Game Review: The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile
Release: April 6, 2011
Developer: Ska Studios
Available Platforms: XBLA
MSRP: 800 MSP
ESRB Rating: M for Mature
Website: Official Website
From the darkest corners of a messed-up nightmare comes a story about revenge, violence, blood, vampires, robots, katanas, chainsaws and inner demons; created to highlight not only the gruesome nature of the once-called humankind, but how to design a fast-paced, engaging, visually compelling and fun adventure for the Xbox Live Arcade.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is the sequel of the highly regarded 2008’s hit: The Dishwasher Dead Samurai. Vampire Smile is a dark 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up game that tells the story of both The Dishwasher, a relentless fighter with supernatural powers and kick-ass weapons, and his sister (the actual protagonist) Yuki, a lethal vampire with a severed arm and a demon within. There are technically two separate campaigns but both are practically identical (Yuki’s one is the best, just because of Yuki being a sexy weapon of dismemberment), featuring a plot that revolves around three incredibly corrupt individuals that had seemingly wreaked havoc on humankind’s new home: the moon (Earth no longer exists, thanks to the Dishwasher, who destroyed it in order to save it from the cyborgs plague), and it is your goal to defeat them. In general terms, the story is interesting but also kind of confusing, specially if you haven’t played the previous game; there’s really no reason for the characters to behave the way they do and a lot of details go unresolved. Nevertheless, the comic-book narrative and setting is pretty attractive and even if the story is not exactly groundbreaking, you’ll find it irrelevant once you discover Vampire Smile’s true strenghts.
The thing that will hook you up almost immediately is the fast-paced combat mechanics. Both the Dishwasher and Yuki behave similarly, but the latter has been designed to be completely bad-ass. The four main buttons of the Xbox 360 controller have been mapped for a weapon/ability, namely a sword thrust, a jump, or a kick-ass chainsaw implanted in Yuki’s arm (talk about vampire’s magnets). The four buttons can be mixed in a, for the most part, intuitive way in order to create powerful and long yet easy combos for massive damage. There are also four magic tricks, the possibility of using a machine or shotgun, and even the chance of upgrading both your weapons (which can be swapped in real time) and yourself, creating an easy to learn, yet fairly deep fighting experience.
The coolest component, though, is the blood warp; an ability to move really fast under a blanket of blood (or smoke) that makes you invincible for a very small time, and not only does it look good, but becomes completely essential in order to dodge incoming attacks, flank your enemies and even move freely around the stages. There’s no limit in the blood warp usage, so you’ll probably be using it a lot, but the key is timing, so you can both attack and dodge in the most effective way. It’s noteworthy the fighting mechanic is, as stated before, really fast, so fast in fact, you could easily button-mash your way through the early levels, but thankfully, you’ll need actual skill to defeat the latter bosses.
The whole game takes place on the moon, which is about as engaging as an arid desert; despite playing in a prison, a bank, and some sort of freaky dungeon, all the levels look the same. Of course, there are obvious variations on texture work and slight lighting changes but overall the whole game lacks variety. Thankfully you won’t be paying too much attention on the background, as the enemies will keep coming in great numbers, every time challenging you further, but given that you have to do a little bit of backtracking and exploration, the level’s aesthetic becomes kind of an issue, as you can easily get lost when everything looks the same. Nevertheless, Vampire Smile does have nice touches; the industrial amount of nicely-animated blood and body parts your enemies leave, some fancy particle effects, and the expressionistic hand-drawn illustrations make up for a unique-looking game.
The music fits the rest of the game perfectly. It’s not exactly inspiring or beautiful, but it sets the mood the way it is needed; it’s dark, low and sort of melancholic. You probably won’t remember it after playing the game for a long time, but it gets the job done. It must be said there’s some bonus gameplay mechanic that includes playing a guitar/violin in certain hidden places throughout the game; it involves a series of commands reminiscent to what you can find on Guitar Hero, with cool dark music, and doing it properly grants you special items.
Julian’s Final Say
It’s difficult to find a compelling reason to prevent anyone from buying this game. It’s fast, furious, beautiful, deep and it has a fairly high level of difficulty (although there’s a very… useful difficulty setting called “Pretty Princess” the developer kindly created for us game reviewers). The art direction is unique and attractive, the pacing is nothing short of perfect, and the combat mechanics are designed so you don’t fight them, but dance along with them. The only shortcoming I could find was the similarity of all the levels; I understand this issue might be deliberate in order to keep some sort of visual continuity but it’s still an issue nonetheless. Putting that small detail aside, and considering the game features two campaigns (13 levels each), an Arcade mode with plenty of content to keep you dismembering fellows, Speedrun Modes, and the ability of playing cooperatively both locally and online; The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is one game every action fan should own… or else, Yuki’s demon will own the very nature of our existence.
- Beautiful, violent game
- Excellent, fluid, fast gameplay
- Messy, almost nonsensical story
- A number of secret items to discover
- Environments lack variety
Final Score: 9 out of 10