The wait is over. The one true fighting game has come. Divekick has finally been released on PS3, PS Vita and Steam, and it is as glorious as we expected it to be. We got a chance to try all three versions out for ourselves recently. Here is what we thought.
For those of you who have been hiding under a fighting game rock for the past couple of years, Divekick is the brainchild of Adam “Keits” Heart, renowned pro fighting game player. The game was originally a parody of fighting games that became incredibly unbalanced with the introduction of divekicks -- moves that changed your aerial trajectory downward while attacking at the same time. Entire matches of Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat 9, and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 came down to who can score the first divekick hit first. So, Keits decided to make a game where everything was divekick. The moves are dive and kick, the buttons are dive and kick, and the characters are dive and kick! After all, if fighting games are going to boil down to who has the best divekick anyway, you might as well cut to the chase.
Divekick is a two button affair and, as mentioned before, the buttons are dive and kick. Dive makes you jump into the air while kick makes you kick down to the ground at a different angle for each character. You can also press Kick on the ground to kickback, i.e. perform a shallower jump backward. The only way to move forward is by divekicking. There is no blocking, no dodging, and no walking! You only have you and your feet to prove your worth on the battlefield.
Since divekicks are the most powerful martial arts techniques in the universe, each divekick does two billion damage! Unfortunately, every character only has about 1000 life so each divekick landed amounts to an instant win. Luckily, each match is played to five rounds, so you have some leeway to screw up.
Since all you can do is dive and kick, the game is all about spacing and out thinking your opponent. Will your opponent jump? If so, should you jump to avoid his kick? If you don’t jump will he just kick you in the head? If you do jump but he delays his kick, will he hit you on the way down? Should you kick back to avoid him or will that just leave you helpless? There are layers, upon layers, upon layers of mind games in Divekick that make it incredibly addicting considering how simple and accessible it is.
But that’s not the end to Divekick's simple and brilliant strategy. Each player has a kickmeter at the bottom of the screen which fills up with each kick. When the kickmeter fills all the way, you will enter Kickfactor, which vastly increases your speed and jump height for a limited amount of time. You can also spend portions of the meter by pressing both dive and kick at the same time in order to activate special techniques. These techniques are unique to each character and can be anything from jumping forward, to hovering for a second, to changing the direction of your kicks in midair.
There’s also a gem system in Divekick which allows you to customize each characters to your liking. An obvious riff on Street Fighter X Tekken’s poorly received gem system, you can equip a Dive, Kick, Style, or YOLO gem to your character before each match. The Dive, Kick, and Style gems increase your jump height, kick speed, and meter gain by 10% respectively. The YOLO gem, on the other hand, increases all three by 30%, but spots the enemy 4 wins. That means if you get hit once you will instantly lose!
You are probably asking yourself, “Wait a minute. How much variety can there be in a game where all you can do is dive and kick?” Well, the answer, my weird friend who talks to himself for some reason, is a lot. Every character has completely different jump and kick mechanics. Even Dive and Kick -- the Ryu and Ken of the game -- play completely differently. Dive has a higher Dive, meaning that he gains more distance with each of his kicks and has to play more aggressively. Kick has a faster kick and a shorter dive, meaning he can safely build his meter and respond to opponent’s attacks, making him a more defensive character.
There are a whole host of other characters, all riffing off fighting game characters and players. Kung Pao has a shallow horizontal kick and is a parody of Mortal Kombat’s Kung Lao. Redacted is a parody of Wolverine, and has a high and steep kick and a jump that goes backward a bit. Mr. N is both a parody of pro fighting game Marn Phan, and Rufus from Street Fighter IV. He has a steep kick with an awkward hitbox around his foot that makes it easy to score headshots, but that makes it hard to aggressivly advance on the opponent. And there are so many more. The Baz sh**s lightning, Dr. Shoals has a double foot-foot Dive, S-Kill teleports, Stream can steer his kicks up and down, Uncle Sensei has two kicks in two stances, Jefailey can charge his kicks, and Kenny can access the kicks of any other character in the game!
For as awesome as Divekick is, it does have some flaws. Navigating menus with only two buttons is really frustrating. Most selections occur when you release buttons, as holding buttons is used to back out of menus sometimes. Also, certain menus require you to press both buttons at once to accept, while others only require you to press the dive button to accept, with the kick button backing out, as opposed to backing out by holding the dive button in other menus. There isn’t a universal menu scheme, but rather a different menu control scheme for whatever menu you are in. As a result, you will find yourself fumbling around with it, when the creators could have just let you used the d-pad or arrow keys in menus and not in the game itself.
The game has a few control issues to speak of as well. The timing for pressing both buttons at once is really finicky, and you’ll find yourself accidentally jumping to your death when you actually wanted to do your ground technique. Since hitting another button other than dive or kick pauses the game, you will find it incredibly easy to fatfinger the pause button midmatch, which is frustrating in local matches and surely spells death for you in online multiplayer.
Finally, there are a few old school fighting references in the game that we could have done without. The absurdly overpowered and nearly psychic final boss version of S-Kill is one of them. In fact, the game’s entire A.I. system is somewhat flawed. A.I. opponents don’t play like humans do at all, and you’ll find yourself getting into some pretty bad habits if you face them repeatedly. Unfortunately, that’s the only option you have if you aren’t doing local or online versus mode. There is no Training, Survival, Time Attack, or any other mode to speak of other than single player arcade.
Despite all of this, Divekick is still an awesome game. If you are a fighting fan, you will get the many and numerous references it throws your way. From avoiding fraud detection if you lose four time in a row, to watching Stream shake salt on you when you lose, this is a love letter to the fighting game community. If you aren’t a fighting game fan, however, you should still check it out. For a low price of $10, you too can feel all the hype and excitement a pro fighting game player feels without needing to study up on combos or special moves. Divekick is simply an awesome game all around. If you aren’t playing Divekick, you aren’t really living.
This review is based on a retail copy of Divekick for the Playstation 3.