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- Paris Flash
Fighting games often have great general appeal, but a high barrier of entry. It’s often discouraging to a casual video game fan to be witness to the dazzling display of 100-hit combos and screen-filling super attacks, and it’s even worse to be victim to such disaster.
Fighting games usually range from four-button to six-button experiences, and memorizing the button combinations to perform certain moves or combination attacks is what scares a lot of people away from the competitive scene. New players resort to “button mashing,” randomly slapping their hands on the buttons, hoping for the best, but not exactly knowing what they’re doing.
Divekick is different. It has two buttons and only two buttons: the Dive button and the Kick button. Hitting Dive causes your character to “dive” into the air. Once in the air, pressing Kick has the character launch downward at an angle. Each kick does one billion damage, yet all characters only have around one million health. Suffice to say, each attack is deadly, ending in an instant KO. The average round of Divekick only lasts a few seconds, and matches are only a best out of five. There’s no 300-hit combos or 99-second timeouts. As long as you can hit those two buttons, you can be a contender in Divekick. Heck, I even made my own custom controller.
The simplification of fighting games became a side goal of Divekick along the game’s development. The game actually started as a joke for the Fighting Game Community, first revealed at UFGT8, the then latest installment in Chicago’s biggest fighting game event. The term “divekick” is a reference to the physics-defying attack that many game characters possess in various fighting game franchises. You’ll find all sorts of references and in-jokes to fighting games and the fighting game community in Divekick. The characters are based on popular characters in both fighting game reality and fiction. Dr. Shoals is a parody of Marvel’s Doctor Doom, infamous for his “Foot Dive” attack from the Marvel vs. Capcom series. S-Kill is based on real-life fighting game veteran Seth Killian. Even if the jokes are lost on you, the characters are still goofy enough to be memorable. You don’t need to know that Mr. N is based on a real-life eSports competitor to laugh at a man that fights in his pajamas, a cape and a neck pillow.
Despite the simplicity on the surface, there is depth to Divekick. Players have a variety of options to toy with in their matches. There are 13 different characters in the game, and each of them has his or her own style of play. Even the main characters of Dive and Kick have different jump and attack speeds. Other characters have variously angled kicks, and some play in really strange, unconventional ways.
The Baz (who is based on a rejected design for a Street Fighter 2 character) can only damage an opponent with the trail of lightning that follows him. His foot actually does no damage, causing both the player and the opponent to change up their styles of play. Dr. Shoals can change the angle of her kick in mid air, and Markman (based on real-life promoter of video game accessory giant Madcatz) can use items to his advantage.
Characters also have a pair of unique techniques that require the use of a special meter that is built up through the use of normal attacks. Pressing both the Dive and Kick buttons simultaneously while either on the ground or in the air will activate these special techniques, such as having the character float or causing a shockwave to lift the opponent into the air as a setup for an attack. Filling up the special meter all the way will automatically engage “kick factor,” which temporarily gives you a major increase in speed. Opposite of kick factor are “concussions.” Hitting an opponent in the head counts as a “headshot,” leaving the opponent concussed in the next round, losing his/her entire meter and temporarily receiving a heavy speed penalty.
In a parody of the gem system from Street Fighter X Tekken, players must also choose a gem to either buff the speed of their dives, kicks or meter building. There’s also a gem dubbed the “YOLO gem” that gives a 10% boost to all their stats, but has the player immediately forfeit four rounds, making one loss an instant game over. Such a gem can come in handy against Jefailey (based on real-life fighting game tournament organizer Alex Jebailey), whose head enlarges to become a bigger target with every round he wins due to his inflated ego.
The game can be played with other players either online or off. Online features GGPO, the gold standard when it comes to fighting game netcode. I never experienced any cases of lag or unplayable matches while gaming online. Finding matches, however, was a different story, depending on the version of the game.
The Steam version seems to have a lot of players, and you’ll usually find a match relatively quickly. The PS3 version has fewer players, but you’ll still be able to find some if you willing to wait a bit. The Vita version is the worst in this regard. I could barely find any players through ranked or unranked matchmaking, and searching for lobbies only found people with a ping of 999. When joining with these people, the game played fine, but I would have liked to have found a better variety of players more quickly while playing on Vita.
Divekick has limited single-player options. When playing the game solo, you can engage in the game’s story mode, which presents a very slim narrative as to why the characters are fighting each other. It’s actually more of a side attraction while you learn how to play a character, as the meat of the game is in the multiplayer. Each character has his or her own story that starts with simple illustrations presented in a motion comic style format. There are small dialogue-filled interludes with some characters, ending with another illustration following the battle with S-Kill. The stories always end up being pretty shallow. There isn’t some sort of overarching narrative, and the ending sequences are very short and unfulfilling.
The presentation is where Divekick suffers the most. Calling Divekick a “Flash” or “browser” game is an on-going joke among gamers, and it definitely looks and sounds the part. The graphics resemble the vector graphic drawings of mediocre Flash artists, and they are barely animated. Each character has an idle animation, but they aren’t very elaborate. The backgrounds are the same, feeling flat and lifeless for the most part. The most action you’ll get from a stage background is the JEO arena, and even then the background reuses a bunch of assets to fill in the virtual audience. The audio is similarly unimpressive. While the Dojo theme is catchy, the music for the other stages is pretty forgettable. Character voices are purposefully acted out in an exaggerated style, but difficult to hear, which is a shame since some of their quips are pretty amusing. Put together, the game looks and sounds very low budget.
Divekick has such a stern dedication to the two-button control scheme that even the menus are only controlled with the Dive and Kick buttons. You can sort through options to the left with Dive and to the right with Kick. Confirming or selecting an option is done by pressing both at the same time, and canceling a selection is done by holding the Dive button. On certain screens, such as the character select and options screens, you can reconfigure your controls by holding down any two buttons. It’s all actually kind of cumbersome to navigate, and it often feels sluggish and unresponsive since the game has to compensate for any button mishaps by having you hold buttons down longer than you feel like you should. I also had to restart story mode several times because upon game over, the game has you press Dive to continue and Kick to exit with no confirmation. So while mashing on Kick to continue, I would accidentally exit out and have to start the story mode all over again. Diving and Kicking works fine in the actual game, but having them operate the menus is perhaps going too far.
In the end, Divekick is simple enough to get into, yet deep enough to spend a lengthy amount of time with if you want to master it. The game seems to serve as a really good introduction to fighting games, as the game teaches players fundamental fighting game practices, such as spacing and baiting out attacks. The simple two-button control scheme removes a lot of need for execution, allowing players focusing mainly on things like mind games and character match ups to further their play. The one-hit kill game mechanics do a good job of recreating those tense moments in fighting games when a close match is decided by one smart move. In Divekick, almost every moment can be an Evo Moment #37.
Yet, some may be disappointed in the low production values. The game really does look cheap and low budget, and spending $10 on a game with few single-player offerings is a tough call. The game truly shines when you have a few buddies to play with, either in person or online. It’s definitely a fun game at parties, and the low barrier of entry will surely get even non-gamers interested. If you’re looking for a simple multiplayer game to get into, this is easy to recommend. The game is now available on Steam, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita via digital download.
I give Divekick a 3 out of 5.
If you’re interested in seeing what competitive high-level Divekick looks like, check out this video.
By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra