Good jokes rarely need explaining, but Divekick’s central gag will be lost on all but the most committed fighting game player. It’s a parody of the titular move, which lets players interrupt a jump with a sharply angled kick to vary their angle of approach.
Divekick began life with just two mechanically identical characters, using two buttons, one each for jump and kick, with a single hit enough to win a round. It was the fighting game in its purest form, a test of reads and reactions.
That’s still the case, but much has changed. There are 13 characters, each poking fun at a figure or facet of the genre and its competitive scene, with a slightly different moveset. It’s even more of a niche proposition now: only committed followers will know that Jefailey is based on a famously egotistical tournament organiser – his head grows in size after each victorious round. Few will know that Stream’s win quotes are memes plucked from the chat channels of Twitch tournament broadcasts.
This expanded scope – which includes a super meter and both aerial and ground-based ways to use it – has undermined the game’s original spirit. While anyone could play the original Divekick, every match with a novice must now begin with a patient explanation of the chosen fighters’ idiosyncrasies, which rather misses the point. What had the potential to showcase to the uninitiated what makes fighting games so special has become a game aimed too squarely at those who already know.
Divekick is out now on PC, PS3 and Vita. PS3 version tested.