Developer: One True Games Studio, Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: Iron Galaxy Studios
Release: August 2013, PS4 + Xbox One – October 2014
When it comes to fighting games, I live a somewhat isolated existence, being the only one amongst my social circle to really get excited whenever the latest spectacle of fighters smacking the snot out of each other turns up. I know, woe is me, right? The epitome of a first world problem. Anyway, they’re usually up for a quick round if I bring a game to a party, and maybe after that I can convince them to make a full purchase, but I’m struggling to do so with Divekick, because it’s such a tough sell, even though it’s exactly what they need from a fighting game.
You see, Divekick is a two-button, 2-D fighting game. One button is used to dive, and one button is used to kick. Combine these two vital techniques together, you create a DIVEKICK!!!! Note: It’s customary to scream Divekick at the top of your lungs in your best fake kung-fu master voice, for added authenticity. Not only is this how you attack your opponent, it’s also how you get around the screen. Moving forwards? DIVEKICK. Moving backwards? Kicking on the ground performs a “kickback”, equivalent to a short backwards hop.
It’s almost amazing how many core mechanics of a fighting game are present, such as meter-building (the act of attacking, or divekicking, in order to build a special meter), subsequent special moves (two for each character, activated by pressing both buttons together, one in the air, one on the ground), spacing/footsies (baiting your opponent into entering your effective attack range), “Kickfactor” (similar to Marvel vs Capcom 3’s X Factor, buffs all your stats) corner traps and pressuring. Even gems, the oft-maligned feature from Street Fighter X Tekken, make an appearance, offering a selection of buffs for your Dive, Kick or Style (meter-building). However, if you’re feeling ballsy, try the YOLO gem. You’ll be super powered, sure, but one lost round means game over.
The only noticeable absence is combos, but that’s because Divekick is of a first-to-X-rounds format, almost similar to the fighting game tournaments it emulates and satirises. One hit in this game means the end of the round, ensuring that each battle creates tense moment after tense moment, with opponents narrowly whiffing their attacks in an effort to gain supremacy.
You might thing the two button simplicity would make character choice inconsequential, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whilst default Yun and Yang/Ryu and Ken knock offs and Fresh Prince of Bel Air send-ups Dive and Kick (seriously) utilise a roughly 45 degree angle on their kicks, giving them a good diagonal attack path, Mortal Kombat reference Kung Pao’s (I am not making these up) Divekick sees her travel more horizontally across the screen, making her more effective attacking from long range.. Mr N, a reference to real life gamer Martin “Marn” Phan, infamous for rigging the brackets of a Guilty Gear tournament, specialises an almost vertical Divekick, making him ideal for punishing low “whiffs”.
You might have guessed by now that Divekick is a somewhat eclectic bag of references, nods and parodies of anything and everything, mainly around the FGC (Fighting Game Community), meaning you do need to have some knowledge of high level play, fighting games in general and the personalities associated with that, in order to fully appreciate some of the humour. Those unaware of Seth Killian’s and his contribution to Street Fighter along with his work at Capcom in general might not understand the importance of his Divekick equivalent S-Kill as the final boss. Spoiler alert, he seeks to rebalance the whole world so it can be repackaged and sold again, just like most Street Fighter games.
Divekick has a lot of charm and appeal, and is great for anyone who wants to learn the “metagame” of the fighting game genre as a whole. That is to say, this game gives you the tools to find success elsewhere, such as controlling the screen through footsies and pressure, the importance of building meter and corner traps. The only concern I have is that you need people to play against, otherwise the Divekick well will dry up quite quickly. A two-button fighting game, even one as sophisticated as this, only offers so much solo content. Without the human challenge, your attention will soon wander elsewhere. Still, for a quick couple of rounds, you could do a lot worse than (say it with me now)… DIIIIIIIIIIIIIVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEKIIIIIIIIIIICCCCCCKKKKKKK!