Since the release of the original Dishwasher on XBLA in 2009, Ska Studios have tinkered with a few small scale releases for the Indie games (the most notable being I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1NIT!!!1). For their next full-on XBLA title they haven’t strayed too far, opting to bring back the adventures of their moody minimum wage, plate cleaning character. Subtitled Vampire Smile, this time the game goes all out in an effort to tighten up on the experience and sort some of the criticisms which stifled the original.
We’d like to be able to tell you about the storyline of Vampire Smile, but after several attempts of trying to figure it out it’s still a complete muddle. In fact, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that it’s all meant to be, with a dystopian reality where a twisted sense of `normality` is intermingled with the undead, robots, cyborgs, and even robotic killer whales on legs. On the moon. Despite the absurdity of all that, the dark and brooding nature feels like you’re actually playing a lucid nightmare, but with more twists and turns that your average sleep-addled brain could come up with.
The story and locations fade in and out of the real world (such as it exists in the game) and the nightmare world which haunts of the characters, in a process that is used to good effect. This is just one example of how well presented the game is, making it possible to rise above the overwhelming Heavy Metal / Emo vibe that pervades throughout (and which would have undoubtedly put off a large number of people otherwise). Yes it’s still bleak and nonsensical, but the spectacle on display more than makes up for it.
Despite the predominantly black and white art style, the game also makes use of colour to good effect too. Apart from the small ocean of red gore that litters the stages during and after a fight, there are also subtle variations in the colour palette and effects. Some stages actually have a lots of nice visual tricks going on, which makes it feel far more accomplished than the first.
Vampire Smile now offers two characters to play from, with the original Dishwasher and the new character Yuki (The Dishwasher’s previously dead sister). Their aim appears to be to take down three corrupt officials – a businessman, a general and a judge. It’s probably a take on modern greed and capitalist culture, but it’s undeniably a good excuse to slash through loads of enemies and create as much gore and violence as possible.
So as much as the storyline is a fuddle, there’s one thing that’s undeniable – it’s a finely crafted and entertaining slasher. Fans of the original will be able to dive right in, but newcomers won’t be put off and will soon be zipping around the level, grabbing, slashing and dismembering enemies in next to no time.
Combat is frenetic with the player able to carry multiple weapon load-outs, uncover additional weapons of various types, and easily switch between long ranged guns and close ranged melee combat. It manages to convey the same feeling as Bayonetta in that regards; even if you’re playing the game without a clear strategy then you’ll pull off the moves and have a fun time doing it. However if you’re really after high scores and attack chains then the game caters for those who are a bit more organised.
The action certainly feels a lot tighter than its predecessor, not only in the controls but also (and perhaps more crucially) in how approachable it is. Countless people complained that the original was far too difficult and while this release isn’t a push over, it doesn’t feel as gruelling to play. Checkpoints seem fairer and the default difficulty won’t make you want to force the pad through your face in frustration. However, for those who still can’t hack the pace, the game does feature a Pretty Princess mode which can be unlocked to make it even easier.
Players who aren’t feeling the story, but enjoy the fights, will probably get the most out of the Arcade mode which has leaderboard integration and allows you dispense with the nonsense, getting down to the action. It’s a nice touch that now that the game features two characters, it also includes local and online co-op to sweeten the deal.
Overall The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile goes a long way to drawing back those who may have been put off from the first. Certainly not in terms of its aesthetics, but in the experience it actually offers from playing. If you’re after something that’s incredibly gory, fast paced and a little bit off the wall then this will be right up your proverbial street.