I’ve been sinking a lot of my spare time into Dinkum for a just over a month now and feel I have a firm enough grasp of what it has to offer to accurately represent if it’s worth your hard-earned dollarydoos (dated Simpson references have never failed me in the past, so here’s hoping this one works as well!).
For those unfamiliar with what Dinkum actually is, it can be best described as a life simulation + social game, in which you control design elements of your randomly generated island by crafting and terraforming (alongside a lot of interior/exterior design with furniture and plants). Just imagine Australian Animal Crossing and you’ll have a fairly accurate understanding of the game is at a surface level. I will preface with this; Dinkum – developed and published by James Bendon – is still in early access, and there’s a lot more content on the way; so keep this in mind.
From the onset of the game, where are presented with the plot of our created character being over the dreariness of everyday life, before we are immediately presented with the unique and exciting opportunity from a lovely elderly woman named Fletch to set out to to a remote island in search of a new beginning. Little did Fletch now, that island is unofficially Australia.
In its early stages, Dinkum screamed Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley at every turn, which in of itself; isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. Cloning some of the most beloved social simulation games to date, with an Australian ‘outback’ skin would have still made for an enjoyable experience, but where Dinkum truly shines and separates itself from it’s peers is after you’ve gotten over the initial introductory hurdles and really dig into everything the game has to offer.
I’ll be as completely open as I can be: in the first hew hours I spent with Dinkum I got a bit bored. I spent a lot of my time ignoring the tutorial quests presented to me and instead explored my randomly generated island. I thought I’d seen everything there was to see, and I was left feeling a bit unsure about everything. I loved seeing all the Australian wildlife (the fire-breathing Tasmanian devils were a lovely touch) and the general atmosphere was enjoyable but I thought (emphasis on thought) there just wasn’t all that much to do – and this is exactly how I felt playing Animal Crossing for the first time, and game in which I’ve accumulated over 600 hours in.
After realising this, I immediately returned back to Fletch and actually played the game as it was intended, and from there; I was completely hooked. It’s crazy how following the intended path presented in front of you leads to good things.
After the initial introductory quests, the game really ramps up in terms of what you can actually do, and you really have the freedom to make money/’Dinks’ in any way you deem fit. You can farm, fish, hunt, mine, scavenge and even explore caves if that tickles your fancy, and as you progress you’ll unlock new buildings, new villagers, bridges and even vehicles; which is a criminally underrated aspect of this style of game. Quite literally, if you progress far enough you’ll be able to buy and fly around your island in your very own helicopter (which; although buggy at times, is an incredibly fun experience).
One aspect of the game mechanics I wasn’t so in love with lies with ‘licenses’. Every aspect of game mechanics are locked behind the requirement of purchasing a license before you can engage with it; so for example – you need a fishing license to fish, a mining license to mine and so on.
The licenses absolutely infuriate me, and at the same time I completely understand why the idea of the mechanic is included; I just personally think it could have been used better. If there were a few ‘broad’ license types, I’d be much more on-board with the idea, but instead – every single imaginable task requires you to unlock a license for it, which for some seems very out of place. Fletch – we are both the only two inhabitants of ‘Struth island’, why are you making me get a license to dig up some stone!? YOU GAVE ME THE QUEST FLETCH, GET YOUR OWN STONE THEN!
The world itself is defined by a grid-like system, very similar to Minecraft/Stardew Valley, with really smooth animations. You’ll encounter an abundance of Australian wild-life, some friendly, and some being the most aggressive things you’ll ever encounter in any game; which is the perfect representation of the country I call home. It doesn’t have the ‘collectable’ villager status that a game like Animal Crossing has, as it’s the same cast of characters you can choose to befriend and keep in your island, but Dinkum hasn’t really emphasised this as a priority of the game.
I highly recommend playing this co-op (with up to 4 players); especially in the early game, as it really speeds up the slow start to material collection (and some of the hi-jinks you can get up to with friends is what really sticks with me from my time with the game).
All in all, knowing that there’s still an abundance of content, hot-fixes and much more to come gets me way too excited, and the fact that there’s a game of this high quality set in Straya’ makes me oddly proud. If you enjoy simulation, crafting or social games, or if you simply are too scared to visit the land down under because of our ‘terrifying’ wildlife, Dinkum is an absolute must-buy.