Dave The Diver is an indie action-adventure title developed and published by South Korean Studio Mintrocket. The title follows the titular Dave as he dives into an ever-changing stretch of ocean known as the blue hole. Dave’s goal is to find unique fish in order to serve at his sushi restaurant. Lets dive into the accessibility of Dave the Diver.
Controls present accessibility challenges
While it is billed as an action-adventure title, the truth is Dave The Diver is a horse of many colors. It is a game that I would best describe as Abzû meets Stardew Valley due to the management aspects. However as good as that combination sounds I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this game for players with motor function impairments.
For starters, the Crosshair system used in the game is unusual. Rather than allow you to aim through the crosshair of Dave’s gun, players are presented with an arrow. This arrow only moves in a vertical direction and the distance the arrow can move is very limited. If the target is directly over or under Dave, he can’t hit it at all. This is done in such a way because the game plays like a side-scroller so it’s an understandable choice. It does make it difficult to gauge exactly where Dave’s Harpoon will end up when you fire.
No toggles for holds
Were this not already difficult enough, players must hold X (PlayStation) or A (Xbox) in order to ready the harpoon. This allows Dave to focus, but having to press both buttons simultaneously is difficult to do and physically taxing. It’s a shame that there is no option to set aiming to toggle. There is currently no button remapping, so no way to set both aim and fire to face buttons to make it easier.
Successfully spearing a fish will activate a mini game where once enough damage is done, Dave will attempt to reel in the fish. In this mini game a button must be rapidly pressed, filling a meter to get the fish. At launch the game had no way to change rapid presses to holds, but an update includes that feature.
Dangerous fish requires fast movement
Shooting non-aggressive fish is difficult enough, but once you start encountering things like sharks and lionfish it becomes even more difficult. Players must avoid incoming strikes and then attack when the fish is vulnerable. Because Dave must readjust his aim with each movement it makes doing so nearly impossible for motor impaired players. I couldn’t do a mission, catching a shark for a certain type of sushi, without enabling invincibility with a cheat engine.
Similar problems pop up when Dave becomes more successful and begins to serve larger groups of customers. Each customer has a patience meter that fills up, often too rapidly, causing the customer to leave in frustration. The aforementioned shark mission rewards you with the ability to hire extra staff to help serve more quickly. But if you are unable to dodge the shark attacks how can you get the required ingredients? Should Dave be killed or run out of oxygen, he’ll lose everything he has acquired on that dive except one player-selected item. He’s only permitted two dives before having to return to shore and serve customers.
No difficulty options available
By default the game offers no difficulty so there is no way to reduce the amount of damage Dave receives. These dexterity intensive situations permeate every aspect, and include tasks given by NPCs. Such as defeating a comically oversized crustacean with boxing gloves. Helping an old woman kill the shark that took her husband during a storm. Starting a fish farm so you can produce higher quality fish, or a traditional farm to make Sushi with vegetables.
These are just a few of the activities that can be done. I won’t spoil the rest but this title has so much more than meets the eye. Using the farms themselves doesn’t require dexterity. But because you have to face aggressive fish to unlock them it’s not a good way to avoid combat. Where in Stardew Valley you could avoid combat almost entirely to focus on farming, still making a sizable profit.
The grind for upgrades
Upgrading Dave’s equipment does make him more resistant. But the amount of grinding required to make him resistant enough to kill a shark without dodging is very exhausting. So I can only recommend Dave The Diver to the most tenacious of motor function impaired players willing to push past the lack of accessibility here. There is also a mini game involving cutting open doors, which may prove difficult and is unskippable. Given Mintrocket’s track record with updating the game, there is hope for a future update to include an easy mode. This could have Dave take less damage, and customers have more patience. Perhaps it will also make auto-complete possible for other activities like removing the giant boulders later in the game, and the aforementioned door cutting. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s good to see the developers are making an effort to rectify shortcomings.
As far as visual accessibility is concerned I do believe that Dave The Diver may prove difficult for colorblind players. The different fish all have a variety of color patterns that some players may not be able to see. Players with tritanopia are of particular concern as most of the game takes place in the ocean and there are no color blind options to speak of. However larger fish are identifiable by their shape.
There is no voice acting and all of the dialogue is presented in white subtitles against the blue background. They do a good job of highlighting important objects in yellow and other colors but their size cannot be adjusted. Despite this, I don’t think reading subtitles will present problems because the default size is fairly legible. The background fades when a character speaks in a way that won’t interfere with readability.
There’s a lot to enjoy here if you’re willing to jump through a few hoops. For example, there is a mission where Dave is tasked with removing a specific pile of rocks but is never guided in the correct direction. In another he is tasked with finding a lost baby whale but never given a hint of where to start. In situations like these a map would be very useful but it currently does not have one. It’s a small inconvenience because most other missions do have clear instructions. It would be a good quality of life improvement.
Lastly objects that Dave must retrieve in order to complete objectives are highlighted with a blue diamond. Thankfully this does not blend in with the blue background, so it shouldn’t be an issue for the visually impaired.
Audio is not required
Hard-of-hearing players should not have any trouble with the accessibility of Dave The Diver. Hearing is not required to enjoy the game. Later on in the game a system involving finding rare fish will unlock, where haptic feedback is provided, intensifying the closer you get to the correct fish. So even those with auditory disabilities should not struggle here. All of the dialogue is written on screen and is legible, so it should be a breeze for hard-of-hearing players. Speaker tags identify those who are speaking, and as mentioned earlier objects of note are highlighted in different colors.
Dave The Diver is a game that has incredible variety, that it does so many things well and still makes an effort with accessibility is impressive. While there are a few things that could use improvement, I’m hopeful these will be addressed in the future. Much like the ability to change rapid button presses to holding was added post-launch. The sheer variety of available activities make it worth giving a try, even if players struggle to do so.