Divekick is going to be a game that splits opinions, that much is sure. The hardcore fighting game fans will love the action/reaction playing style, but a large proportion of people will be left cold. A good portion of that first group will already own it on another format, too. That doesn't set things up all that well for the Xbox One version.
If you're not aware, the main feature of the game is described right in the title. This is a quirky two-button fighting game in which one button makes you jump (or dive) and the other makes you kick. Nothing else on the controller does anything and the d-pad and analogue sticks are given a rest. What’s more, opponents can only be defeated with either a single hit, or by being furthest away from the center of the screen when the match time has depleted. The first fighter to five rounds wins the bout.
With a gameplay structure and controls that are so restrictive, the game is based very heavily on timing your moves. The dive button causes you to jump in the air, and then you press kick to move forward and attack. If you press kick while standing on the ground, you perform a kickback and leap backwards. Pressing both buttons together (when charged) allow you to carry out an air or ground special move. Every time you kick, you charge your kick meter, and once you’ve built up enough power, your character enters “Kickfactor” mode, where he or she can jump higher and kick faster for a limited amount of time. Stats can be tweaked by equipping gems that alter your character’s properties before each match. One will give you a boost to jumping, another will speed up your kicking, and so on and so forth.
On the face of it, that’s about the long and the short of Divekick, but it would be wrong to write the game off for that. The simple reason is that when you get two players together who have the slightest idea of timing and some sort of interest in playing, the game transforms into something magical. A quick local multiplayer session can turn into far too many matches all too quickly, and that’s to the game’s credit. Online play is generally fast and responsive, and good, challenging matches can be had even with the introduction of a little lag. For this reason, it’s the perfect distraction for the hardcore fighting game fans when they’re sick of trying to land massive combos in other games.
The problem that Divekick has is threefold. Firstly, there aren’t many people playing online. On multiple occasions we’ve logged in to play and spent 15 minutes trying to find a match before giving up. This means that secondly, unless you do indeed have a local opponent who has the slightest idea of timing and some sort of interest in playing, there’s very little to do. The game’s story mode – which should probably just be called “Arcade” mode given the lack of storytelling that goes on – can be cleared in twenty minutes. You get an achievement for beating it with each of the thirteen fighters on offer of course, but unless you crank the difficulty up – which makes the game painfully hard – you’ll be able to do that far too easily. Beyond that, you will have seen all there is to see. Thirdly and finally, the game has been available since August last year on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PC, so anyone with an interest has probably had their fill. That’s more than likely the reason nobody is playing the Xbox One version online, in actual fact. Sure, the “Addition Edition +” version is new, but the only valuable thing that it does is add a few new characters, most notably and inexplicably, a version of Johnny Gat from Saints Row IV.
The game is presented nicely, leaning back on some good old arcade fighter styling to ensure that the action stays as bright and appealing as possible. Also, the developer has also leaned on the genre’s occasional bouts of casual racism and jacked them up a little – we’d like to think as an attempt at parody - meaning that you have a clearly non-Japanese actor bellowing an over-the-top impersonation of a Japanese announcer pretty much all the way through the game. How you take that is entirely going to be down to your stance on things.
In short, everything Divekick says it’s going to deliver, it delivers. The problem is that it doesn’t ever actually claim that it’s going to deliver all that much. If you’ve got a few friends around it could provide a few yucks, and the hardcore fighting crowd will love it, but a distinct lack of online Divekickers on Xbox One means that your money would probably be better off going elsewhere - especially given how dull the lone single player mode is.