Bill Gates once famously said “Two buttons in a fighting game should be enough for anyone”. Such quotes are often questionably attributed, however, whether Mr Gates said this or not, there is actually some truth in the statement. Divekick has a somewhat unusual history; initially it was punted as a KickStarter project on the PC – it reached its target of £30,000 but was cancelled after Iron Galaxy Studios opted to co-develop and publish the game. It finally saw release on PC, PS3 and Vita on August 20th 2013.
Fast forward a year and the Addition Edition has made an appearance on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The name is a touch misleading though as there really isn’t any extra content tacked on to the new releases, it’s more of a pinch and tweak to the existing game, something that will be patched in on the other consoles.
Given the complexity of today’s fighting games with their myriad of combos and multiple button sequences requiring frame precision presses, Divekick is somewhat an antithesis to the fighting genre. On the surface it may appear that having a game that functions with only two buttons (not even directional movement via a d-pad) couldn’t have any depth or lasting appeal, yet somehow Divekick manages to distil down the charms of 2D fighters to a highly concentrated essence.
Gameplay is exceedingly simple in concept to the point where anyone will be able to pick up a pad and get to grips with the game very quickly. All that’s required are two fingers, one to press the button to jump and the other to hit the control to Divekick – but that’s not the end of the story. There is a distinct nuance to controlling a character on screen; timing is still everything here – how high the jump, how quickly the attack, when to jump back, when to power up the special or wait for the KickFactor boost. Once the kick is committed there is no cancelling out (mostly), so a game often becomes a case of facing off, trying to get the edge.
With only thirty seconds to win a round and five round victories to take a bout, it’s not possible to dither for too long though and given it takes just the one hit to win, any move has to be decisive in its action. Should those thirty seconds expire with no connecting kicks, the winner is the closest avatar to the centre of the playing area. That’s all there is to it, or is it?
Gameplay style is influenced by the choice of characters from a roster of fourteen. Each has a different ability in jump height, speed and the angle at which they kick – this can be modified by gem choice (somewhat a parody of Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken) which further impacts on a character’s ability, such as increasing the rate at which the kick meter level is gained. This means learning how a character plays is a heavy influence on the game. Even playing against the AI sees certain opponents, such as Dr. Shoals who can float for a while before engaging an attack, needing different tactics to ensure victory and avoiding being hit in the head – headshots leave the player disoriented for a short time in the subsequent round. Analysing why a game results in a loss is easy; bad timing and poor tactics – there is no mystery in Divekick.
Whilst graphically it might not be comparable to Capcom’s very stylised looks, Divekick isn’t without its cheeky charms; every character has a unique persona and backstory and whilst this might seem a little frivolous, it’s definitely a lot of fun. There are plenty of references to the fighting scene with choke and fraud detection, but also voices, music, animations and menus are all very much a parody of the fighting genre whilst at the same time employing those very features, ensuring it’s a game that is inherently playable and an entertaining experience. Divekick is in fact poking fun at itself.
The biggest downside to Divekick is that the online aspect of the game, the area where arguably the most fun is to be had, simply isn’t populated very well (and this is something that’ll impact on gaining the full achievement set). It’s possible to sit on the multiplayer game launcher screen for an hour and not find someone to fight against, be that ranked or unranked and that’s a real shame, albeit not a fault of the game. There are no lobby lists or the ability to create an open game, making the online aspect quite weak when compared to its contemporaries and perhaps this is a catalyst in the loneliness of internet matches.
Despite this, Divekick is extraordinarily fun and there is merit in trying this out for the single player aspects. However, the lack of online opponents on Xbox One means that unless you’ve got a two fingered mate who’ll play vs games against you, it might be better to seek this title out on PC or PS3 where the player base isn’t quite as limited.