System(s): Vita (played), PS3, PC
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Iron Galaxy Studios (One True Game Studios, Iron Galaxy Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Violence, Suggestive Themes and Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
I must admit, I was at a bit of a loss when it came time to write my Divekick review. I really dig the game, but admit that many times I was tempted to say, “If a fighting game that is centered around two buttons, only allowing people to dive or kick, appeals to you, then you’ll love Divekick.” But, there’s more to it than that. Divekick is the perfect example of a crowd-pleaser. This will be the game you bust out with friends, fighting each other for hours and enjoying every minute. Yet, at the same time, I could see it finding a secure spot in tournaments, because there really is more to Divekick than just diving and kicking.
The art of the Divekick
At its heart, one could say Divekick is the story of two young men who were sent to live with their Uncle Sensei in Bel Air from West Philadelphia, and grew to learn and love Divekicking as a result. After all, it’s with Dive and Kick that Divekick first began.
However, the full game follows 13 competitors, each wth his or her own brief story telling why he or she Divekicks. Some do it for the fame (Mr. N, Jefailey), others do it for a cure (Dr. Shoals), and there is even someone who does it for the “lulz” (Stream). However, every story leads up to S. Kill and a fight to preserve the world of Divekick.
In short, each story is rather silly, but you have to expect that from a game like Divekick.
Diving, kicking, and perception
Divekick is ridiculously simple to play. One button “dives”, which is a fancy way of saying a character will jump. The other button “kicks”, which means a player will launch a kicking attack while in the air, or will do a quick hop backwards if he or she kicks on the ground. The goal is to use these buttons to move and attack at the right times to hit an opponent. One hit is all it takes to win a round, and five wins gets a player a match. It’s designed to be enjoyed with friends, especially in a group atmosphere, and this is even demonstrated by the Vita version offering a Versus control scheme that allows two players to play on one handheld.
In short, Divekick is the game to play with friends. It’s simple enough that anyone can play, even those who usually falter at fighters, and the assortment of characters and variety in playstyles that still manages to get packed in means people who do know more can take advantage and play on a higher level. Yet, these two experiences aren’t divided. A master can play against a beginner, and both can experiencing a thrilling fight and learn something from one another.
The simplicity allows Divekick to become a more thoughtful experience. Every player will quickly learn that continually diving and kicking won’t get anyone anywhere, and the fact that it takes five rounds to win allows for a learning curve within each match. Every moment counts, each action has to be read and it isn’t about trying to out-move your opponent. It’s more about trying to out think him or her instead. What do they usually do? If they dive now, when would it be right to initiate your own dive to perhaps get a headshot, which will leave a character dizzy and slow him or her down briefly at the start of the second round.
That isn’t even factoring in certain characters’ special moves and gems. S. Kill teleports around the screen in Divekick, meaning the only real chance to counter is either when he’s in the air, coming down for a kick, or has just landed. The Baz has kicks that leave an electrical trail across the screen, which means any opponent diving after he kicks could unintentionally end up in the line of fire. Each one has a specialty and that, combined with the use of gems that increase power or perhaps even let players start a match at an extreme disadvantage, make Divekick even more special.
More importantly, I can’t seem to play Divekick for more than a few matches on my own. Let me clarify – if I don’t have any friends around for local multiplayer, I have trouble staying engaged. My limit is usually either one complete run through the story mode, or about five online Ranked or Unranked matches. I love the game and always feel this sense of tense excitement with every match, I can’t play too much of it when I’m alone. It’s like it calls for a group atmosphere, where people can egg each other on, or call dibs on the next round. There just isn’t that same thrill online. I’ve never had trouble finding a match, probably due to the online cross-play that allows PS3 and Vita owners to play together, but I just can’t get over how much more fun the experience is with other people around.
More than just diving and kicking.
Divekick looks like a game that’s simply silly fun, and it is, but there’s more to it than that. It isn’t just about laughing at ridiculous characters and gameplay that sometimes feels like its more about chance than skill to win. There’s this sense of strategy and depth to Divekick, and it doesn’t hit you that there’s really more to the game than just diving and kicking until you’ve played a few Ranked rounds and realized it’s impossible to win by button mashing and hoping that continually diving and kicking will do the trick. It’s about attempting to read your opponent, being patient and precise timing. Divekick is a thinking man’s game, despite its silly exterior, and I’m confident it is a game people will be playing for years.