Dave the Diver is out on Nintendo Switch, which is a very good thing for Nintendo fans, because it’s one of the best roguelikes in recent memory. It came out in early access last October on Steam (almost a year to the day) and quickly became a firm favourite on Steam Deck. It certainly did in my house, anyway.
It’s a game of two interconnected parts: the titular diving half, in which Dave dons a scuba suit and explores a semi-randomly generated ocean in order to catch fish, gather resources, and find quest items, and the restaurant sim half, in which Dave plays waiter in a shorefront sushi restaurant where his morning’s bounty is served up fresh every day for its sophisticated clientele.
Along the way, you’ll encounter NPCs who enlist your help with their ocean research projects, which is worth doing for extra cash, but this also takes you through an excellent main quest that involves the study of an ancient sea people and the remnants of their civilisation that are strewn around the ocean floor. On its own, the action adventure portion of this game would be worth playing, as it would the surprisingly in-depth restaurant sim. The fact that they work in tandem here to keep all the different bits of your brain lit up is its genius.
It’s the best kind of Indie game, in that it’s a nicely polished experience that does a lot with very little and ends up being much more than the sum of its parts. Through a combination of striking pixel art, superb (and genuinely funny) writing, memorable characters, developer Mintrocket elevates a dependably moreish roguelike setup into something truly special. It doesn’t ever feel like a vending machine, nor is it light on compelling reasons to continue: which, to my mind, makes it miles better than the vast majority of games in this genre. Every time a popular new roguelike (rogue-ish?) comes along, someone always insists that this, finally, is the one to win over people who have bounced off the genre before. Well, this is my one of those. My Hades. My Binding of Isaac. Except it’s nothing like those, it’s just too darn nice.
And it’s a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, because as any Steam Deck players can attest, Dave the Diver works wonderfully as a handheld game (and it’s about as technically sophisticated as a snorkel, so the Switch shouldn’t have any issues running it nicely). I’ve been swapping between the Deck and my desktop with it, via magic of cloud saves, for months now, and it’s one of those rare titles that feels perfectly suited to big or small screens, never feeling compromised whether scaled upwards or downwards. One of the most Switchy games that ever Switched, then.
In this bountiful year of excellent games coming at us from all sectors, it takes something truly special from the Indie side of things to cut through. Dave the Diver would be a hugely standout game in any other year. It’s a sensation for a reason, and the more people who get to experience it the better.
In case it’s not clear, I really really love it. Case in point, I put it on for five minutes to grab some screenshots and ended up getting sucked into it for like, an hour. Don’t tell Dom.