Dave is a diver: a powerful deep-sea swimmer – despite, or maybe because of, his rotundity – who has been summoned overseas to work for an entrepreneur who plans to open a beachside sushi restaurant. Dave’s task is twofold. He spends his daytimes beneath the waves catching fish for the restaurant’s earnest and dedicated chef, Bancho. Then, in the evening, Dave waits tables, delivering sushi, pouring green tea and pestling wasabi for impatient customers. What starts out as an agreeable foray into a simpler islander lifestyle soon unfurls to form a complex simulation that combines the joys of deep-sea hunter-gathering with start-up business management: two halves of the game that quickly form an irresistible whole.
Fish, all of which are real-world species, are caught in several ways: either by aiming your harpoon gun and, after a struggle, reeling them in, or by hitting them with weapons or tranquillisers. At first you can swim to a depth of only around 40 metres with limited oxygen and cargo space; but as the restaurant becomes profitable you are soon able to upgrade and expand your equipment to facilitate deeper, longer, safer dives. In the restaurant you must choose which dishes to place on the menu – a range that expands as you discover more exotic fish – and attend to the needs of the clientele whose online reviews can help or hinder your mission.
This is demanding work, but the game’s distinct but complementary loops of playful labour are highly compelling. The satisfaction of completing a challenging dive without needing to be rescued, then watching the rave reviews on “Cooksta” pour in, is profound. Stylish, witty and exquisitely designed, Dave the Diver uses several hooks to achieve its goal, while establishing the relationship between the food we eat and the world from which its harvested with useful urgency.