,000 players on Sunday and earning an "overwhelmingly positive" batch of 95% user recommendations so far. Neither is a small feat for a self-published indie game in early access. Solo developer and Australian local James Bendon says he wants to "recreate a little bit of his childhood magic and nostalgia," with Dinkum's Aussie-based biomes and animals.
As expected based on the launch trailer, lots of players are referencing Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing in their reviews. Those of us waiting for a true AC contender have had a few nice indie games crop up, but still nothing with quite the staying power that Stardew Valley has given the Harvest Moon formula on PC.
"If you love Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, Minecraft, and Harvest Moon, this is a slow moving grind to build a town up from nothing, much like New Horizons," says one player after 10 hours. "You're doing most of the things in Animal Crossing, but with more free-form gameplay from Minecraft and Stardew Valley," says another.
On the grand spectrum of Stardewlikes to Crossinglikes, Dinkum does sound like it falls right in the middle. You'll decorate your house and town to your liking, fish and catch bugs, and invite nine different characters to join your island. You'll also be raising crops and livestock though, from cactus to wombats, and Dinkum doesn't tie you to the real world clock the way Animal Crossing does.
As for the multiplayer, it looks closer to Animal Crossing. Friends can visit your world to help you farm and forage but only the host can earn progress through main quest objectives—something mentioned in most of the negative reviews (and some positive ones) that had hoped for more Stardew-like shared progression.
Dinkum does have some extra twists for those of us well-versed in the life and farming sim loop. It's important to choose the proper location, not just season, for your crops because temperatures are different between biomes like eucalyptus forests and deserts. It also brings foraging activities like metal detecting and ways to zip around like hang gliders.
It's not all sunshine and cactus down here though. Dinkum is based on the wildlife of Australia, and not just the kind you'd want to pet. You'll need to fight or trap crocodiles waiting in the water. And don't forget that kangaroos are actually dangerous too.
Dinkum is still in early access, mind. Bendon says that routine updates will add "new seasonal events, new characters coming to the island, clothing, items, and loads, loads more," and plans for the early access process to last at least a year.
Down under in the user reviews, one player is already ahead of us in the inevitable cash crop grind, saying: "five hours in and I've barely got anything done in terms of progress as I'm too busy trying to earn Dinks." They do recommend it too, despite the dink grind.