Not Entirely Spotless
As video games continue to get more elaborate, expensive, and complicated to develop, the teams that work on them must also grow in size to keep up. These massive teams are in stark contrast to how things were done just a couple decades ago, when it was entirely feasible for one guy to sit down at his Apple II and create his own game in his spare time.
While the current state of the video game industry seemingly makes this kind of one person game development rare, it isn’t entirely unheard of. In short, the dream of making your own video game is still very much attainable, and The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a perfect example. Created by James Silva as an XNA game, The Dishwasher was entered into and won Microsoft’s Dream Build Play contest. This gave Silva the time and money to take his creation and finish/polish it to be released in its current form as a full-fledged XBLA release.
Based on the game’s title, one could probably discern that they will be playing the game as a dishwasher. However, unlike most normal dishwashers, the Dishwasher isn’t concerned with the cleanliness of the dinnerware. Instead, in a fairly poorly delivered and nonsensical plot, you’ll figure out that the Dishwasher is actually on a revenge-fueled quest against an evil cyborg army. Admittedly, it may not be a deep and compelling story, and it definitely isn’t Shakespeare, but as with the rest of the game, it has an unmistakable offbeat appeal about it that manages to make it somewhat endearing.
Dishwasher’s story is delivered in small chunks, fitting between the game’s levels in the form of some fairly short, scrolling comic strips. Even though the default speed for their scrolling seems to be set at a snail’s pace, it can thankfully be sped up or skipped entirely by more impatient players. While these strips are certainly an interesting way to deliver the narrative, they can also be needlessly difficult to follow due to their look. Because of the usage of a fairly muted color palette and the overall blurriness, it can often be next to impossible to figure out what is happening in many of these mobile story squares.
The game itself shares the same visual style as these comics, minus the odd blurring effect that made them virtually indistinguishable. Visually, Dishwasher is entirely 2D with some simplistic yet appealing backgrounds, well-animated characters, and an attractive hand drawn art style. Almost everything in the game is also made up of faint blacks, grays, and the occasional whites, drawing players’ attentions to the frequent bursts of red. During just about any fight that takes place in The Dishwasher, blood sprays by the gallon, coating the surrounding environment and even appearing to land on the screen.
Much like the concept of a single person making an entire video game by themselves, the core of The Dishwasher’s gameplay harkens back to an earlier time in gaming. The basics are quite simple with X and Y providing light and heavy attacks, B working as a throw, and A allowing the Dishwasher to jump. Players will also eventually gain the abilities to run up walls, teleport, evasively roll, perform execution moves, and even use Dish Magic attacks to help out in the more intense combat situations you’ll find throughout. Just mashing the buttons will get you through some of the earlier levels, but players will definitely need to spend time practicing combos, working on proper timing, and learning the tendencies of their enemies to have any chance at surviving late into the game.
The opposition starts off fairly weak, consisting mainly of what look like agents from the Matrix who move slowly, take random swings at you when nearby, and occasionally discharge their firearms in your direction. It doesn’t take long before you start to see more advanced opposition such as the green goggled special forces members who will use their grappling hooks to gain a height advantage from which to either fire machine guns or drop grenades. This ramping up of challenging enemies continues with the addition of rocket-shooting baddies with jetpacks, zombies, killer robots, and so on, until you have a huge assortment of foes to contend with who all have their own distinct strengths, weaknesses, and attacks that need to be skillfully navigated in order to survive.
In fact, even if you spend a good amount of time figuring out powerful combos and your enemies’ routines, The Dishwasher is still an incredibly challenging game, perhaps to a fault. Playing the game on the easiest setting can feel incredibly punishing, with all of the difficulty levels beyond that seeming like they’re virtually impossible. Sure, you can upgrade your weapons, extend your health bar, and buy extra lives and healing items using spirals that you collect from your fallen foes, but nothing available seems to make the game much easier to complete. The difficulty seems to even go up a few notches every time you are faced with one of the game’s massive bosses, who also seem to always have a plethora of lackeys backing them up and making matters worse for the player.
Some of this difficulty can be partially alleviated by bringing in a second player once you’ve unlocked the ability to play co-op. After finding a certain amulet while playing the game, you’ll be able to bring a friend into the experience, adding their weapons to the mix. Another hidden amulet will also add the ability to have another player join the fight using a guitar peripheral to help deal death. While this is an inventive idea that most games not entirely developed by one man wouldn’t even attempt, it unfortunately doesn’t work very well and isn’t much fun. You’ll also need to be cautious when considering the addition of extra players to the fray, as you’ll need to balance the worth of this added help against how much more cluttered and confusing the screen becomes with a second player also wreaking havoc at the same time. This can be a very difficult decision to make but at least the option is there if you find it’s worth giving it a try.
Despite being fairly repetitive and ridiculously difficult at times, The Dishwasher is still a very good game. The hand drawn visual style is quite appealing, the gameplay is fun even when it reaches controller-tossing difficulty, and there are some fairly unique things tried throughout that work to varying degrees. Had this been a full retail release, it might have been somewhat difficult to recommend, but as an 800 point downloadable arcade game, The Dishwasher is an enjoyable time. If you are feeling nostalgic about the olden days of gaming and/or are looking for a serious challenge, you can’t go wrong with this bloody brawler.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
The hand drawn art style mixed with the muted colors and splatters of blood look great. 3.7 Control
Some of the platforming can feel a little off but for the most part everything works well. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is respectable, although some of the sound effects and enemy sayings can get annoyingly repetitive. 3.6 Play Value
Although the combat is fairly deep, it can also feel somewhat repetitive after awhile. The insane difficulty of the game will also likely be a turnoff to anyone not willing to spend hours destroying their thumbs. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.