What do you get when you mix an undead samurai dishwasher with a cyborg vampire ninja? Well if you ask the founder, James Silva of the one man game studio Ska Studios, he would undoubtedly say, “buckets and buckets of blood!” The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is truly a raging spectacle of speed, vengeance, metal music, nightmares and bullets.
Now I must admit, when I first found out that I would be reviewing this game, I had no idea what I was in for. I had never tried the original Dishwasher game, which was the winner of the 2007 Microsoft Dream-Build-Play game development contest. In a matter of minutes though, after starting up the game and grasping the controls, I found myself unleashing a fury rarely seen or experienced in videogames. Now that the adrenaline from playing the game has died down a bit, I can honestly say that the savagery delivered by this game is certainly on the level of God Of War or Devil May Cry.
James managed to squeeze an enormous amount of death and destruction in a 3 to 4 hour game (per story mode campaign). Developed as an action-platformer, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile has you taking on the role of a powerful undead samurai dishwasher or his cyborg vampire ninja sister named Yuki. Staged on a moon base/city kind of place, you pursue the evil masterminds, known as the Banker, the General, and the Judge that lead an evil army of zombies, cyborgs, and robots. Yuki was killed in the midst of the first story line and returns as a ruthless, feral vampire ninja that is on her own wicked quest of revenge. The dishwasher, on the other hand, is continuing his quest to … well…I guess defeat evil and kill everything (as if there is much of a difference between the motives for either).
With that being the Cliff notes version of the storyline, you progress through either campaign treated by comic book styled cut scenes with the highly stylized hand drawn gritty art that is certainly the signature of the game. Here, Yuki’s contribution to the game really shines. As she progresses through the game she has nightmare flashes where an evil being known as The Creeper stalks her. For quite some time through her story you either forget or care not for why she is unleashing this extreme can of whoop-ass upon her foes. Still, the playable nightmare sequences are frequent enough that you’ll eventually want to allow the cutscenes to play out to actually attempt to figure out what is going on.
Even with the black and white color palette, the art style of the characters and backgrounds really contribute to the wicked atmosphere that the action and the metal music provide. Using a bionic arm that features a railgun, shotgun, or chainsaw, Yuki’s combos even play out more extreme than her brother as her shrill screams accompany the sheer rage she unleashes. She jumps and bites, rips off heads, impales and rends into pieces, and simply decimates her foes with a passion that her more precise and quiet brother does not possess.
Thankfully, these combos are numerous and quite easy to pull off. You will have swappable two weapon combos that will allow you to deal out 100+ hit combos with the greatest of ease and an excess of flying red carnage. Jumping is even considered an obsolete tactic here as Yuki and the Dishwasher both possess a blood warp ability that almost teleports them a short distance in any direction as often as they want allowing them to dodge attacks and almost fly.
Combine this with other weapons like dual cleavers, a Cloud sword with a wave attack, a ninja sickle (kama), a ‘violence hammer’, a massive syringe named Painkiller, and a giant pair of scissors and you have the makings of an unprecedented death dealing wow-fest. Most times these combos leave your screen in a haze of blood clouds and black smudges due to the amount of enemies and action going on about your character’s slashing and grabbing. With simplistic animation that gets the point across effectively, you’ll even have an occasional matrix moment where your finishing moves are triggered while you grab, tear, rend, and dismember. Intense right?
With item usage, weapon upgrades, magic use and equipable tokens, you will find yourself trying multiple ways to get through the 13 different levels. Unfortunately this aspect of the game was probably the weakest. Using magic required the holding of a trigger and another button which was quickly forgotten in terms of what magic did what and which button it was mapped to. A small onscreen button map for that could have been useful. Also, item usage is only executed by entering the item inventory screen. This pauses the action and steals away from it. Hotkeys for these would have been useful (like clicking either thumbstick as a button maybe).
Just as with any action-brawler, the different enemies have their own iconic ways that they attack that will force you to vary how you wail on them as more foes are sent your way. Some attacks they will block outright and others they will evade. You’ll battle massive polearm and rocket launcher wielding samurai, kamikaze zombies with bombs, zombie soldiers with guns, robots with swords and rockets, as well as a slew of different bosses. With bosses like Goreface, The Creeper, Squidface, and Skeletank you’ll never be at a loss for a thumb-numbing challenge as you go along each level. At times, it even helps that the enemies attacks can hurt each other which can save you more often than you’ll realize.
Thankfully, you won’t have to go at it alone. The game features both local and online drop in co-op modes throughout the levels. The first friend will take on the role of whichever character wasn’t chosen initially. Thereafter, the next two friends will take on the roles of the familiars that lazily follow each of the main characters. The Dishwasher has a crow while Yuki has a bat-winged cat. Though I didn’t partake in this mode, I’m certain the additional death dealing on the screen would reach new levels of ridiculousness. You are also treated to speed challenges, an arcade mode (where you simply try to top others’ high scores on an online leaderboard), and a dish challenge mode where you are given limited weapon and magic choices to traverse a particular level.
It is clear that the new game engine, sharper graphics, more polished menus, 3D capability, and random Guitar Hero-esque mini games are a result of James’ desire to simply provide a bigger and better Dishwasher experience the second go around. Scheduled for release on April 6th, 2011 exclusively on Xbox Live Arcade, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a fantastic frenzy of carnage that is more than worth the $10 (800 Microsoft Points).
Frantic and bloody action, insanely numerous combos, solid enemy variety and difficulty scale, a high fun factor and easy combo controls make this one of XBLA's best.