Divekick, the cheeky new fighting game from the Chicago-based Iron Galaxy Studios, permits your character three basic motions: 1. You may hop back; 2. You may jump straight up; 3. You may “Divekick” diagonally down from that jump. That’s it. Though it resembles a traditional fighting game—there are health bars and an offscreen MC telling you when to go—it is so simple, so fast, and so addictive that is has much more in common with Bennett Foddy’s brilliant Get on Top (itself based on the legendary Fight of the Sumo Hoppers).
Like most parsimonious games, Divekick encourages you to test the limits of its simple rules. Unlike modern fighting games, which are so loaded down with features that casual play often feels random and chaotic, you quickly develop in Divekick tactics and countertactics, laying bare the common denominator of most fighting games: rock, paper, scissors.
When I first played the game, at this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Iron Galaxy had set up a big, arcade-style booth on which to play their game. The closest you can get to this right now is by buying the game for the PlayStation Vita, and playing against a friend. Each of you literally holds one end of the device. It’s a great way to kill ten minutes, and if you’re overwhelmed by or not patient enough to master modern big budget fighting games, this is about the best you can do. Try it.