Irreverent, ridiculous, stereotypical, awkward; all words I would normally reserve for describing a young Saudi Arabian prince, or a disgruntled child actor on the brink of self destruction, but also, the most appropriate words I could muster to describe DiveKick, a two-button toting 2D brawler that looks a lot like an Adult Swim cartoon — oddball characterizations and everything. Rest assured, however, that frantic, fun, surprising and engaging are also words I would toss in the mix, as DiveKick delivers much more than Asian stereotypes and Fresh Prince references, even if that isn’t immediately apparent.
If you’re easily offended, “prease move on,” as DiveKick is straight-up intolerant, and quite intentionally offensive, from its straitjacket-wearing walking-internet-troll, Stream, to it’s hilariously spirited announcer and silly character shouts, there’s little this game does that couldn’t be interpreted as a cringe-worthy generalization, but if you’re like me and have a dark sense of humor that borders on childish at times, you’re likely to find a few laughs here and there, especially during the character comic introductions in story-mode. During the short campaign, I found myself comparing the announcer and the farcical Sensei hints to South Park, specifically the the City Wok Guy (Tuong Lu Kim), and within minutes I was reading every bit of text in his oh-so racially insensitive voice; but you know, it’s all a joke and stuff.
For that matter, the entire roster in DiveKick is all a joke (and stuff), and if you’ve knocked around a few fighting games in the past few years, some are even worth a snicker. There’s Dive, a parody of Yang from the Street Fighter franchise, Dr. Victoria Shoals, a Dr. Doom parody from Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Kung Pao, the obvious Mortal Kombat rip-off — not to mention a dive kicking racial slur, there’s a character from nearly every major brawler to offend as you dive in to a head shot. Unfortunately, those characters are not very nice to look at, and while occasionally funny, the animations can appear rather stiff. There’s a particularly amusing animation that plays about 50% of the time when defeating an opponent with the Mr. N character, and displays him crying as he lays a spread of meals to devour. It’s funny because he’s fat and on the run from the mob, get it?
But can the jokes and general kookiness sustain the appeal in such a video game in the long run? Probably not, and DiveKick doesn’t offer enough variety in its attempt at edgy humor to keep you invested, with unimpressive visuals, awkwardly stiff animations, rather niche game-play, and all of that character hullabaloo. Thankfully, the core concept works quite well, and fighting is where DiveKick separates itself from the comedy, even if it does so humorously.
In DiveKick, winning a match is a two move deal. Simply put: you jump, you kick, you KO your opponent or die trying. Casual gamers will find the lack of combo memorization enjoyable, but hardcore fighter fans shouldn’t be too disappointed, as there’s depth to be found in its seemingly simplistic control scheme. Once you weed out the faulty death-trap moves that leave you open for a dive-kick to the face, and the structural hiccups that tend to distort your view of the characters movements, you’re likely to walk away impressed with how elaborate Iron Galaxy has managed to make the two-button system. Multiple moves can be executed with the arrangement: one for jumping, one for dive-kicking; kicking on the ground for hopping a step back and both buttons simultaneously for a special move.
Once you’ve mastered the characters attack-style, timing becomes the key to success as you flash from one end of the screen to the other in a bout of dive-kicking madness, racing to make the first hit. Since you’re only ever focused on two-buttons, there’s plenty of opportunities to take advantage of your opponents, adding a breadth of possibilities as you memorize their attack patterns and plot your own. As most of the characters play quite differently, experimentation is a must, and playing through the campaign with each character is encouraged before taking on a real opponent, and will also net you a trophy (for those of you that care).
In the tradition of foolishly foul frat-boys and drunken sorority girls, DiveKick generally performs adequately despite its obvious deficiencies (like being a bit sloppy due to drunkenness… so it’s not such a great analogy, deal with it). However, some of these issues are harder to ignore than others, such as overpowered characters, glitchy move executions, and the worst of the lot: dive kicks that, despite making clear contact, simply push through the opponent like Sam Wheat (you know, because he’s a ghost). These instances occur more often than is acceptable, and while a non-issue in story-mode due to the short and speedy nature of the matches, they can really dampen your diaper during online play.
While DiveKick does a few things wrong, it also does a few right; smooth and simple online play that’s as fast as it is fun, glorious local player-vs-player matches, an intricate two-button play-style that’s easy to learn, but difficult to master, and occasionally funny characters and inside jokes for the brawler crowd. Unfortunately, even a stable framerate can’t save it from faulty mechanics, kicks that cross players without landing, some iffy visuals and weirdly ’90s animations. With its low entry fee, however, DiveKick is both welcoming and worth exploring, even if you can’t “catch fly with chopstick.”