Divekick is to fighting games what Super Hexagon is to auto-runners. It takes the genre, with all its old hang-ups and impenetrable nuances, and distills it so that what's left is the one-on-one fighter in its purest form.
Finally there's a game that people like me can point non-fans towards and proclaim, "This. This is what we like about the genre".
Then it squanders this openness (to a large extent) by adding layer upon layer of in-jokes that, if you don't work at the studio that made it, and you haven't followed Divekick's development closely, you'll completely fail to understand.
Nice one Keits. Good work Lang.Drawing a Blanka
If you don't know who Keits and Lang are, then you won't "get" Divekick's humour. You won't know why Markman is constantly talking about his "special controller", you won't recognise which fighting tournament organiser Jefailey is based on, and you won't appreciate why Kenny was included in the roster.
Only if you're a fighting game super-fan will you understand the slightly more overt references to brawlers. The character of Zubaz is a long lost Street Fighter II design. The "wheel of fate is turning" joke is a jab at BlazBlue. Dive and Kick are Ryu and Ken, and so on.
It's littered with these gags, and though they're amusing once the focus on them throughout, combined with the basic presentation, gives the game an amateur quality.
Even the core concept of the game is a joke born from brawlers. Fighting is exclusively focused on jump-kicking your opponent, a technique that inexperienced players often resort to when playing games in this genre.
Yet it's this intimate understanding of fighting games that is Divekick's blessing as much as it is its curse.
In reducing the move-set of each character to (effectively) a combination of jumping and kicking, Divekick does away with the need to memorise mammoth move-sets, and instead focuses on the higher levels of fighter gameplay: positional awareness, utilising your special bar, anticipating your opponent's moves, and so on.S-kill is OP
This is top flight stuff that the average game fan doesn't experience because he doesn't want to learn strings of combos and be beaten over and over during the learning process. Divekick represents a shortcut to the exciting stuff in fighters - the mind games, the strategy.
Matches can be over in a matter of moments, too, as you and your opponent only need to take a single hit before being knocked out. This raises the tension and ensures that every move counts.
Being unable to move your character around the ring is initially disconcerting, but you learn to work within each character's confines. There's hidden flexibility to the two-button system, too. You can jump and kick quickly to inch forward, or risk exposure to counter-attack with a longer jump. Pressing both buttons at the same time activates a special attack, which adds some spice.
An underwhelming single-player mode introduces you to the characters nicely, but its story is covered in all that heavily referential rubbish. However, the multiplayer - which is a large focus of the game - is absolutely where it's at.
It's not the smoothest fighter I've played online, but it works fine. Ranked matches are where you'll spend most of your time, and it has some features that many of the big name fighting franchises have failed to include: ping count, percentage of disconnects during a match, and the player's favoured character.
Iron Galaxy's fighter comes close to making the genre relevant for a whole new audience. But its commitment to the "weird fighting game" bit will likely turn off the exact same group of people that would potentially get the most from it.