Divekick preview The twobutton brawler
Iron Galaxy Studios' Divekick, which started out as a purely independent Kickstarter success story, pokes fun at the aspects of the fighting genre that people both love and loathe. It competes well in the genre it trivializes, and it does so with both hands in its pockets.

The build I played at PAX East used a fight stick with two buttons slightly larger than the palms of my hands. That underscores the key ingredient to Divekick: it introduces an appropriate level of depth for a fighter that only uses two forms of input. Smacking one button down would tell my character to jump in the air, while the other had them hopping backwards. Combinations of these buttons resulted in jumping in the air and kicking downward at an angle, or activating a character-specific ability when the "kick meter" filled up. Successfully kicking my opponent just once in the cat-and-mouse fighter won a round, with the match going to the first character to win five rounds.

Instead of memorizing button combinations, the playing field is leveled for all combatants, as timing is everything in this game. I found myself adopting familiar fighting game strategies, attempting to lure my opponent in before nailing them with a quick hop and kick. Other times, I would close the gap between us with a high vertical jump and kick, a risky proposition given the amount of time available for my enemy to counter. Kicking my opponent in the head wasn't just satisfying, it was a tactic that carried over to the next round, as the player suffering the blow began the first four seconds of the round in a daze. The daze slowed their movements, giving me a clear, but not absolute advantage. Divekick wouldn't be a true mockery of fighting games without characters that drew subtle inspirations from the subject of its sneering. There are two separate male characters that pose with carefree bravado in the character selection screen, each wearing a different-colored track suit. These two are Dive and Kick, and their similar styles and poses, both fighting with their hands stuck in their pockets, are reminiscent of Street Fighters Ryu and Ken. Considering Iron Galaxy's familiarity with the source material (the developer had a hand in Marvel vs Capcom: Origins and Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike Online Edition), each sarcastic tip of the hat to the genre in Divekick felt appropriate.

Each character has a unique appeal, ability and their own drawbacks. For instance, the large werewolf-like beast named Redacted, who dons an appropriate slash through its name, has incredible jumping ability but moves a bit slower. It's tough to play as Redacted and not recall Blanka from the Street Fighter series. I had the most success with Dr. Shoals, who would dive more slowly and evenly across the screen until pressing the kick button a second time, at which point she dropped downward at a sharp angle. Playing with Dr. Shoals as opposed to Redacted resulted in a different strategy altogether; I spent more in the air with her character.

Divekick's special brand of irony includes a thorough reproduction of details typically featured in a fighting game. Even with the make-or-break style of fighting it introduces, matches still include a full health bar at the top of the screen. It doesn't need to exist; it's there because we expect that from fighting games. In the same breath, the sheer notion that fighters with functional fists are opting to not use them in is just as easy to accept once you begin playing it. The winner of the match also gets three grades from the game for diving, kicking, and "not losing," which may be the best scoring category I've seen attributed to players of any game that I can remember.

Divekick is coming to PS3, Vita and PC this Summer. It is currently vying for a spot on Steam through the platform's Greenlight service.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.