Unless you’re a card-carrying member of Kotaku Australia, seeing the indie simulation game Dinkum swimming up the Steam new release chart maybe seems bizarre. But don’t confuse Dinkum, which gets its name from the Australian slang term “fair dinkum,” meaning genuine (more or less), with your dinky old Converse or my rinky-dink Macbook Air. Dinkum is a cute and compact Animal Crossing re-do, one that emphasises the hardcore majesty of the Australian outback if it were made up of Minecraft megapixels.
The game released for early access on July 14 and is getting pretty hot on Steam, likely because of its proximity to cosy simulation and sandbox classics like Stardew Valley and The Sims. But if you’re still not sure if this is the sim for you, here’s a quick fact sheet about the preliminary days of Dinkum:
Who made it?
The Australian developer James Bendon self-published the game after toiling on it for the past few years.
Who should play it?
Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley obsessives, definitely. The game’s backstory will feel familiar to both these camps — your protagonist settles in a new, mostly empty town and harvests, plants, and catches things to sell and help develop the space. Like in Animal Crossing, non-playable characters speak to you in ribbets of unintelligible dialogue and you can catch bugs with a net. Like in Stardew Valley, you can pretend to be a twee farmer. Like in Minecraft, the grass is made from a bunch of blocks.
Dinkum is by no means reinventing the wheel, but if you’re a fan of most popular sims, you will find its gameplay enjoyably repetitive and flexible. You can complete daily and long-term tasks to earn Permit Points, which allow you to earn skills like logging and excavation, or develop the skills you already have and collect items in exchange for cash, or “Dinks.” You’re gently encouraged to survive the reddened wilderness — animals and poisonous plants can drain your health bar and make you pass out — but aside from losing a couple of Dinks, the consequences of making mistakes are few. Dinkum is for pleasurable, Australia-seasoned zoning out and catching fake fish.
What does it look like?
Shades of sriracha, adobo, and paprika. A lot of sunsets cut with glassy blue water. It looks mostly like a smoother Minecraft, one made out of play-dough, or like a less cutesy but similarly bobble-headed Animal Crossing. Like its gameplay, simulation game vets will find Dinkum’s visuals peacefully unremarkable.
Can I be eaten by a crocodile?
A crocodile can snap at your bobble head and make an ominous-looking red mist appear on your screen to indicate damage taken, but the worst that can happen from the encounter is that your health will completely drain and you’ll briefly pass out. So, yes. But the most original thing about Dinkum is the delight it takes in the wild splendor of its paprika map. You’ll find yourself wondering if you can eat this thing or be eaten by that thing, and the game won’t punish you too harshly for your curiosity. In fact, it even rewards passing out and damage taken with Permit Points. BRB while I set my protagonist on fire.
Where can I play it?
The early access game is currently available for PC on Steam and is priced at $US19.99 ($28). According to the game’s press sheet, other compatible platforms will be announced later.
If you’re sold, I wish you happy farming.