Review: Dave-Man is better than The Last of Us

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Lou Bagel

May 16, 2021

A Dave-Man review just came in that I got excited about and wanted to share! Sharing some fun quotes at the top of this blog post but then I start opening up and getting deep about the game...

Dave-Man Review from Hidden Machine Gaming, with pixelart characters of the Hidden Machine Duo
The dudes from Hidden Machine

New Dave-Man Review

New review of Dave-Man is in!

Final conclusion? (spoiler alert)

Dave-Man is better than The Last of Us

— Hidden Machine Gaming, YouTube

Wow! Did not expect that!

Followed by:

I think Naughty Dog should take some pointers from Dave-Man and Lou Bagel.

— Hidden Machine Gaming, YouTube

Wow again! I feel like a celebrity now!

Don't believe me? Check out the review:

What I actually enjoyed about this Review...

The comments about The Last of Us come at the end and I'm not sure if it is more of a joke, exaggeration, or - as honestly I haven't watched their content before this and so don't know what they like - maybe they don't like The Last of Us, ha.

I'll use those quotes to brag about with friends, or clickbait for this article, but there are some other really great quotes I enjoyed more than these!

Great Summary of Dave-Man

First off, the summary of the game was great!

I've found it so difficult to explain Dave-Man to people. Maybe it is one of those things where you need to take a step back from it to see everything clearly. When you are really in the thick of it there is so much that you want to convey that summarization is difficult.

Also, it is so hard sometimes to explain all of the inspirations that go into a creative work, or the reasons, as sometimes logic doesn't play into that, ha. You just know you want to add an aspect in despite reason and logic.

If you are not familiar with Dave-Man, or you want to share with someone that isn't familiar, check out the video at the 12 second mark for about 3 minutes. I know 3 minutes isn't short compared to a trailer but this is kind of an explanation of the entire game, without spoilers, and review all in one!

He Got it

I'm sure there is a more eloquent way to say it but that's it. As he said, Dave-Man isn't for everyone, but it seems it was for him as he just got it.

Understood it and was able to identify and summarize different aspects, inspirations, and then even motives of the player:

There is a ton of really fun, creative writing all throughout this game and in order to read it you need to interact with the world and complete objectives.

The desire to explore the creativity on display in Dave-Man is what drives you to succeed at the PacMan styled gameplay found between these reading sessions.

— Hidden Machine Gaming, YouTube

Now I'm not planning on screaming the term "reading sessions" from the rooftops as part of my marketing strategy. I know some players don't like to read much while they play games.

But as I worked on the game I realized that writing, storytelling, and (written) humor is something that I really enjoy. It wasn't the goal at the outset of Dave-Man. It was more of taking the PacMan type of game I created and adding a story to it with some jokes along the way.

But then I really got into it and wanted to put as much as I could into it - or probably better put: I kept getting inspired to add different things so strongly that I couldn't resist leaving out.

To summarize, I didn't set out to make a story based game but really did start using it as a reward. As in for players that wanted to dive deeper into the game. If you like PacMan you can just play the gameplay for that part. But I feel that most of the niche that enjoys this game is playing a bit more for the humor of it. So finding or unlocking bits of dialogue should be rewarding for those players. Some of it can affect gameplay, such as unlocking new powerups that you can buy, and other does not. But for these people I think this could be the driving force for the game and the gameplay is like the grind in between. Which is fitting because it literally is represented by going to work.

Analysis of Dave's Life

When I was younger and played games, or even with TV, movies, etc, I would accept what was presented to me. You know, hey you are the good guy and that guy over there is the bad guy and we need to get rid of him.

Now I love stepping back and analyzing to form my own opinion, mostly just for my own amusement. Is the "bad guy" really bad? What makes him any worse than me? Sometimes we are fighting for the same thing - we both want that dang Triforce! I'm going around killing everyone I meet. What did those Goombas ever do to me? This is probably the only job they could get and just trying to bring home the bacon for Mrs. Goomba and Goomba Jr.

Okay, I don't really analyze if the Goombas from Mario have personal lives. I was thinking more like Final Fantasy games when I was talking about going around killing everyone. Which is one thing I think is hilarious about Earthbound. You fight all these creatures like "the rabid dog approaches" and when you defeat it, instead of killing it, the text reads "the rabid dog went back to normal." I'm not really sure if you kill anything in the entire game, ha, but it doesn't change the gameplay. Very clever in my opinion.

So I really appreciate the stepping back and thinking about Dave's life:

There's something surprisingly powerful about taking on the role of a person trudging through the mundanity of their final month of work, faced with the unknown of retirement and the looming threat of death and responding to all of that with doing as much online shopping as possible.

It's funny but, it's sad.

— Hidden Machine Gaming, YouTube

I just love hearing how other people sum up Dave-Man...(to be continued below)

Hidden Machine

Hey, just like we all want to support indie developers we should also be showing some love to the people that cover indie games!

Indie developers are looking for any kind of coverage for their games. The big fish don't cover the little guys. Dave-Man has never been covered or given a shout out from a big guy but has by a lot of, well, let's call them indie press. As in one or a couple people trying to start something. This really helps out!

Them being indie as well means they need some followers and support to keep going. So show the love!

I just wanted to get their links in before I started rambling on forever.

The summary above got me started on some aspects and inspiration that I never got to share. So in a kind of "interview myself" type of manner I just went on to share.


Getting Deeper

It is never received the exact way I intended it but it usually it captures different parts of my inspiration. And that's not to say the other parts are wrong - it is a personal experience type of thing.

Really that goes for any creative work. Take song lyrics for example. Musicians typically don't release a song and then tell everyone what it means, why they wrote it, and all the inspirations behind it. Sometimes they do in an interview, of course, but still not usually explain everything. There is always a subjective part of it that the listener kind of applies themselves to.

I used to find it really interesting reading websites where people tried to explain song lyrics. Rarely was there a consensus in the forums. People have different life experiences so it should affect people differently - what relates to them, what they value, and so forth. It speaks different things to different people.

And I tried to write parts of Dave-Man that way. I mean, it is a retro styled, PacMan mechanic gameplay, game with a simple base of a story, but when writing for different characters I tried to not make any "good" or "bad/evil". I tried to just make personalities, or sometimes just common complaints, ha, and let people perceive them how they will. Also just kind of the meta of the situations.

I'll give you an example here. I would love to give a different one but it would kind of be in the spoiler territory, and also would love to discuss the meta, or my intent of it, but want everyone to have their own experience of it and not ruin that with a definitive "intent" from the creator.

One time someone played the demo and left a comment about the female roles in the game. Not sure if they were trying to call me out, or the game, as straight up sexist, just making an observation or what. Basically, they said that the only females they saw were Dave's wife, who was naggy, and Chatty Cathy who was "the bad guy" or something. Or maybe they assumed she was annoying.

First off, there aren't a ton of main characters in the game. When you exclude the co-workers you meet at the water cooler - of which there are plenty of pleasant female personalities - there is Dave, Dave's wife, Tom the Janitor, Chatty Cathy, and B.O. Bob. So I guess this person wanted a female janitor?

But anyway, this isn't meant to be a defensive argument. After reading that I stopped and thought about it...

Did I make the two main female roles very negative???

Dave's wife. Yes, she is meant to nag some. That comes from my personal experience. I tell my wife to stop nagging me all the time. She says she isn't nagging. Usually it is simply following up on things I've promised to do but haven't done yet. (no further comment)

So what does Dave's wife want? Basically just some wallpaper. Yet she sees Dave buy Robot Dogs, lifetime supplies of candy, pets, and various things to take to work when he only has a few days left. Depending on the player's actions of course, ha. Is having some nice new wallpaper too much to ask for? I mean, both of them will just be there, in that house, almost 24/7 for the rest of their lives.

Other than that she greets him warmly when he arrives home. She congratulates him when he gets a promotion. She cooks him dinner. Meanwhile Dave sits on the computer online shopping while the dinner she just made is getting cold.

Is she really a negative character? I really don't think I presented her that way - or at least shoved that narrative down the player's throat. Sure I used some exclamation points with her at times, like at the beginning about the wallpaper. But that could be excitement rather than aggression.

Now for Chatty Cathy I definitely did present her in a negative way, so to speak. I had to though. The main gameplay mechanic is to avoid her. So I can't present to a new player that going up and trying to talk to her is a positive interaction.

But what did Chatty Cathy really do wrong?

I presented her in a negative fashion because the player has a negative outcome when running into her. But is her personality overall negative? Or a bad person?

She is just a happy person that wants to chat in the morning. Smile on her face, friendly, and looking to chit chat. Who really has the negative personality type here? The friendly person wanting to socialize? Or the person that takes the long path around the office just to avoid some small talk with a friendly co-worker?

Side-Note: The game is inspired from real life events where I took the long route through my work to avoid small talk with a very nice co-worker, just because I really didn't feel like chatting.

Like I said, this wasn't meant to be defensive against that comment. I probably should have left that entire part out so this was more open and coming from neutral angle. But it did really make me stop and think about everything. I don't remember when in the development this occurred but it did make me conclude that I really wanted to make sure that players were able to form their own opinions about different characters. Of course I had to put some personality and perspective on them so they weren't bland but a little at the beginning goes a long way. The power of first impressions I guess. It would be interesting for a new player to start the game on week 2 and see what impressions they got of everyone. Most people find the janitor very friendly - I wonder if anyone found him kind of creepy?

The point was it is interesting to take a step back and evaluate the characters for yourself. Disregard the kind of pre-conceived notions presented to you in the game's setup. Is there anything that you can relate to and maybe think "oh man, maybe I'm in the wrong" or re-analyze your real life relationships/friendships?

This isn't the kind of stuff that most people pick up a game for. I'm sure a gamer has never said "Oooo I'm excited to pick up this game so I can re-analyze my real life relationships!" But as a creator these are a fun thing to sneak into games, as in a subtle way or something the player takes for granted or at face value at first. And I don't think they have real answers because I don't have real answers.

We are all imperfect humans which makes it very interesting how people with various and different flaws interact.