For people who’ve always had a passing interest in fighting games, but were too intimidated by the large barrier to entry, Divekick may be your calling card. Divekick is played using only two buttons: dive (which is a misnomer because it’s actually a jump) and kick. That’s it. You don’t even use the directional pad to move forward and backward. At first glance, this control scheme may give off the impression that Divekick is a shallow game, but Divekick is anything but. The game manages to flesh out its fighting game mechanics with its diverse cast of fighters. While its single player component isn’t really all that engaging, playing online or with local friends is raucous fun.
The beauty of Divekick is that it captures the essence of fighting games with only two buttons. Divekick eschews the execution portion that is often a significant stumbling block for newcomers, and makes the player concentrate on spacing and decision making rather than the rote memorization of combos. But at the same time, Divekick adds complexity to its gameplay with its varied roster. The titular characters Dive and Kick are reminiscent of Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter. They both have reasonable jump heights and kick angles that make them perfect for beginners. But once you start experimenting with the rest of the fighters is when you’ll realize that the different properties of each character make every matchup unique and fresh.
For example, Redacted the female skunk bear has a massively high jump, but an extremely shallow angle on her kick. But Kung Pao has a relatively short jump with a very horizontal angle on her attack. Properties like these are the aspects that make each character feel different from one another, and it’s fun to mess around with the cast and see who fits your playstyle. Every figher also has two abilities which require use of meter. One ability can be used on the ground, and one ability can be used in the air. These abilities can be anything from a float which makes you hover in the air for a second, or a leap forward on the ground that may take opponents by surprise. These abilities are deployed by pressing both dive and kick at the same time. You can also opt to save your meter and charge it up to enter kick factor. During kick factor, the speed on all jumps and kicks are all increased, making you a deadly threat. There are a host of different mechanics that allow for some creative play depending on how you want to approach any given situation.
Divekick has a story mode, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer with ranked, unranked, and lobbies. The story mode is just a series of AI battles that have you fighting S-Kill at the end. There’s a short comic at the beginning detailing the character’s origins and motivations, and these comics are all very ridiculous and humorous. But the best way to play Divekick is multiplayer. Whether you’re playing online matches or with local friends, diving and kicking against other human beings is when Divekick is at its best. Although the story mode provides some laughs with its comical intros, matching up against the computer isn’t that exciting, so plan to play with friends if you want the best Divekick experience.
For fans of the fighting game community, Divekick has plenty of in-jokes that parody both people and events in the scene. Mr. N and Jefailey are caricatures of Martin “Marn” Phan and Alex Jebailey resptively, while S-Kill is an evil monster determined to rebalance the entire world. The creative roster full of oddities and goofballs brings a lot of charm to the game. But even though many of its jokes are references to the fighting game community, there are still plenty of laughs for the uninitiated. Kick is basically Will Smith, as he was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and you can probably guess where he spent most of his days. Every time Kick gets knocked out, he yells out a title to a Will Smith movie because why not?
Divekick isn’t a technical showpiece by any means, but people getting hung on that facet of the game may be focusing on the wrong thing. Plain graphics and simple animations aside, Divekick is an ingenious game that proves that sometimes less is more. Divekick is available on the PC, PS3, and Vita, and buying the PS3 version comes with a free code for the Vita as well. At the price of $10, Divekick is a great competitive multiplayer experience that erases the potential hurdle of execution inherent in fighting games, while simultaneously providing a surprisingly deep and matchup dependent game.