Diver 2 is a physics-based game of cliff diving created by Jeff Weber of Farseer Games. Its simple premise sticks you on top of a cliff and says "ok, now jump gracefully into the water and land between the markers". Riiiiight. Doing that perfectly (and on the first try) is about as easy as teaching a cat to sing a canzone from Rigoletto. With a little practice, though, you'll get it right. The dive, not the singing cat bit.
Diver 2 has a fairly steep learning curve for a casual browser game, but the awesome feats you can perform after a few minutes make it worth your time. To start each jump, you need to position the mouse to select your jumper's stance. The location of the cursor relative to your character determines how he's standing, allowing you to start your leap at just the right angle. To take the plunge, quickly swipe your mouse in a reverse "C" shape. This will cause you to jump off your platform and start a backflip, sending you hurtling to the ocean (and rocks) below.
While airborne, you can control your rotational speed by moving the mouse either up or down, the former slowing your turns while the latter increasing them. Time it right so you slip into the sea head- or face-first (belly flops are bad). Assuming you made it between the buoys, you'll get a grand score and can consider that level mastered.
There are 30 stages in all, each with new obstacles to tend with, such as windmills and slippery slopes to slide across. Things never get too out of hand, though, as the game stays focused on what it does best without burdening itself with pointless gimmicks.
Analysis: Diver 2 isn't a game that will hook you right away. The control scheme is an awkward obstacle standing between you and your enjoyment of cliffside leaps. Once you spend four or five minutes with the game, making a series of laughably unsuccessful dives and scrutinizing the tutorial and tips a few times over, you'll realize the controls are also one of the game's strongest features. They make Diver 2 simultaneously realistic and enjoyable, taking away some direct character manipulation in favor of satisfying feats of acrobatics achieved after careful manipulation of physics. It's at this point you realize the mouse-only controls are remarkably subtle. No need to wave the cursor all over the screen in the hopes of getting things done, just stay calm and keep an eye on your diver.
One of the more advanced feats you'll need to master for later stages is secondary jumps. Watch where your character's feet are in relation to nearby platforms. If you can time it right, you can push off of rocks in mid-descent, the only real way to gain horizontal ground in the game.
Starting and re-starting your jumps is elegantly executed. If a leap doesn't go the way you want, just click the mouse and you'll materialize back at the top of the cliff. You aren't punished for bad leaps, and you aren't constricted to one level until you get the perfect score. It's a great set-up that encourages experimentation without introducing frustration.
If you've got the patience to let the control scheme sink in, Diver 2 offers up a unique physics experience that looks great and plays like a dream.
Note: Diver 2 was created using Silverlight, Microsoft's Flash-like web application framework. Silverlight works with Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems, but you might have to install the plugin if you haven't already.