Billed as “the world’s first ever 2-button fighting game”, Divekick was a quiet revolution when it hit the competitive fighting game arenas. Now it’s available to us mortals, will it have you jumping for joy or limping away?
When I initially read Divekick was the first two-button fighting game, I snorted. “No way,” I thought to myself. What about the oldskool classics like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out? Or anything on a third generation console, in fact? What I didn’t realise, however, is quite how literal Iron Galaxy were being. Here, you don’t even have a D-pad. You can only press one of two buttons, even when navigating the menus: ‘dive’ and – you guessed it – ‘kick’.
You can map those actions to any part of the controller you fancy, but it wasn’t long before I settled on a pretty standard X and O. From there, the objective is simple: kick your opponent. To perform a kick, you must first dive – though that’s actually a jump. This is also the only way to move forward, while kicking without diving will hop your character backwards slightly. And that really is it. So how can it be then, that this is one of the most in-depth fighting games I care to remember?
The simplicity belies some very nuanced mechanics. This is a game where every little piece has been honed, polished and balanced. From the subtle speed and movement differences of each character – which themselves can be altered by choosing a ‘gem’ at the start of each bout – to the special moves and how quickly each character can access them. Your special ability bar charges up every time you kick. Spamming mini kicks will fill it up faster, but because of the nature of the movement, that might just walk you into your opponents foot.
Kick the Habit
Why would that be risky? Because it’s a one-hit-win scenario. Don’t let the appearance of a health bar fool you – like pretty much everything else in the game, it’s just a joke. The characters, their single player stories, the dialogue, the game modes, the constant references to other fighting games – it’s all parody. The danger here is that it’s a joke that not many may “get”, which is a shame, because it absolutely hilarious.
Not since Earthworm Jim first came out have I laughed so heartily – and intentionally – at dialogue, or obscure visual references. Many won’t take the time to get as far as that, though, as at face value it’s just some bonkers mini-game. You could easily create it yourself just by chiselling everything but the kick button from your controller before selecting the lowest health option on Street Fighter, but you’d be missing the point.
Where the game succeeds is in reintroducing the tension, and fun, back into competitive fighting. You begin to learn to read your opponent. You become more aware of distance, timing and tactics. It’s as smooth as butter and fast as lighting. Soon you and your adversary will be bouncing around the screen like you’re electrified amphibians, but it’s all calculated. It’s a game of chess on fast-forward.
The genius of Divekick is having taken arguably the most spammed, overpowered move in fighting games and made it the only mechanic available in order to reverse engineer it – and it absolutely paid off. Don’t pass on this one, or you’ll kick yourself.
Divekick, by Iron Galaxy Studios and One True Game Studios, is available August 20th for PS3, PS Vita (reviewed) and PC.