Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
Dave the DIver
Developer: MintrocketYear: 2023
When I first sat down to play Dave the Diver I was hoping it would be my new nightly zone-out game. All I really knew was that it was an adventure game where you went fishing during the day and served your catches in a sushi restaurant at night. That all sounded fun in the sort of repetitive and mindless way I was looking for, just a busy little game to play for an hour a night after a long day. Brain off, fingers on.
It didn’t turn out that way at all. Dave that Diver is one of the best games of 2023, in large part because it’s anything but a mindless button-mashing time-killer. Sure, you dive into the same patch of ocean every morning and serve customers the fish you catch every evening, but it’s a game that is unrelenting in its quest to give you something new to do just about every time you play it.
Catching a seahorse eventually leads to a seahorse racing and management game. Meeting a character opens up a farming system for growing extra ingredients. There are stealth missions. Speedboat chases. Collectible cards. Boss fights. Music rhythm games.
Pretty quickly I had so many new activities it felt hard to find time to, y’know, go fishing, which is the main activity of the game. Luckily enough a character I met introduced me to these giant fish-breeding tanks so I could collect fish eggs and start growing my own fish to make up for the days where I didn’t have time to catch fish in person. That, too, led to a new management system as I hatched eggs and collected fish non-lethally to breed higher quality fish to use as new ingredients.
Despite being a casual fishing game it could feel a bit overwhelming. There were times where I simply didn’t want to learn something new. I just wanted to go hunting for shrimp because my restaurant was having a shrimp-themed sushi night. Then something would inevitably happen, like a psychotic “environmentalist” attacking me in a mech suit, or a woman asking me to find the shark that had killed her husband, or a rival chef throwing down the gauntlet of a sushi challenge. I’d sit there staring at the screen thinking, please, please just let me shut off my brain and swim around catching shrimp tonight.
But even when I wasn’t prepared for what Dave the Diver was serving up, I always found myself quickly enjoying it, whether it was being chased through undersea tunnels by an angry ocean god or sneaking through a factory filled with gunmen like I was Solid Snake or solving puzzles with a merman in a long-forgotten temple. Catching shrimp could wait a bit. I was ultimately happy to have something new to do.
There are lots of games that start off simple and slowly introduce new systems and minigames and activities as you play, but typically after five or 10 hours they level off and you’ve learned just about everything you need.
Dave the Diver, wonderfully, never levels off. 15 hours, 20 hours, 25 hours in, it was still throwing completely new stuff at me. Heck, even when I finished the story after about 30 hours, Dave the Diver still wasn’t done: it even gave me a new activity to learn and play during the credits. Truly, it’s a game that never wants you to turn your brain off and mindlessly click.