Divekick is the Pixar film of fighting games. Boiling the genre down to its most basic elements, Iron Galaxy Studios has created a brawler that literally anyone can feel comfortable jumping into and playing. But that simplicity also masks a surprising degree of depth, offering strategic, white-knuckle battles for fighting game vets as well. With a little more effort, it could have been a damn-near perfect game.
Divekick started out as a joke that went a little something like this: Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a game called Divekick, where the only two characters were named Dive and Kick, and the only buttons you could press were dive and kick.
The idea has evolved over time (there are about a dozen characters in the final game, though Dive and Kick are included), but the basic concept has remained the same. Players have access to two buttons and that’s all they need to play the game on either the PlayStation 3 or PS Vita.
At its heart, Divekick is a parody of the fighting genre and the culture that surrounds it while simultaneously being an homage to all the things that make it great (and not-so-great, too). Rather than focus on big, flashy combos or finishing moves, Divekick serves as a tutorial of sorts for fighting game basics. It’s all about learning your character (made easier by the limited number of options), learning proper spacing and trying to figure out your opponent’s next move before they punish you with it.
The controls are exceedingly simple. The dive button makes your character dive (read: jump) and the kick button makes your character, you guessed it, kick. Kicking on the ground also allows you to make a short jump backwards. Performing a divekick builds up a meter at the bottom of the screen and, once you have enough meter, you can push both buttons at the same time to pull off a special move. Each character has two; one for in the air and one for on the ground. Whoever kicks the other player first wins the round, and the first to five wins the match. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
My first gripe with Divekick is about half of the roster, which features dives, kicks and special abilities that kind of cheapen the simplicity of the game. Characters like Dive, Kick, Uncle Sensei and Redacted are mostly about learning the height and speed of their dive, the height, speed and angle of their kick, and how to best utilize their very basic specials. Other characters, like Stream and S. Kill, feature winding kicks, teleportation and special moves that more directly affect the fight. Fighting as or against some of these characters feels too much like relying on luck and gimmicks rather than the simple skill of timing your moves better than your opponent.
And then there is the one unforgivable sin, the utter lack of an arcade mode. Due to how simplistic Divekick is, I didn’t go in expecting offerings on par with games like Street Fighter or Dead or Alive. Divekick offers some basic online modes and a story mode for each character, and that’s pretty much it. I played the game heavily for the first several nights and have since dropped off because it’s basically impossible to jump in for a few minutes, play as an assortment of characters and then go about my day. Online is touchy at this point and I’ve only managed to get in a few brawls. While I enjoy the story modes well enough, Divekick is the kind of game that lends itself well to shorter bursts of play. The fact that I can’t pick a character, pick an opponent, fight, rinse and repeat is inexcusable, and hopefully the mode will get added in a future update.
If, however, you have a good group of local friends looking for the next big party game, then you can absolutely find it in Divekick. It’s not hard to imagine this game keeping a couch of pals busy for hours, loser passing the controller in a never-ending stream of cheers, jeers, perfectly timed dives and expertly executed kicks.
Divekick, for the most part, achieves what it set out to. The game is simple enough to bring in non-fighting fans and complex enough (with a mountain of in-jokes, to boot) to entertain those who have been throwing hadokens since the early 90’s. With a little more content and perhaps a closer cut to those simplistic roots, and it could have been an amazing game. As is, it’s a great concept that can be decent fun to play on your own and an absolute riot to play with your friends.
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed), PS Vita, PC
Developer: Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: Iron Galaxy Studios