'Divekick' - review

Thursday, 22 August 2013 01:14 AM Written by 

DivekicklogoI can’t imagine the strange looks the developers at Iron Galaxy received when “Divekick” was in its early idea phase. Here’s a fighting game that only uses two buttons. There isn’t even a joystick or D-pad for traditional movement. There are two buttons. That’s it. Just two. One button dives and one button kicks. Digest that for a second.

Not only is the control scheme simplified, but the gameplay is, too. Land one hit and you win the round. Win five rounds and you win the match. This may sound like a toddler-friendly version of traditional fighters like “Street Fighter,” but it’s surprising just how much strategy is used in a fighting game of this nature. And when both fighters are one hit away from victory and defeat, the action becomes manic and tense.

It doesn’t sound like a fighting game with just two buttons could stand a chance at being competitive, or even contain varied gameplay. The variables are in the characters. Each character fights differently. Their dives are different and their kicks are different, whether it’s the altitude, speed, or angle.

Even a simplified fighter like “Divekick” needs to have a meter. Each character comes with a special ability that can help in an offensive or defensive way. These special moves burn your meter. Since there are only two buttons, those specials are executed by pressing both buttons.

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Landing a kick to the head scores a headshot. If a headshot is landed, the player that received it will start the following round in a daze. Movements will be slower for a short period of time.

And that’s it.

I had my skepticism about the concept before playing, but upon playing a lengthy session of online matches, the light bulb flicked on. This concept is nothing short of genius. It’s not the simplicity of “Divekick” that makes it appealing. It’s the depth of the metagame that takes form because of that simplicity.

A player gains the upper hand, and the opponent makes adjustments to counteract that upper hand, tipping the scales. Then the losing player must come up with a new strategy. It keeps going back and forth; new wrinkles in movements and techniques in constant flux. Having only two buttons, these alterations happen at a much more rapid pace than it does in traditional fighters.

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“Divekick” wants to carve a niche in the fighting game community, while bringing newcomers along the way. Its charm is tailored for both. Newcomers will appreciate the seemingly zany character design, story and voice acting. But the game is full of subtle and obvious references to other fighting games and lingo within the fighting game community. Some of them are hilarious if you know what the characters are talking about.

The game appears to be somewhat limited in the modes, but online play is the most important. Fortunately it works well. “Divekick” can be played on PC or the PS3 and Vita platforms. The PS3 and Vita are cross-play enabled. Since this isn’t a graphically intensive 3D fighter, and there aren’t dozens of button inputs that have to be tracked and transmitted, online play is silky smooth.

I would’ve liked to have seen a training mode to mess around with the various characters. There is a versus mode where the left side of the controller controls the left player and the right side of the controller controls the character on the right, but if you use a different button setup – which I do – you can’t train with the buttons you’re comfortable with.

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There is a classic story mode, that gives a humorous prologue and ending for each character, but online modes are where you’ll want to be.

Regardless of the absence of a training mode, “Divekick” is a novel new approach to the fighting genre. This is a must-own for hardcore fans of the fighting game community. If you’ve ever wanted to get into a fighting game, but were intimidated by the learning curve, “Divekick” is the perfect game to get you in on the action. I can’t wait to see “Divekick” on the main stage at EVO.

9.5 out of 10

 

Pro

Depth through simplicity
Humerous design
Small learning curve

 

Cons

No training mode

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