The divekick maneuver is one of the most powerful in all of fighting games. Hurtling down from the skies at a sharp angle, most characters don’t have any sort of tools to deal with them. As such, those with divekicks tend to be some of the strongest. Whether it’s Kung Lao from Mortal Kombat, Cammy from Street Fighter IV, Dr. Doom from Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Black Adam from Injustice: Gods Among Us, there’s no shortage of tangible evidence throughout the annals of fighting game history.
This insight is the driving force behind Divekick; a one-move fighting game parody that’s toys with the idea of being accessible to the masses. I’ve been excited to play this game since it’s initial trailer over a year ago and bought it as soon as I could. Having played through it, is the joke actually on me?
Divekick plays like nothing else before it. The game only requires you to use two buttons: one for jumping into the air and one for kicking downward. It sounds simple enough, though there are a number of nuances to the scheme. For instance, hitting the kick button while you’re on the ground makes your character hop backwards. Also, hitting the two buttons at the same time will activate one of your character’s special moves if you have the meter for it. Some of these moves are fairly straightforward, such as Dive’s ability to quickly dive back down to the ground. Others are downright crazy. Markman, for instance, can dig for power-ups, a la Phoenix Wright in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. One of those power-ups is a portal that either character can use to fall through the floor and pop out of the sky.
The simplicity of the concept and the complexity of the execution are constantly at odds. On one hand, there’s an elegance to a one move fighting game with virtually no execution barrier. Without having to worry about hitting elaborate button combinations, it opens the door for you to focus more on the strategy and tactics that make fighting games fun. However, I can absolutely see how limited the game could be if the only defining characteristics between cast members were jump heights and kick angles. At its core, the combat is a lot of fun and rewarding. However, the extra mechanics creates a steeper learning curve without necessarily adding any more enjoyment to the experience. If you’re willing to invest the time to overcome this barrier, Divekick can be just as fulfilling as any ‘real’ fighting game. My time with it has been highly enjoyable, though I really wish some of the wackier and more gimmicky characters were removed completely, as I think they actually take away from the core idea.
Despite being an active follower of the fighting game community, I wasn’t always in tune with the game’s humor. Sure, I think it’s great that a number of notable personalities in the community appear as characters. I also feel like like a cool guy for recognizing almost all of the FGC in-jokes and memes. However, these jokes will likely fly over the heads of most, and will wear thin to everyone almost immediately.
One aspect of the game I cannot stand is how the game handles outside of matches. Even in menus, the game forces you to control everything with only two buttons. This is needlessly complicates things to the point where getting into a private match with a friend can feel like voodoo science. Thankfully, once you’re in, the game’s GGPO netcode handles all of the action superbly. Online is likely where you’ll spend the bulk of your time, as the single player content is just a standard-issue arcade mode that can be beaten in a matter of minutes.
Another point of contention for me is the game’s presentation value. I generally hate writing about graphics in reviews, though I can’t go without saying that it’s art style is rather dull. The music is also forgettable and filler at best. For a $10 game, I’m not expecting anything out of this world. I just don’t like what’s here.
Divekick tries so hard to cater to both ends of the fighting game spectrum but ultimately falls short of both. The elegance of its one-move concept is undermined by an extra layer of gimmicks that feel like they make the game more complicated, but not necessarily better. That learning curve nullifies its accessibility for newcomers without making it any more satisfying for fighting game aficionados. The in-jokes do little to add to the game’s appeal, as most of it is esoteric and short-lived. If this was already on your radar and you’re willing to dig past its flaws, there’s an interesting and enjoyable take on the fighting game genre that could be well worth the time and $10 investment. Otherwise, this probably isn’t the fighting game experience you’re looking for.