Fighting games are intimidating. Whether you're playing Street Fighter or Soul Calibur, you first have to pick from a huge selection of characters, and then try to figure out how to pull off their many complex moves. Just learning the basics is hard enough. Divekick, meanwhile, simplifies things to an almost ludicrous degree by reducing the humble fighting game to just two buttons. This naturally makes the game much more approachable, yet it doesn't turn Divekick into a simple button masher: it's a skill-based fighter that anyone can pick up and play.
No matter which character you select in Divekick, your moveset will be the same: you can jump, and then once in the air perform a diving kick. That's it. The game features one-hit knockouts, so you'll only need to kick your opponent once to win a round, and a match is won when someone gets knocked out five times. What this means is that rounds in Divekick are incredibly fast, sometimes lasting just a few seconds. And this in turn means that you're never really safe: even if you're up four rounds to none, in less than a minute you could end up on the losing end of the fight.
Rounds in 'Divekick' are incredibly fast
Divekick is a game about timing and anticipation; trying to figure out where your opponent will be, and then making sure you're able to hit them with a diving kick at just the right moment. Even with only two buttons at your disposal, Divekick offers a good amount of flexibility. Different characters offer vastly different experiences — some jump higher but slower, others kick almost straight down while some cut straight across the screen — and something as small as the timing of your kick makes all the difference. Really skilled players can even aim for a headshot, which will leave your opponent temporarily disabled in the next round.
But while the gameplay feels surprisingly solid (and makes for a great competitive party experience) elsewhere Divekick almost feels like it's trying to limit its appeal. It's a game that thinks it's much funnier than it actually is, and all of the constant foot jokes and other random humor quickly grow tiresome. They're not funny the first time, so you definitely don't want to hear these jokes multiple times a match. There's also some off-putting casual racism, including a squeaky fighter named Kung Pao and an announcer that says things like "round ereven." And for a game with such a ridiculous premise, the character designs are rather mundane. Hope you like guys in T-shirts.
A game that thinks it's much funnier than it actually is
These aspects are particularly disappointing considering that Divekick actually fulfills its promise: it's a fighting game that's simple enough for anyone to pick up, but still offers enough options for skilled players to learn and master (it was even featured at premier fighting-game competition Evo 2013). There are no complex button combinations to memorize, and you don't have to worry about building the ultimate arcade stick to be competitive. It's a rare game where a first-time player has a shot against a seasoned pro. You'll just need to look past the bad puns and terrible Engrish to enjoy it.
Divekick is available today on Steam, the PlayStation 3, and PS Vita.