Drama Club

Every move counts in the two-button fighting game Divekick.

By Matt Gerardi • August 29, 2013

A sport’s most dramatic moments give us insight into its purest form. There’s the pitcher-batter duel of baseball’s full count and the chaotic head-on collision of football’s fourth-and-short. For one-on-one fighting games, like Street Fighter, it’s the last seconds of a close match, one where the two combatants find themselves clinging to their last slivers of life. In these instances, whoever lands the next blow wins, and all those button combos and screen-filling waves of pyrotechnics become useless. The flash melts away, and the game’s cerebral core takes the spotlight. This final moment brings out a game of patience and psychology, with each player reading their opponent for the perfect moment to strike.

These mind games, played by two fighters who are one bad decision away from defeat, are Divekick’s specialty. It’s an extreme distillation of that old fighting game formula. You only have two buttons to work with. One makes you jump—or “dive,” as the game calls it. Once you’re airborne, the other button initiates an angled kick that brings you back down to earth. (If you’re already on the ground, you do a little backward hop.) Other than occasionally pressing both buttons to use one of your character’s special moves, that’s it. Jumping and then kicking is the only way to move forward, and kicking on the ground is the only way to move back. Whoever gets kicked first loses.


The concept is easy to grasp and amusing. As would be expected from a fight where each button press is a high-stakes decision, serious matches play out like Mexican standoffs. The tension is high, but the goofy combatants and their one-liners are silly. It’s as if Quentin Tarantino and Tim and Eric teamed up to produce a martial arts cartoon for Adult Swim. Divekick has the crude, stilted animation of an Adult Swim show to match. Its cheapness is part of the game’s no-frills charm.

Despite the mental drama underscoring a Divekick match, that silliness dominates the tone. One character, the “born and raised in west Philadelphia” speed demon Kick (he has a fraternal twin named Dive), is constantly shouting references to Will Smith movies. Another is a skunk bear who has suffered a Ninja Turtles-style mutation into a cigar-chomping martial arts monster.


But not all the humor is that universal. Divekick is ultimately a parody of fighting games and the competitive scene that has grown around them, and if you’re not in on the jokes, they tend to fall flat. The storyline of the game’s villain, S-Kill, for example, sends up Capcom’s tendency to release multiple versions of every Street Fighter game with superficial differences. Every sentence that comes out of S-Kill’s mouth mentions “re-balancing” or “nerfing” or “character tiers”—vaguely threatening gibberish to the uninitiated. (S-Kill is based on a real guy, by the way: Seth Killian, a former Capcom employee and mainstay of the fighting-game community.)

Divekick’s silliness is still charming overall, and the divekicking itself doesn’t suffer from the in-jokes. It’s not an intimidating game, thanks to that two-button format, and there’s an immediacy to each match’s drama. Those who want to go deeper will find nuances to explore, though. Each character’s kick moves at a different angle and speed. Jumps and kicks can be further modified by power-ups at the beginning of a match—although they don’t change things too much, another subtle nod to a controversial decision made by Capcom for one of its fighting games.


Like the fighting-game community that it sprang from, Divekick is strangely conflicted. It’s simultaneously accessible and exclusive, tense and absurd. But it’s saved from obscurity by virtue of its purity. No matter how complex it might be under the hood or how inside its jokes are, this is a game where every button press counts and each kick could be your last. It’s like a baseball game where every at-bat starts with a full count.

Developers: One True Game, Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: Iron Galaxy Studios
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed on: PlayStation 3
Price: $10
Rating: T

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23 Responses to “Drama Club”

  1. GaryX says:

    Everything I’ve heard about this game makes it sound like the last few minutes of every fighting game where it’s just completely tense, an “Oh shit!” moment where you realize you’re about to die, and then you die. It sounds like it’d be amazing with friends.

    Now if only I could find me some.

  2. DrFlimFlam says:

    Any person familiar with multiplayer gaming should be familiar with concepts such as rebalancing, nerfing, and tiers, even if it’s not from fighting games specifically.

    I like how delightfully weird games get under $20.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      This is the weird that just makes me sad, though.  I don’t want to be reminded that, at the highest level of performance, fighting games are just mathematial variables except with multiple choices for your “kicks.”  That’s why I never try to get to that point, anyway: the magic is lost.

      It’s nihilistic in its irony, and not even sort-of-funny Tim Rogers commercials can make me support that!

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I thought I should try to watch some high level SF videos so I can see people fight and look cool.

        It looks terrible. It’s two people standing across from each other, throwing projectiles endlessly, and occasionally engaging in combat before breaking it up and doing the screen-projectile thing again. It is so unfun.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          That’s definitely true and 1 of the reasons that I don’t really like Street Fighter.  There aren’t a lot of mechanics, usually, which plateaus the creativity of high-level play (as far as I can tell),

          Togeki or Evolution doing Virtua Fighter or an S.N.K. game make it appear, at least, that each action wasn’t instantly calculated to maximize damage, stage position, and the chance that the player wouldn’t be counterattacked.  It was, of course, but it allows the rest of us to pretend that we’re not killing each other with math.

        • MintBerry_Crunch says:

          You should see what high-level, competitive sport games look like! 

          Two knuckleheads shamelessly picking the same team—with the higher stats (coincidentally, the best team in the world)—and then playing a game that borders on the abstract and exploitative.

        • caspiancomic says:

           This is why I never understood the whole UFC thing that was sweeping the douchebag nation recently. Two overmuscled doods, each a practitioner of a different martial art, getting into a ring to determine who is the radder dood. Sounds entertaining, at least. But in practice, every match ends up being the two doods having a little cuddle on the floor and punching each others’ kidneys until one of them gets bored.

          It’s actually the same sort of arc you see in almost every discipline. Creativity only occurs at the absolute highest or absolute lowest ends of the talent spectrum- everything in between tends to rely on memorizing established patterns and the responses to those patterns. Fighting games, strategy games, MMO PVP, chess, music, art. Truly creative experimentation only takes place either before you really know what your doing, or after you’ve memorized all the established knowledge.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus And, moreover, it’s absolutely possible for the 2nd-tier people to restrict potential 1st-tier people from every emerging.  Tennis is a best case example, basketball is a worst case.

          The developers, in this example, never tweak the game so late that they can upend the scores of 2nd-tier people to let true mastery emerge.  I don’t care for Street Fighter 4 very much, but since 5 isn’t coming out for another 4 years, minimum, maybe they can tweak 4 until 2016 and see what happens?

        • Grimbus says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus You’re totally right. Definitely applies to improv. Most people’s first three shows will contain the best work they do the entire first year they spend learning improv.

          It’s why everyone loves teaching level 1, and corporate workshops with non-performers, and only a select few people can stand teaching, say, level 3 or 4 for very long.

  3. Enkidum says:

    Silly question, but does this have an online multiplayer where you can actually choose to play your friends in a reasonably easy manner?

    Also, this looks kinda awesome.

    • Matt Gerardi says:

      I didn’t get a chance to try out the online in that way. It has a “Create Lobby” and “Join Lobby” system. It worked kind of like your classic PC multiplayer games, where you’re presented with a list of games to join. It didn’t seem like finding a specific room would be too much of a challenge. 

  4. neodocT says:

    Wait, this is a console and PC release? Oh, I was looking forward to play this on my phone…

  5. CrabNaga says:

    My favorite bit about this game is the Fraud Detection if you’re about to get perfected.

  6. Muscle-Horse says:

    This sounds like a fun way to blow ten minutes or so, but I find it somewhat mind-a-gogging that anyone would actually pay for it. Maybe as a post-pub, drunken, “oh it’s on sale for 50p” purchase.
    I guess I’ve never really gotten into these competitive beat ’em ups to be fair.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I imagine a group of friends could have lots of fun with this on a PS3 in the same room. Some beer, some snacks, and a Divekick tournament could be lots of fun.

      • Matt Gerardi says:

        Yeah, it’s a great social game. The singleplayer “Story Mode” is pretty goofy, but can get boring. It’s a lot of fun online as well. That’s where the matches are really at there most tense. In person, though, things can get heated, but they always end with a good laugh. 

      • GaryX says:

        From what I’ve seen, that’s basically how it’s existed and been hyped before the official release.

  7. Renos Fellas says:

    Definitely enjoyed playing this. The immediate sudden death style of each round brings out the hilarity that is this game. 

  8. rvb1023 says:

    So far this has been one of the few games I have convinced a non-gamer friend of mine to play and he’s loved it. It’s brilliance is in it’s simplicity and it’s distillation of every fighting game into essentially mind games.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      That’s intriguing to me.  Is it more like he think it’s a funny joke or is he noticeably trying to get good at it?

      • rvb1023 says:

         Probably a bit of both. He hates the skill level required to play fighting games beyond button mashing and he is a pretty big physics and math geek and was immediately drawn to to Dive. Again, it removes the long combo strings and execution barrier, leaving nothing but knowing match ups (In this case, knowing the speed and trajectory of the kicks) and spacial awareness, which really just equates to mind games.

        I’m guessing it was stripping away all the layers of complexity and leaving all but the math equation pretty much every multiplayer game is at it’s core.

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