Fighters in the 90’s used to be a simple but skilled sort. Players only had to deal with a couple special moves and generally were able to make up their own combos. Then things got complicated with more characters, more moves, pre-established combos, balancing, dodging, and 3D movement among other features. Divekick, the game, might be considered a joke but Iron Galaxy Studios’ spot-on parody takes us all back to that ancient 2D time in the fighting genre when for many of us younger players the matches with our friends would turn into a contest of seeing who could land that one go to move, the dive kick. The game also parodies the community and its personalities with a lot of inside joke humor that might not at first be obvious to those that haven’t experienced the community. While jokes are great, does Divekick present anything close to a playable and balanced game when it is centered around only 2 moves— dive and kick?
Without combos, blocking, or even traditional left to right character moving, Divekick turns into a game whose main strategy is angles and timing. Characters are limited to one button to dive (jump) and one button to kick. This leaves players only able to really move in 3 directions; Up and backwards (press just kick to kick back), Upwards (press only dive), or Up and then down and to the right (press dive and then kick). The strategy is to get close enough to the other player to nail them with a one hit kill dive kick at just the right time and angle so they can’t avoid it while attempting to do the same to you. The limited moveset is surprisingly deep and because of the quick nature of rounds, it takes 5 wins to actually win a match compared to the best 2 out of 3 found in most fighting games.
While every dive kick is a one hit KO, where you land it actually matters. A hit to the head will actually dizzy the opponent in the next round leaving them barely able to move giving the head kicker a great advantage. Variety can be added to the game before matches by selecting from a set of gems that modify jump height and kick speed at the cost of giving your opponent preemptive rounds won before the match even starts. It’s a nice touch that helps keep the game from getting stale while playing into that I can beat you with two hands tied behind my back mentality that friends often have.
A game with such a single-minded purpose is a strange place to find as wide of a variety of characters as Divekick has. Each character makes a point of parodying a personality or actual person in the fighting genre community— S.Kill represents Seth Killian (gamer and designer) and Stream represents the type of person that watches fighting competition streams online for example. While players only have a dive and kick button to press during combat, each character has a different ground and air special that can be executed by pressing both simultaneously and consuming a portion of a power meter that is filled by performing dive kicks. These moves are really only about flash or an extra bit of maneuvering like flying horizontally across the screen. The dive kick is truly the only way to knockout your foe.
Everything about Divekick feels extremely polished for a parody game. Animations are smooth and graphics are crisp and attractive. Moves are simplistic but surprisingly deep. There are a surprisingly large number of characters. But the question remains is the game fun? It depends on what you are looking for. Divekick is the type of game that you can throw on for a couple of hours while having beers with friends. Outside of that drunken amusement, it is highly unlikely that it has any real staying power.