Where do you draw the line between parody and sincerity? Some say that the best satire is that which is most difficult to distinguish from the real thing, and in the case of the infamous two-button fighter Divekick many are still scratching their heads as to how to approach it. It’s obvious at a glance that this is a game that wears its love of fighters and questionable stance with the Fighting Game Community on its sleeve, but just how deep does the ironic rabbit hole go? (And does the Mad Hatter wear a fedora?)
If word of Divekick has somehow eluded you up until this point, its history is relatively simple: As a joke, several members of the FGC banded together to form a development house – One True Game Studios – and produced a fighting game that boiled their collective experience with the genre down to the simplest form possible. This game ran on exactly two inputs, Dive (jump) and Kick (uh… kick), and featured two identically-handling characters, Dive and Kick (noticing a pattern here?) when it made its debut at Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament 8 in 2012. Much to the surprise of the One True Game crew their game was extremely well-received, and after another favorable showing at EVO that year and a successful Kickstarter campaign soon afterwards Divekick was on its way to becoming an honest to goodness game under the studio’s new name, Iron Galaxy Studios.
A few things have changed since the first prototype was thrown before the mercy of the FGC last year, but despite what you may hear from the purists nothing betrays the brilliant simplicity at Divekick’s core. The roster may have expanded from 2 to 13 and a few special moves and meters may have snuck their way in, but these all function within the same framework as the original concept and not only highlight the strengths of the unique system the game uses but also deepen the cuts at its targets’ expense. It’s a strange moment when you find yourself needing to consult a guide to better understand how a character’s special moves work in a game with only two buttons… strange, but sobering.
That’s really what makes Divekick such an extraordinary game: It’s the logical endpoint of the “easy to learn, hard to master” model and it’s completely functional on disparate skill levels. It’s fully capable of being played by newcomers to the genre, actually almost begging to be the starting point for those intimidated by the nigh-impenetrable candy shell of nomenclature and trends keeping them from the creamy chocolate center of understanding the modern fighting community. Paradoxically, though, it’s simultaneously crafted for the veteran player: Don’t let the limited interface fool you, this is a game that requires a good amount of strategy and forethought. Maybe not as much as the average fighter you’d see at EVO, but when taking everything into account the average round of Divekick contains a surprising amount of depth. On top of that, parody of the FGC and fighting games in general is an inexorable part of the game, and whether it’s the obvious gender-swapped Kung Lao surrogate or little details like the “SALT” sign in the arena crowd (or knowing the story behind The Baz) the more you know on the subject the more you’ll enjoy.
Figuring out whether or not to recommend a game like this is a bit difficult. On the one hand (or rather, foot) it works well as an in for someone looking to get into fighters on a much more basic level than other games actively attempting to do so like Skullgirls or Tekken Revolution, but on the other the kitschy nature of it has a way of scaring away people expecting anything but a 100% serious title to be a joke inside and out. The best I can do is direct you back to the core concept: A fighter with only two buttons. If you’re still interested after hearing that, find a way to try it out. If not, the other features probably won’t win you back.