The one question that I kept asking myself while paying through Divekick was – who is this for? In an age in which 2D fighters are becoming increasingly complex, the idea of a simplified 2 button fighter seems like an ingenious way of bringing the casual crowd back to the genre, but Divekick, despite its relative simplicity, appears to be a game aimed squarely at the hardcore crowd that it rather clumsily points fun at.
With a character based upon former Capcom community manager Seth Killian, this is clearly a game aimed at the hardcore (I’m going to go out on a limb and assume the majority of my FIFA loving friends have no idea who Seth Killian is). Again, the simplified gameplay can be enjoyed by just about anyone, but the array of nods, cheesy dialogue and, well, ‘eclectic’ cast of characters all point towards a game made by and for the traditionally hardcore fighter community.
While this is arguably a problem is so much that, the more ‘casual’ gamers that might be drawn in by the simplified controls will not get the majority of jokes and references; the bigger problem unquestionably stems from the fact that none of it is very funny. The character design, the dialogue, it’s all, well, it’s all just a bit lame. Ok, so the outrageously Japanese announcer is pretty fun, but other than that, the majority of characters fail to hit the funny bone
Even the art design, which in fairness does have its moments, is blighted by a forgetfully bland representation of both its fighters and their backgrounds. Nothing is terrible, it’s just kind of there. From lazy character design including an overweight gamer and a female fighter of Chinese descent named Kung Pao (she may be based on Mortal Kombat’s Kung Lao, but she still comes across as vaguely racist), to bland level design (oh look, a basketball court), this is game that clearly thinks that it’s funnier than it actually is.
Still, get past the lame dialogue, nonsensical story (it’s mince even by fighter standards) and forgettable art design and you’re left with the game that we were ultimately hoping for. Strip away the nonsense piled on top, and you actually have a 2D fighter that can very successfully be played with two buttons and enjoyed by just about anyone.
With the L and R buttons used for kicking and diving (it’s really jumping), you move your character through a combination of simple jumps and kicks that push your character forward. It really is that simple. There are kickbacks (a swift backward step) that are achieved by diving again the moment a kick reaches the ground and a collection of character specific special attacks that are achieved via the build-up of a special meter and pulled off by pressing both L and R simultaneously, but despite offering a little bit of variation, really have no major effect on the way that the game is played.
Essentially, this is a game based purely around timing and the successful anticipation of your opponents moves. There are no combos, no skills and no moves to learn – just diving and kicking. It’s a brilliantly simplified system and it works far better than it has any right to. Rounds are won via a single successful strike with the first fighter to reach 5 victories proclaimed the outright winner.
Each character does have a slightly unique playing style which does give the game an element of longevity, but despite character specific stories (a cut scene at the start and end of single player mode), this is nonetheless a game at its best when played sporadically, preferably with friends, and if age and circumstance allow it, with plenty of beers in tow.
The bland art design, terrible story and mostly forgettable characters do get in the way of the fun, but drill down to the core combat and Divekick does exactly what it says on the tin. The window dressing is clearly and rather inexplicably aimed towards the hardcore, but the gameplay itself is perfectly pitched to be enjoyed by just about anyone. Simplistic and addictive, Divekick might well be little more than a party game, but it’s a damn good one, and one that despite its issues, does a great job of stripping the genre down to its component parts.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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