Divekick PS3 Review

Author: Rory Young
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Tuesday, August 20th, 2013
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/divekick/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Let's cut straight to the chase. Divekick is the most significant fighting game to be released in a decade. Bam, straight and simple just like the game is designed to be. Next point of interest: Divekick is also pretty terrible in a couple of different ways. Great contrast, right? 

I almost imagine Iron Galaxy digging up sparking diamond, polishing it up and then deciding, “Nah, that's not really our style." Then they  threw it back in the mud. All of this seems dumb in all the right ways and despite that, the game works. Divekick has buckets of personality and so many quirks that it's impossible not to find endearing. 

Wait, I've gone too far. I've gotten to this point without even mentioning what Divekick is. See, Divekick is a 2D fighting game, only it's played with just two buttons. Two buttons. Yet it stars a diverse roster of 13 characters that all play significantly differently. Mind blown yet? We're just getting started.

Two Buttons

Gameplay is God in Divekick, and ultimately it's the one aspect of the game I think is absolutely perfect. Yes, the game has a great sense of humor and a ton of respect for the fighting game community that gave birth to it. That's all notable, but what Iron Galaxy has managed to do with two buttons is nothing short of magic. The game takes you by the hand and leads you to mysterious land where everything you ever thought you knew about fighting games is not longer true. Divekick frees us all.

One button is for “Dive” (jumping, or diving into the air) and the other is for “Kick” (self-explanatory). Divekick's basic rhythm is to jump into the air and kick down at a particular angle. Each of Divekick's 13 characters will jump into the air at a different speed, to a different height, and kick down at a different speed and angle. Pressing the “Kick” button while on the ground will have your character jump backwards, and that's the game's basic forwards/backwards motion and attack. A single hit on your opponent wins the round and each match is first to five rounds. 

Before moving on the advanced Divekick, just think about how brilliant this structure is. It's simple enough that anyone can play and be successful at; yet the difference between winning and losing in every match literally comes down to pixels, to degrees of an angle, to rates of speed. It's math, pure and simple. Where your standard fighting game will bog you down with complex finger gymnastics and expectations of background knowledge, Divekick... Well, Divekick has two freaking buttons. 

Okay, I lied. Divekick has more than just jumps and kicks. For instance, it has a meter that fills up every time a character performs a kick. When maxed, a character will jump higher and faster, and kicks at lightning speed for a time. Win a round with “Kick Factor” up and it carries over. Lose a match and it's all gone. Meter can also be spent on special moves each character has, one which can be used on the ground and the other in the air – all context sensitive. Just push both buttons at once to activate. Oh, and I forgot to mention that if you get kicked in the head, you're slowed for brief amount of time at the start of the next round. Sounds perfect, right? How no one designed this before is insane. 

Even then, as the complexities of this game start to come together, things get wilder. Uncle Sensei will switch “stances” every time he kicks, making his angles switch dramatically. The Baz doesn't  kick like normal folk; he aims himself and shoots across the screen, leaving a flash of lightning that deals the finishing blow behind him. S-Kill's jumps are invisible. Dr. Shoals has a second, mid-air kick at a different angle. Stream Monster is... just straight stupid. 

All I'm trying to convey here is that Divekick has all the nuance and complexities of a triple-A fighting game. However, it carries none of the baggage that comes from the 30 years of genre evolution that prevents a majority of gamers from giving two damns about Fantastic Street Fighter 16 Guamole Edition. Yes, competitive fighting game players will still excel at Divekick, because the same things are at play: reaction time, attention to detail, match-up understanding and experience. But everyone else can (and should) play too! I'll say it again: two buttons! Can you pat your head and rub your tummy? Yes? Amateur Divekick player already.

By far the best aspect of Divekick is how it's constantly educating players on their own strengths and weaknesses, what works and what doesn't. If a kick catches your ankles, you obviously should have jumped away or stood farther from your opponent. When an opponent uses a special move to defeat you, you now know to avoid the context of that mistake. The game has no training or feature to convey moves, because while not everyone knows the moves to start, they do know how the moves are performed. There's only two buttons! 

Success at Divekick is at your fingertips, within anyone's grasp. Hell, you know what? Losing can just as much fun in Divekick, because it's almost never due to “accidents” or misunderstanding – at least after you've learned the basics. Losing still leaves a pretty great feeling, to know exactly why you lost and to come back later and surmount your mistake. Ah, who am I kidding. I'm three salt shakers to the wind already tonight.

Now This Is The Story All About How

Moving on: Divekick has a story mode. Enough said. Wait, I've got to talk about it? Aw, man. Each member of Divekick's roster has their own story. and for the most part they're terrible. Sometimes they're terrible in a hilarious way, but mostly they're just straight up terrible. Playing through a character's story will comprise of an introduction, a couple rival battles, and an ending. These are mostly just text, though the beginning and ending have a bit of art.

The game has a lot -- and I mean a lot -- of inside jokes from the fighting game community, on top of some straight-up stupid jokes about hobos, skunks and nerds. All these jokes would be painful if they didn't work so well with everything that Divekick is. It's all so... stupidly cohesive. The art looks like it comes from a flash game, the voiceover might make you go, "Really, guys?" but not so racist to make people say, “This is disgusting.” Individually, each story is drivel, but altogether the lore is surprisingly endearing. I'm not sure if it worked out so well on accident or what, but that probably just makes it better.

Finally, Divekick has the multiplayer mode, implemented with GGPO networking, which is Iron Galaxy's bread and butter, and really the best you can currently get for fighting games. It's stellar. While I had trouble finding games below 100ms, it didn't matter because between 100 and 200ms played super smoothly. Add in some GGPO frame delay to ensure lag won't be a factor, and playing the game online feels outstanding. With both ranked and unranked matches, prepare to lose weekends and evenings playing Divekick multiplayer.

Final Thoughts

The way Divekick breaks down the genre -- sort of chews it a while, decides it doesn't like the flavor and spits it up -- is everything I've wanted from a fighting game but never realized. Here I've been trying to persuade myself how much I want to learn how to pull off 100-hit combos and errorless hadoukens, but what I needed was a different sort of fighting game. 

I've mentioned accessibility, mentioned humor, mentioned the inherent challenge, but to heck with all of that. What matters is day one, minute one, I'm able to sit down and have ridiculous amounts of fun playing a fat man with a neck pillow against a hobo with boots on his hands, all while only pressing two buttons. Two. Buttons.

Only one thing that trumps Divekick itself, and that's the feeling it creates when it presses the single button that is my heart. One. Button. Much love for Divekick, so make sure to check it out.

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