Divekick Review: A unique game for casuals that won’t make the EVO highlight reel

Ah, the early 1990s, when fighting games used simple button combinations like B-F-LK. Get in your time machine as Divekick brings you back even further, where even simple combinations like Johnny Cage’s Shadow Kick are too complex. Two buttons are all you need, just like an NES controller, as this indie game attempts to bring old-school innovation to a new-school world.

Divekick is a two-button fighter. Literally speaking, two buttons are all that is used for the game. The game obviously has default controls but you can fix it to whatever combination you want but two buttons are all you get. It might sound like I am being overly dramatic, but in a world of ten button controllers with dual sticks and a d-pad, it is simplicity to an extreme that ECW can’t live up to. Since only two buttons are used to control everything it takes a lot of time to get used to even scrolling the menus. How quickly you adapt will determine the annoyance level that is faced with navigating the game.

Jump and divekick. Description finished. That is the entire fighting system. Those who have zero understanding of basic physics need not apply to this game as to move forward requires jumping and then divekicking to the spot. No walking, no blocking, no crazy combos: just jump, divekick, and hope you got your angles right, and win with one-hit knockouts. It is a unique and innovative system in a market that forces fighting fans to choose between Street Fighter- or Persona 4: Arena-style fighters.

The strategy of the game is all about understanding physics and getting the angles right for attacking and moving. One hit will make you lose the round, with headshots that stun you at the start of the following round. Stunning will make you jump lower and also slow down all your movements until it is shaken off. There is also a super meter that once filled will allow for a special boost like jumping higher and acting faster. Some characters do switch up the formula a bit by jumping horizontally or at weird angles. There are also items that can be selected pre-match to help boost your character. Some improve jump distance or dive speed by 10 per cent, while one humorous boost called the YOLO gives a huge +30%. What is the drawback for such a boon? Lose one round and you lose the match, regardless of how many rounds it is. Hey, some people want a challenge.

Humor is the theme of the game’s entire design. From the characters, stages and story to even the name of the game itself and the hilarious ending credits behind-the-scenes movie, it is all about making the player crack a smile. Personally, I love behind-the-scenes footage and ‘making of’ material when developers decide to take the time to include it with a game. To see how they took a standard, boring ending credits and made it cooler by showing us a spoof reel was something that immediately stood out. The music for it was also cool, which was a bit sad as the rest of the soundtrack did not live up to the awesomeness of the ending credits theme.

This game has been released on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, but for this review, I played Divekick exclusively on the Vita. Doing so allowed me to experience a unique and cool vs. mode that only a 2-button system on a handheld could offer a gamer. Two people can play on the same Vita. At first it seemed strange why I was choosing everything for my opponent and then it stood there motionless once the round started. It then hit me that a friend can just use two of the other buttons to play on the same handheld. It could get a little awkward holding the Vita depending on the situation but it is a really cool design choice.

One big problem with the game is the loading times. The graphics and gameplay could be run on a SNES or Sega Genesis easily. The loading times for the game are worse than a fighter on those systems. Full matches are sometimes quicker than the loading time, but for a game with so little in it there should be instantaneous loading.

As mentioned, Divekick only uses two buttons, so how much strategy and fun a person has will vary greatly. It does not have the breadth of intense, on-the-fly strategy that a Dead or Alive game has, nor will it have epic comeback moments like the famous Daigo incident. However, it can get ridiculously funny as both players could jump around each other for minutes, missing completely from over-aggressiveness or timidity.

Divekick is a wacky, off-the-wall reinterpretation of the fighting genre. It takes every moment to poke jokes at the genre and try to give the player a fun, retro gaming experience when playing video games was just about having fun and wasting time. It’s worth a look for those five-minute waits for a bus, or in a long line, but if you don’t have a buddy or online partner to play with, then the lack of modes will make playing it highly repetitive and boring. Divekick isn’t going to be on the EVO highlight reel, but its unique style can garner a following among casual gamers.




The Final Word

An ambitious re-imagining of the fighting genre, Divekick's innovative simplicity is also its greatest weakness as it lacks the depth required for a modern marketplace. Good for those five minutes waiting in line, but don’t expect it to occupy a six-hour bus ride.