The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Review for Xbox 360

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Review for Xbox 360

An Awesome Sequel to an Awesome Game

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: Vampire Smile Screenshot

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.

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Screenshot

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 Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Screenshot

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.

Though the game is a beat em’ up in genre, it’s really an art game at its core. Yuki’s flashbacks bring you to disturbing jails and mental hospitals, and force you to play out these memories with hindered control schemes. At one point you fight a “neuromancer” that alters your perceptions to make the whole world look like a classic retro Gameboy game. There are plenty of classic gaming references strewn all about for you to find. For example, Yuki’s heavy weapon is a big hatchet-like sword as big as her body called the Cloud Sword. Its description says it was named as such because it uses the power of the clouds … and definitely not for any other reason. (Obviously this is a reference to Cloud from Final Fantasy VII as the sword looks exactly like his buster sword.)

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Screenshot

The graphics are just phenomenal. As you kill enemies, your weapons and surroundings are stained by their red blood. Not only that, but their blood stains the screen, as does fire, bile, and even water when it is raining. The game is fluid and fast, and every single slash feels so satisfying. When you dodge at the last second, the action slows down Zack Snyder style, and when you deliver the finishing blow to an enemy, the camera zooms in to get a good look at the carnage. If you think all this is cool, play the game on a 3D TV. The environments become so stunning that the blazing fire and reflective water look almost real, and the blood shoots right out at you as you go on your murdering spree. This is easily the best way to experience the game.

There are a couple other additions to the game too. Being that there are two characters, you can now play the game multiplayer both competitively and co-operatively. The game doesn’t slow down at all with a second player joining in the fray, and it’s even more fun (not to mention slightly easier) with a friend along for the ride. The game features both online and offline play. I didn’t get a chance to play the online mode because I had a review copy and there really wasn’t anyone else online, but if it’s anything like the offline modes you will have tons of fun. In addition, there are also leaderboards available for score junkies, and an arcade mode for people who don’t want to deal with the story, a practice mode for newbies, and the Dish Challenge, a survival mode that asks you to kill as many enemies as you can before dying. Even better, all the equipment, upgrades, and abilities you earn carry over no matter what game mode you are playing, so there is lots of replayability if you are trying to build the perfect undead ninja.

I’ve said lots of good stuff about the game, but if there is anything bad about it, it is definitely the music and sound. The sound effects, though satisfyingly squishy and gorey, are repetitive, and the music, while appropriately filled with thrash guitar, feels pretty generic and monotonous. I’m not sure how either would be improved, but I do know that I eventually had to turn the game off because the constant “SHINK SHINK SHINK GUITAR RIFF” was murder on my ears and brain.

Outside of that one flaw though, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a magnificent game for ten dollars. It has plenty to offer both the hardcore and the casual audience, although it is certainly tailored for the hardcore. It has a great story, a fun gameplay system, lots of character customizability, and a flying cat. Did I mention the flying cat? Well, there’s a flying cat. Vampire Smile is better than the original in every way, but even if you haven’t played Dead Samurai, this is still a game about vampire ninja assassins killing zombie alien cyborgs in the post-apocalyptic future. Can you really ask for anything more from a downloadable game?

You may not be into the Sin City-esque black, white, and red color scheme, but even so the game’s graphics are something else. Blood stains your weapon, character, and the screen, animations are smooth, and the 3D mode is so visually impressive it’s hard to describe. 4.5 Control
The game gives you access to several new weapons, items, and abilities and your attack combos change depending on your layout. This is certainly not a button masher anymore. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
We all like thrash guitar, but listening to it for several hours at a time while hearing swords clash against each other with that high-pitched SHINK sound effect in the background … well it’s enough to get on anyone’s nerves. 4.0 Play Value
I have beaten this game four times in two days … and I am still playing it. There’s just so much enjoyment to be had in building the perfect character and then showing it off online. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Play as The Dishwasher or his step-sister Yuki in a post-apocalyptic world filled with zombie cyborgs and demon ninjas.
  • Several new game modes at several levels of difficulty including “Pretty Princess” mode for the challenge impaired.
  • Online and offline multiplayer lets you bring a friend along for the slaughter.

  • To top