Dinkum, developed by sole developer James Bendon, is a settlement-building and farming-simulation adventure game where you control a user-generated character exploring the Australian Outback. With a cute, cartoony aesthetic and easy-to-understand gameplay controls, the title is an ambitious and fun game centered on exploration and player choice.
Dinkum is an indie game that feels like a larger development team made it. Even though there could be more content in the Early Access version of the game, you can spend dozens of hours playing and still have more to uncover. Originally released on July 14, 2022, for PC, you’ll go from sleeping in a modest tent to building an entire town by the time you’ve finished putting it down.
A Long, Independent History
Before digging into the details of the game, I can’t stress enough what an impressive feat Dinkum is for a single person to create. James Bendon published his first development blog post for Dinkum in April 2018 and had what looked like a rough working prototype for the game back then.
Fast-forward four years to October 2022, and the developer is still making updates, with the game’s latest dev post about the recent House Warming update that added Guest Houses to the game.
This Might Feel Familiar
Dinkum has been compared to other popular games in the genre, like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, but it actually blends and improves some of the popular tropes and mechanics from these games in a pretty symbiotic and intuitive way.
Yes, everyone sounds like the adults in The Peanuts cartoons, and yeah–you are put on a barren island (outside of flora and fauna) to develop it into a cute town of residents, but where Dinkum differs is the wide variety of activities you can do. In Dinkum you can start different kinds of farms, raise animals, build houses, flatten the land to your liking, kill animals for their meat, cook that meat, then go fishing or look for shells on the beach.
Eventually, you’ll gain access to even cooler stuff, like a motorbike, and you can ride on the back of an Emu or hang glide over the town you built.
In Dinkum, customization and player choice are core to the game, and you get to explore and do whatever you want and take it at your own pace. While there are questlines to complete to fill out your town, sometimes the game’s direction can veer into meandering when there isn’t a specific goal that the player has in mind.
Completing certain tasks may require a few days of grinding or getting the materials needed to build the new item you want. Depending on your personal proclivities, this can feel like a chore or an adventure.
Rollin’ in the Dinks
Progression in Dinkum feels significant and fun–which adds to the addictive nature of the game. Completing just one more quest will probably be a reoccurring theme for your playthrough. You’ll eventually be able to update your modest tent to a house, then build other buildings, invite new residents, and have a little town that you’ve designed set in an alternate Australian Outback where kangaroos have antlers.
Eventually, I started uncovering new treasures found deep underground, and the town’s resident merchant, James (shameless plug Mr. Bendon), would pay some significant Dinks (the in-game currency) for some Rubies I managed to find after taking on the nocturnal crocs that lived down in the caves.
I started a profitable farming business, creating fruits, veggies, and animal products by taking each of these skills to the maximum extent. My animal farm became overwhelmingly huge, and I had to work overnight to expand what started as a few chickens in a cage.
Saying I was the leader of my Dinkum Island would be an understatement. I built each of these bricks by hand, providing every settler with whatever they needed to get on their good side while generating enough food to feed a nation–I was more of a superhero than anything else.
And it didn’t really get boring. I could see myself sitting there for another 50 hours to expand my lands, explore even more, and uncover whatever new secrets Bendon planned on putting in. Even though it did feel grindy at times, I genuinely enjoyed the discovery aspect of the game.
Design is a subjective topic, but Dinkum scores high with character design. The oversized heads will feel familiar, but unlike other games of the genre, in Dinkum, everyone is human. Executing this in a cute way can be tough, but Dinkum creates a cute, colorful, albeit familiar aesthetic with the world and character design.
The soundtrack in Dinkum fits the game to a tee and will make you feel relaxed while playing it–taking familiar tunes but putting a cute twist on them. Directional sound is surprisingly good for a game like this, which will come in handy when looking for a specific animal to hunt.
The map in Dinkum is randomly-generated, which can result in some strange scenarios depending on where things spawn. However, being able to mine or remove most things in the game made this almost a non-problem, at least through our playthrough. On a positive note, this choice gives variety if you ever want to start a new island.
We didn’t run into many technical issues, other than a random bug here and there–but for the most part, the game ran super smoothly on our PC. We didn’t have many crashes; from a performance perspective, the game felt surprisingly polished for a single-person effort.
Dinkum is a fun and relaxing 3rd person town-building and settlement adventure game with dozens of hours of content in the Early Access version. Fans of similar town-building games will appreciate the attention to detail and QoL enhancements to familiar game mechanics.
Even though Dinkum is an indie title created by a sole developer, there is enough content and variety in the Early Access Version to keep players glued to their screens for hours.
Dinkum Early Access Review
Dinkum is a relaxing settlement simulation and adventure game with deep crafting mechanics, a lot of adventure, different quests, and new things to discover at every turn. Though still in Early Access, the game has great potential, especially considering that one person fuels its development.
You can purchase Dinkum on Steam.
See our Review Policy Here.
[Reviewed on PC]