I have to admit, the first time I heard about The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai back in 2009, my first thought was a violentā¦ well, dishwasher. As in, the machine that cleans your dishes for you. āMan, that must be one weird gameā, I thought.
Anyway, Iāve now played the sequel, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, and feel a bit more educated about things. So what have I learned? Well, in addition to discovering that one of the main characters is in fact a deranged man who used to wash dishes, Iāve also found that this is a pretty fun game. Oh, and violent, canāt forget that.
For those who havenāt played the original Dishwasher (like me), hereās a quick rundown on what to expect: blood. Also swords, guns, cleavers, countless enemies, fast-paced action, and a nonsensical-yet-vaguely-interesting plot. All of this is couched in a side-scrolling package that is as slick as any beat āem up Iāve come across in recent years. Like most games in this genre, youāll be inundated with bad guys as you move from one stage to the next, with heated battles periodically swapped out for boss battles and backtracking.
Itās a well-worn formula, but to its credit Vampire Smile manages to keep things feeling fresh for most of its run time. How does it do this? Let me count the ways:
1) The controls are sublime. Youāve got a light attack, strong attack, double jump, throw, ranged weapon, and so on. But more importantly, youāve also got the right analog stick, which teleports you a short distance in any direction you choose. In practice, I found it to be one of the best things to hit the genre in years. It adds more strategy to battles, allowing you to zip in and out of fights. It gives fights a compelling vertical component (you can effectively fly using this move). And it makes backtracking through levels way faster, cutting down on tedium.
2) The weapons are fun, giving a lot of variety and depth. My favouriteās the Cloud Sword, which looks like ā yes ā Cloudās giant sword from Final Fantasy VII. Itās a heavy weapon, so it deals more damage but isnāt as fast. Depending on the enemy youāre facing, you might want to mix it up with a pair of fast meat cleavers, a giant hammer, a machine gun, or a dozen other options. You can easily change weapons in the middle of a fight depending on whatās necessary, which is very welcome.
Thereās also a simple upgrade system available via scattered shops, along with unlockable buffs for your character. By the time youāre halfway through the game, youāll be able to fit yourself out to match your preferred play style ā and then change it all on the fly as the need arises.
And then there are a ton of combos to learn, should you feel the need to progress beyond button mashing. Truly, this game has depth ā but impressively, the options never feel overwhelming.
3) Co-op is super fun. This is generally the case for most side-scrolling beat āem ups, and is especially true here. The single player mode is all well and good, but get a friend parked on the couch (or online, if that tickles your fancy) and youāll be in for some fun. My flatmate and I struggled through the co-op campaign together, and never got bored.
I also say āstruggledā in a good way ā some bosses took over a dozen attempts to defeat, but just as we would get frustrated, weād manage it. Getting the difficulty just right like that ā challenging, but satisfying rather than frustrating ā canāt have been an easy task. And if you fancy yourself to be mightily hardcore, there are five difficulty settings to choose from (although not all are unlocked from the start).
I also should also mention the graphics and general presentation of the game. Itās good, in a morbid kind of way. The art style is heavily stylised, and even when blood and guts are all over the place, itās generally abstracted and cartoony enough to not put anyone off. Well, it will probably still cause revulsion in some, but those playing will be too busy trying to stay alive to notice. In general, the presentation of Vampire Smile is top notch, and really enhances your enjoyment. The developers have obviously crafted this heavily deranged world with care, and it shows.
And that, folks, is about all I can think to say. Iām missing out a bunch of things, but hereās whatās important: if youāre craving a good hack ān slash beat āem up you can enjoy with a friend, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is one of the best around. Check it out immediately to see if itās your cup of bloodstained tea.