Impressions: Divekick

By Ben Barrett on August 21st, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Divekick is the simplest game you’ll ever play.

Setting two opposing characters against one another with the same ability, there’s little to learn. There’s no direct control of left/right movement, one button jumps, the other performs the titular maneouvre (thus moving forward) or leaps you backwards if grounded. Each impact with an opposing player is an instant KO and the first to five wins the battle. Characters are different only in the angle and speed of their one attack and the size of their body. Five minutes in you’ll know everything.

Which is why Divekick is the most complex game you’ll ever play.

Those tiny differences in angle and speed are everything. Despite the obvious similarities, controlling one character is vastly different from another. The basic starter, Dive, can simply leap into the air and then come down at a similar rate. Others have slower jumps – making them more predictable – but faster dives, meaning if you haven’t reacted correctly you’re in deep trouble. Some get even more complicated: my favoured avatar, S-Kill (we’ll get back to this name in a moment), slow-teleports instead of jumping, totally invisible and intangible while on the move. His kicks are obnoxiously slow, however, so the game becomes a dance of picking the exact right time to strike.

I told a small fib: on top of different types of divekick, each character has two activated abilities, one in the air and one on the ground. Each uses some amount of a meter that builds with every attack. If allowed to fill it activates ‘kick-factor,’ vastly increasing a character’s speed and quickly draining. Otherwise, it is a resource to be used on these abilities. Each, again, contributes to totally different match-ups and must be considered when planning moves. If S-Kill’s air ability – a teleport that puts him just above and facing his target – is available to him, certain actions become suicide. But it uses up such a huge portion of his gauge that baiting one out is very profitable, especially when it then leaves him in a vulnerable state.

The genius of each character’s design betrays the immaculate fighting game pedigree of Divekick’s designers. Just playing with numbers wouldn’t be enough to make an enthralling experience, more asymmetrical differences are required. After an hour with the game, I no longer saw the similarities between two different opponents, only worried about their specific strengths. It’s a lecture on design, elegantly but obviously displaying how simple changes can add massive variance. This is a game that no-one but fighting game community veterens could create. Not just because the idea would be ridiculous to others, but also ten seconds can’t go by without a reference to some FGC in-joke or event.

Remember my character, S-Kill? Not only is it a play on the word ‘skill’ but a more direct reference to former Capcom community manager and balance guru Seth Killian. His clothes and physical structure are based on the man and his dialogue is a wisely chosen mixtures of caricature and actual quotes; not least of which are from the greatest e-sports moment of all time. Others are former players and tournament organisers, or amiable parodies of Marvel Vs. Capcom’s Dr. Doom and other famously high-tier characters. The humour is everywhere: I was in stitches every time I won a match with S-Kill and he pulled out a randomly generated five word sequence, imitating Capcom’s habit of adding more words to “Street Fighter” per sequel.

Will you enjoy it? If you’ve followed fighting games, yes, but that probably means you’ve already bought it. How about you, shooter man? Or you, guy who just finished a thirteen hour stretch of Crusader Kings 2? While some (but not all) of the jokes may not be understood by less than ardent fans, I think this could be the thing to get someone into fighting games. Much like how DOTA and its various ‘spiritual successors’ were developed on the idea of RTSs, Divekick is a game developed on the idea of fighting games. It’s removed the execution requirements, the long combo strings to learn, and left the pure heart. Mind games, out-thinking an opponent, ensuring you have the right spacing to maximise your characters strengths and minimise weaknesses. At the very least, after playing you’ll look at the genre differently, seeing the deeper strategy behind the flashy, microsecond-perfect plays.

Divekick’s just £7, over on Steam.

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37 Comments »

  1. Sami H says:

    Professional divekick gameplay ;): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAo_10YQWSs

  2. Renato Costa says:

    I had been waiting for this one since the first joke appearance on evo (I think last year?)

    Also, the first game I got using solely the money made by selling those pesky steam trading cards on the marketplace!

  3. viewtifuljon says:

    This game still tickles me. The first time I saw it being played and commentated on, I was totally convinced that it was an elaborate trolling attempt. I’m still not totally sure if it’s all a big joke that everyone is in on.

    That said, me and my buddies are going to try to have a blast with it tonight.

    • Ben Barrett says:

      I think the most important thing I want to get across is basically the answer to this – it isn’t a big joke. This game is well worth the asking price and is a gateway to a lot of very awesome things if you’ve never really got into fighting games before. I’m not really worried about selling it to those that already are into the genre, because I’m pretty sure that’s where all its Greenlight votes and would be Kickstarter money came from.

      And yeah, you’re gonna have a brilliant time.

  4. heyricochet says:

    Really liking that RPS is getting into Fighting games as they become more prevalent on PC.

    Looking forward to the future Skullgirls and KoFXIII reviews in the next week/month!

    • heyricochet says:

      Also in case you’re curious about all the in-jokes in the game, Giantbomb has full descriptions of every character in the game: http://www.giantbomb.com/divekick/3030-38394/

    • cdx00 says:

      The KoF XIII review, I expect, will be sub-par. If you’re a KoF fan, you’ll know of the steep learning curve. I hope they give it justice (it’s great for PS3)

      • Baines says:

        Unfortunately, the most important thing in a KOF review right now will be the netcode. People will be playing the game online, and if the online code isn’t good, then many of the intricacies of the engine aren’t going to matter that much.

        Word leaking out of the beta is not promising. First, it was just bad. Better than the loathed console netcode, but still not good. The first patch introduced host advantage, where the host played fine and the opponent suffered.

        And SNKP isn’t exactly doing a great beta test. Holding a test less than a month before release, giving out only 300 keys, and giving them out by lottery? According to SteamCharts, maximum concurrent players topped out at 29, and most of the time sits below 20. Entire countries apparently have poor representation, to the point that SNKP considered releasing another 50 keys targeted to select countries. Devs mentioned how useful in particular Juicebox’s information has been in the test, and he is apparently only in the beta because another person gave him their key?

        • Snidesworth says:

          I’m still surprised that more games don’t use GGPO. Everything I hear about it indicates that it’s magic, yet most fighting games struggle along with their own dodgy netcode.

          • Baines says:

            Even weirder is that SNKP has at least some relation with Chinese game-ripoff/cloning company Tencent. Tencent uses rollback-based netcode in its KOF clone fighting game that supposedly rivals, and some argue beats, GGPO.

    • snappycakes says:

      I’m not looking forward to the Skullgirls review, as RPS will probably rubbish a damn good game (and I’m not even a fan of fighters) because of its cheesecake artstyle

  5. Shazbut says:

    Oh how I love that moment with Daigo.

  6. derbefrier says:

    i watched some you tube vids and it looked like something that might be fun for 10 minutes and then i’d never play it again. I’ll try it when i can get it for 2 bucks but 10 is way to much of a risk for something that honestly looks boring. I do like all these fighting games being released lately though but this seems a bit to simple for my tastes.

  7. Totally heterosexual says:

    I love this fucking thing.

  8. Cokesakto says:

    “Most complex game you’ll ever play”? Let’s not ahead of ourselves. Divekick is a great game, but it teaches you one discipline in fighting games, and one discipline only: spacing. That is, the ability to control, project control, or threaten areas of the screen. It’s a good intro to ONLY this particular discipline (and for many, will be enough to get them started in fighting games). Of course, it boils down the essence of fighting games (which are, in essence, games of bluffing, mind games, and making the best possible decision you can), but it puts it in only one discipline

    The truth of it is that fighting games are about balancing a lot of things. Spacing is part of it (and boy, is it a big part), but also managing when you time pokes, knowing which inputs are easier and harder for you in any given position in any given moment, managing your meter, managing the time remaining, and figuring out what the enemy is probably thinking given the same information, all in fractions of a second. It is (like RTS games) taking disparate information, parsing it, deciding on best actions, and implementing it, faster than your opponent can (an OODA loop, essentially). That’s the key to fighting game’s complexity, and how it can remain competitive for years long after its release date.

    While Divekick is a swell game, it has value only in the fact that it teaches the CONCEPT of spacing discipline. When you’re playing a fighting game, you need to see what your moves are, and what space they control and threaten. For most characters of Divekick, you manage increasingly large hypotenuses of triangles. For other 2D fighting games, you need to know what space your character is controlling for 20+ different moves, and you’re constantly re-evaluating their usefulness in every half-second. You will have to drill these over and over until you get it in your head. Divekick at least makes the activity of practicing spacing kind of fun. But it’s in no way as super-complex as people make it out to be.

    • Dharoum says:

      So what if it is all about spacing? Basically you are saying other fighting games have more options thus require more skill to master them all.

      But I don’t see more options intrinsically linked to needing more skill. This game requires you to become the master of spacing in order to win, and says forget about all the other stuff.
      And because of this, I bet that the number one player of this game will be better at spacing then the number one player of any other fighting game.

      • Bremze says:

        Removing all movement options from Q3 and making it a rail(hurr) shooter won’t make it less skillful because I said so!

        Divekick is a bunch of fun with friends and can be played competitively, but let’s not kid ourselves.

  9. gladius2metal says:

    I guess I am gonna play farmville instead… or maybe I just don’t get it.

  10. jonfitt says:

    With it being a pared down fighting game full of in-scene jokes, I was expecting to see a New Grounds link, not a Steam link.

  11. triplequark says:

    So this is TMNT II: The Arcade Game, but with a broken joystick?

    Looks neat.

  12. BirdsUseStars says:

    It looks like it might be fun but couldn’t they get an artist?

    Ten bucks for something that looks like a newgrounds port is a bit tough to swallow.

    • Baines says:

      That’s the issue that I’ve had with Divekick ever since they announced that they wanted to sell the game. For what it is, $10 just seems to be too much.

      Now that it is on Steam, maybe it will go on sale at some point.

  13. DeFrank says:

    Let’s go Justin!

  14. grechzoo says:

    good game, enjoy playing it with one of my friends.

    but it maybe wear off after a short while for me personally because of my experience with SFIV. the depth is just not able to compete, so the game is a laugh, but not much more once you have heard all the jokes.

    cant wait for KOF13

  15. honuk says:

    I love it when writers make shit up for the sake of their chosen narrative

  16. engion3 says:

    That evo clip gives me goosebumps every single time, it will never get old.

  17. porps says:

    wow that game looks really shit. if it was a free browser game i might play it for 5 minutes but cant imagine anyone actually paying money for that.

  18. Caiman says:

    Divekick kinda reminds me of One Finger Death Punch which is also a two-button brawler that’s all about discipline and timing, dressed up in a ridiculously OTT style which I love. There’s a PC demo at the Greenlight page which is well worth a shot.

    • Jekhar says:

      One Finger Death Punch caught my eye on the XBLIG store a while ago. I almost got the demo, but then i saw who the developer is. Silver Dollar Games, among others, are responsible for polluting the XBLIG channel with the worst shovelware imaginable, so i dropped that game immediately.

  19. Urthman says:

    The Action Button commercial for Dive Kick might be the greatest game commercial ever, except that the game can’t possibly live up to it:

    http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=3096

  20. The Random One says:

    Divekick seems to be to fighting games as Super Smash Bros is to, well, fighting games. Only the other way around. Still it’s a fighting game made accessible to slobs like me by focusing on one easy to grasp feature and removing everything else.