|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Ska Studios|
|Pub: Microsoft Game Studios|
|Release: April 6, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Violence|
by Angelo M’ D’Argenio
In 2009, Microsoft held the Dream Build Play contest that rewarded the developer of the best community-built game with an XBLA contract. The winner was Ska Studios and their punk/goth opus, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Ska Studios sunk the earnings from their award-winning game into developing the sequel, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. Time, money, and listening to your fans is more than enough to make a good thing better.
Vampire Smile is a 2D sidescrolling platformer/beat-em-up, much like the original Dead Samurai. You get to control either the titular Dishwasher, a nameless undead samurai with a flair for forbidden magic and sharp weapons, or his step-sister Yuki, an assassin recently turned vampire with a chainsaw for an arm. Set after the events of the first game, which I may remind you ended in the apocalypse, Vampire Smile sees you traveling through a ruined earth in order to murder the people responsible for its undead robot corruption. You heard me right; it's just that cool.
The Dishwasher and Yuki each have their own weapons, guns, and magic to choose from, and they differ greatly from character to character. The Dishwasher, for example, wields dual hatchets for his quick short range weapon while Yuki has a chain and sickle. Unlike the first game whose weapon selection was limited, there are now many implements of destruction to choose from, and you can sort them all into two separate layouts that can be switched on the fly at the push of a button. On the whole, Yuki is faster but less powerful, while The Dishwasher is less mobile and more powerful. The Dishwasher's combat styles also vary more drastically, while Yuki's light weapons and heavy weapons are similar, though this is made up for by the three different attachments (chainsaw, gatling gun, shotgun) she gets for her machine arm.
Difficulty is the name of the game here, and you will get a lot of it. Enemies are far more mobile than they were in the first game. They block a lot and do lots of damage when they hit you, and this is all on easy mode! You'll have to dodge a lot with the right stick to even have a chance at surviving. The original game was criticized for being a bit of a mash fest, but in this game you have to vary your attacks, secondary attacks, grabs, and magic to even have a hope of bypassing the enemies' defenses.
If the hardest difficulty isn't manly enough for you, you can unlock Samurai and Speed Run difficulties by beating the game. Samurai difficulty is too hard to even describe, with swarms of enemies ganging up on you and taking nearly all your health in a couple attacks. Speed run difficulty gives you the same difficulty you know and love, but now you are timed, and the few seconds you get on the clock must be some sort of sadistic joke! Anyone who beats either of these difficulty levels deserves a cookie.
On the other end of the spectrum, if easy isn't … well … easy enough for you, you'll unlock the Pretty Princess difficulty level if you die enough times. In this mode the difficulty fits a casual audience. Additionally, the bleak gothic black and white (and blood red) comic style is replaced with a cartoony pink environment. Instead of blood, hearts and rainbows spew from enemies as you cut them up. It's a hilarious way of saying "you suck"… not that I needed that difficulty level or anything … SHUT UP!!!
The original Dishwasher was criticized for having a shallow and confusing plot. This time around, Ska Studios paid extra close attention to the story, which now has more depth. The story is told through in-game sequences as much as it is told through stylized comic cut-aways. Though it still has that over-the-top feeling, the story is less vague this time around, and your demonic, robotic, undead opponents are now a very clear and present danger. Though it takes several breaks for inner torment, you always know exactly you who are trying to kill and for what reason. On a side note, Yuki's story is far more enjoyable than The Dishwasher's. She uncovers her horrible past through bloody flashbacks that grant her cool vampire powers, while The Dishwasher … just kind of kills things.