Divekick is a spoof that is better than its source material.

It treats fighting games and the competitive community surrounding them as jokes. And you know what? It earns that right. Divekick is competitive, funny, accessible and crazy. What it doesn’t earn is its instances of lazy design and racism. That said, Divekick is fun. And I can’t help but enjoy it.

Unlike most fighting games, probably all other fighting games, Divekick does away with complicated combos and the wide array of buttons to select from. They’re replaced with two buttons: dive and kick. There isn’t even buttons to move around; everything is done by diving into the air and kicking down. And it works perfectly. Additionally, both buttons are held for either a ground or air special, and the kick button can be used to kick-off ground and back peddle from danger.

I am complete trash at fighting games. Memorizing combos for one character is too much for me, let alone figuring out how to properly defend myself against a roster of characters twice or more than three times as large as Divekick’s. But Divekick is different. Yes, it’s important to understand how each character works to properly defend against them, but Divekick’s simplicity and limited roster makes it easy. My roommate was able to pick up a controller and understand Divekick in just a few minutes, and we could instantly have competitive matches. And that’s a big part of Divekick’s charm. It is so, so accessible.

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The very quick matches, sometimes only a few seconds long, are essentially a struggle to out-position your opponent. I tried to make every move a calculated one, but if I rushed and made a mistake, I often paid for it. Jockeying for position and capitalizing on your opponents mistake is everything when it comes to winning. When someone scores a headshot, it results in the fighter becoming concussed and sluggish for the first few seconds of the next match. It creates a kind of momentum and it can be difficult to overcome if you’re on the receiving end.

Or, if you’re inexperienced or don’t care much for strategy, a total bull-rush that will, more often than not, end in a quick and exciting fashion, at the very least. But I never found those victories, whether against computer or human, to be as satisfying. My favorite matches were the more drawn out and tense ones: especially when they reached the ninth and final round.

divekick2While the two-button configuring works wonders in Divekick’s combat, it takes it a bit too far at times, and is noticeably out of place outside of the ring. The menus are clunky and are often lacking simple features, such as going back a step, that are, simply, game programming 101. If I changed my mind or entered into a mode accidentally, then I would have to either quit and run Divekick again, or go into a match and quit to get back to the menu. It’s just awkward and foreign for a game that’s trying to be so simple.

Divekick is riddled with humor, but, often to its detriment, it occasionally tries too hard or goes too far. What I really appreciated was the tips from Uncle Sensei (the old grizzled fighter) that appeared before each fight, and Divekick’s nods at pop culture with the occasional Fresh Prince joke or random mentions of geek-culture. Additionally, some of the stranger character designs — such as a fighter who is so full of himself that his head literally grows in size as he wins — are enough to entertain.

 

 

[quote_right]it lumps together attributes like a gross, racist quilt[/quote_right]But then there are other characters. One in particular that is really discomforting. One fighter is a horrible caricature of an asian, really just an asian because it lumps together attributes like a gross, racist quilt. By far the worst part of this representation is the “voice acting” done, which sounds like a Jawa doing a horrible Chinese accent. I’m not overly sensitive when it comes to these types of things, but this sort of parody is lazy at best, and racist at its worst.

It’s surprising how different each character is with such a simple control scheme. Both fighting styles and even personalities feel very distinct, even with everyone essentially having the same moves. Characters jump at different heights and speeds, and their kicks travel at different angles and velocity as well. Each character also has a special move for the air and ground. While useful, they aren’t powerful enough to break the game.
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The Story mode in Divekick is a subtle nod to the stories present in the fighting games of yesteryear, but it does something extremely well: it’s incredibly clever. Every character has a few interactions throughout the story mode before a fight that tie together with other’s backstories or personalities. For example, Uncle Sensei’s championship streak was ruined due to the brackets being rigged. But if you play as his nephew, Kick, then the culprit is revealed through his story.

The final boss S-Kill in the story mode is a big divekick in the face. S-Kill is based off of Seth Killian (a high profile person in the fighting game community), and the final fight with him is completely unfair. Everything previous to it, every part of Divekick is balanced. But for some horrible ironic decision, the character that is obsessed with balancing the sport of Divekick is completely overpowered. His special attack bar is always at max during the fight, which means he can use either special move and is much quicker. The result is S-Kill teleporting all over the stage. I’ve beaten him a few times, but I’m still convinced that I just got lucky.

Wrap Up

Divekick is the first time I’ve ever been able to play a fighting game and completely understand what I’m doing. It’s possible that it is just a dumbed-down experience made to cater to gamers like me who, for lack of a better word, suck at fighting games, but I genuinely believe Divekick is more. It’s a competitive experience that I highly recommend to novice and pro alike. I only wish it would have taken one of Uncle Sensei’s sage-like tips of “If you have to ask, it’s racist,” to heart.

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