Divekick has been in various states of development for a while. It has made the rounds at fighting tournaments with different builds making a name for itself among the fighting crowd. It is not simply a game for those deeply into fighting game or the fighting game community as its strong showing at conventions and trade shows such as PAX and E3 made clear. Now that it is officially out for everyone to play that truth is more evident. It has been said by many people and outlets, but Divekick really is a fighting game that anyone can pick up and play. Even for those who do not get all the fighting game community in-jokes and references (and really who has time for that?), the humor in the game works on its face value. The game’s accessibility lies in its simple control scheme, but for a game that relies only on diving and kicking, there is a deceptive complexity to it.
Yeah, this thing is a two button fighting game. Players can only use two buttons (programmable at the player’s whim or preference), but that is it (start buttons don’t count, but they have feelings). As Heart and Lang have stated in interviews leading up to the release of the game, what started as a game based around a fighting game joke has turned into a pure expression of a fighting game. Gone are the convoluted controls of the normal fighting games and the cumbersome supers, replacing them are controls that anyone can understand, simple to perform supers and a mechanic that is simple to comprehend but takes time to master.
Players can dive and kick in the game; dive launches the character straight up in the air and kick allows them to fly forward at an angle. Connecting a kick on the opponent results in winning the round. The key to the game is winning 5 rounds (or however many you want, this is America after all). Thems be the basics of the game, but there is more to it than that. Players can move backwards by kicking on the ground called a kickback, using all these in concert will allow potential divekickers to outmaneuver opponents. There are techniques (specials) in the game that are usable by filling the kick meter (special meter). Each character has an air and ground technique that allows for some small advantage when they use them. Filling the kick meter all the way will result in kickfactor mode that powers up the character giving them more powerful dives and kicks. Techniques are activated pressing dive and kick together either on the air or ground. The beauty of the techniques and kick meter is that they all serve to reinforce the basic mechanic and controls of divekicking.
Players can get an advantage in matches by landing headshots (divekicking someone in the head) that leaves them concussed during the next round. Players with a concussion cannot build kick meter and move slower leaving them at a huge disadvantage while the effect lasts. Divekicking is not the only way to win, players can also run down the clock and the player holding the line (closest to the center of the stage) will win. Before a match, players can select a specific +10% power-up to one of three areas: kick, dive or style (there is also a YOLO gem that gives a +30% bonus to all stats, but gives the opponent four rounds on the user). Each one will confer a small bonus to either diving, kicking or kick meter building. Using these to improve a weakness of a character or suping up a strength can be hugely beneficial to winning matches. Each character in Divekick has their own weaknesses, strengths and play styles (the angle of their kicks, height of their dives and specific quirks all vary). That gives the game its complexity because fighting various characters in the game requires the player to use the core mechanic smartly, but also practice restraint, timing and take into account what sort of weakness the character might have.
Not to say any of that is necessary to enjoying the game because anyone can pick up the game and start divekicking without worrying too much. Fellow GI writer, Chance Asue and I played the other day. He had a day to try out the game, but due to other commitments playing against him was my first opportunity to play Divekick. Outside of continually wanting to use more than two buttons, the game was extremely easy to pick up. Learning the core mechanics is almost instantaneous. Divekick has none of that perfunctory fighting game, “Ay, don’t attack, lemme figure out the controls” nonsense. All you can do is dive and kick, L1 to dive and R1 to kick (or whatever set-up you want), so just pick up the controller and come get some. I suck at fighting games, truly, but I was able to pick up Divekick and actually not feel completely outclassed. Despite Chance having a night to give the game a go, it is one of the Divekick’s biggest benefits that even the minor experience with game did not give him a huge advantage. Divekick really is a fighting game that anyone can get into, so you should probably do it and buy the game.
Divekick is out now on PSN for PS3 and PS Vita (with cross-buy) for $9.99 ($7.99 to PS Plus users for a limited time) and Steam for $9.99.