Escapism is a staple of video games and has been since the inception of the medium. Whether it’s catching cute monsters in a fictional world to befriend, storming the gates of Hell, or running around Renaissance Italy stabbing people, there’s always a way to live out your dreams. And if you dream of living in a post-apocalyptic land once known as Australia and eeking out a living in the harsh lands with a community of supportive and friendly townspeople who look to you for support, well, Dinkum has you covered.
Dinkum is a casual living sim taking heavy cues from genre codifiers Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, yet wraps the whole thing up in a nice, Australian-themed package. Setting out from bleak and depressing South City, you look to carve a name for yourself and your town in the almost abandoned outback, accompanied by a quirky group of residents, whilst you try not to get eaten by Wary Mus and Crocos.
The theme of Dinkum is the main thing that differentiates it from other entries in the simulation genre, but it would be discourteous and incorrect to call it a reskin of anything. The main activities are foraging, hunting, mining, gardening, fishing, and general all-around exploring. There’s a wealth of activities to do, but eventually, you are going to have to get around to doing them all in order to progress fully through the game. Initially, you start out with a base camp and a small tent, but you begin to grow the town building shops and a house for yourself as you attract more residents.
Personally, I had the most fun exploring and foraging. The game features several different biomes, from the tropics to the bushlands and desert, with different resources appearing in each. Of course, this also means that there are different enemies appearing in each biome, and you’ll have to tackle the in-game version of sharks, crocodiles, Tasmanian devils, and my personal least favorite, emus. The game world is huge, however, and there’s so much out there to see and find. It really feels like you’re actually strolling across post-Apocalyptic Australia, and if the emus weren’t so mean, I’d be wondering how they survived too.
All the systems that the game has set in place are solid, you earn points in skills and level up, gaining new licenses that allow you to do and build more. Basically, unless you use your skills at the worst level, you’ll never get better. My biggest question with the leveling actually is why you bother upgrading to copper weapons when you also have tin right there to easily smelt into bronze. The water does also get muddied with the leveling up system for fishing, easily the most difficult skill in the game to get the hang of, when it’s implied but not stated that you do need higher-level fishing rods in order to catch certain types of fish, akin to Pokemon.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, is a motto that applies to Dinkum. While it builds on the systems already in use in other life sim games, it doesn’t go out of its way to shake up the genre excessively or try anything radically new, and that works. Really, the only complaint I have about the game is that some of the controls can get very finicky. I’ve been standing on top of a Bush Lime and not been able to pick it up because the system only recognizes items on the square in front of you, and I’ve also dealt with odd resource and enemy distribution, but that’s a problem I know my colleagues haven’t encountered, I just drew the short end of the algorithm.
If you’re a fan of Australia or looking to sink your teeth into a new life-building sim with a little twist, you won’t go wrong with Dinkum. True, there are tweaks and fixes that need to be made as the game goes through early access, but it’s off to a bonza start.
TechRaptor previewed Dinkum on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. It is currently available for PC in Early Access.