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Dinkum is available now on Steam Early Access

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Dinkum

Developer: James Bendon
Publisher: James Bendon
Platform: Windows PC
Release Date: 14 July 2022
Price:  $19.99 USD / $28.95 AUD – Available Here

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Dinkum is a life sim inspired by Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, and the Australian outback. Created by solo developer James Bendon, the game is available now on Steam Early Access and is expected to remain there for the next 12 months.

The game takes the player from the grey South City to a sunny island where our steadfast leader Fletch plans to create a new town and convince visitors to stay. The writing isn’t too serious or deep. The conversations are decently written. There’s a bit of slang slipped in that helps reinforce the Australian theme of the game. But really, the crowning moment of Dinkum’s Australian roots is the character that pays tribute to the legendary Steve Irwin.

At its core, Dinkum is a vision of what Animal Crossing would be if the storied franchise took on elements from modern sandbox games and then placed it all in the Australian outback. Dinkum adds things like vehicles, hunting, exploring, and animal rearing to bring more variety to the genre that Animal Crossing created. While Dinkum is shooting for breadth over depth in terms of game mechanics, all the extra variation is a huge hit as it breathes in some much-needed life into the gameplay loop.

The map is large enough to keep players occupied right now, though it could be expanded a little. The physical size is at a good spot though there is room for a small size increase. The biome balance is almost there. An extra biome would hit the right spot as a few of the existing biomes, especially the bushland, is just a touch too large.

Dinkum offers an in-depth skill and crafting system using their licensing mechanics. Later crafting recipes require players to purchase the appropriate license tier to unlock. Players get Permit Points by completing regular actions or one of the three daily bonuses. Earning enough Permit Points for the first level licenses is not too hard, especially if the player is tackling a variety of activities. On the other hand, getting the experience to progress into later permit tiers is where Dinkum becomes a bit grind heavy.

There is some combat in Dinkum. Larger animals will defend themselves when attacked and certain animals like the crocodile are hostile to any nearby creature. Once players purchase the hunting license and can craft weapons, they’ll be equipped to gather their own meat instead of scavenging remains of animal brawls. Combat is very simple. The most reliable tactic is to strafe in a circle around the target until it is still for a couple of seconds after an attack and then take a few pokes before strafing around to dodge the next attack. It would be nice if a few creatures in the future provide a different attack pattern that would encourage a larger variety of combat tactics.

The learning curve in Dinkum is decent but could use some improvement. The initial tutorial covers the absolute basics and gets players going in a reasonable amount of time. The problem is there are a lot of activities in the game and no proper tutorial for some of the less straight forward activities like fishing. It would be nice to see a small tooltip with instructions pop up for the first few attempts with more detailed instructions available in the game menu.

The user experience is okay. The controls are simple and straight forward. I hope to see some quality-of-life features added as development progresses. For example, it would be nice if resource processing machines would keep the new item inside and offer the player a pick-up button when processing is complete. Currently, items will get thrown out into the world and can get lost if a lot of machines are packed in a tight area. I suspect I have also had items despawn on me when I left the area while I waited for the item to process.

The audio/visual experience in Dinkum is excellent. The game pays tribute to Animal Crossing while putting a distinct Australian spin to the presentation. The sound effects, the gibberish voice used by NPCs, and the art design bring a familiar element to the game. The environments and the creatures give the game enough of an Australian twist to make the presentation unique to Dinkum.

It’d be easy to mistake Dinkum for a full release as there’s a ton of content already, and the game is packed with features. There is some room for polish, and no one will ever argue against more content, but I am impressed with how addictive the game is in its current state. There is already a lot to see and do, and the road map is promising so much more. Fans of Animal Crossing who long dreamed about a PC release have something better shaping up in Dinkum.

Recommended – Dinkum offers so much to see and do that fans of the Animal Crossing franchise might stop daydreaming about a PC release

Jamie is the Managing Editor at Capsule Computers and has covered video games and technology for over a decade. When not playing or writing about video games, he can be found studying law or nerding out on fountain pens and stationery.

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