The Dishwasher – Vampire Smile Xbox360
Oh my life, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a very, very violent video game. On the official DarkZero violence scale, it is comparable to that chap getting covered in toxic waste then splattered by a car in Robocop and that bit in Braindead where he marches through a room of zombies using a lawnmower. Utterly over-the-top blood-letting.
The Dishwasher is the creation of Xbox Live indie development mainstay James Silva, who won Microsoft’s XNA Dream-Build-Play competition in 2007, securing a full Xbox Live Arcade release for the original game, as well as making the top-selling indie title I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1. The Dishwasher reached critical acclaim, due to its wonderful, violent art and solid, if pretty damn hard, action gameplay.
Now, with a full development team behind him, and clearly a more substantial sum of money backing it up, his SKA Game studio have realized his original vision for the Dishwasher game and delivered a much more complete, polished experience.
The core concept of the Dishwasher remains intact, because after all, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? So, you’ve got a series of stages to murder your way through, using the right-stick to dodge enemy attacks and hack them apart with a plethora of weaponry until the credits roll. No difference there. However, everything about it has been tightened, refined and made into a much more fun video game.
For instance, the choice of weaponry is just as gratuitous and over-the-top as the first game, with a pair of shears and a giant syringe proving to be grotesque highlights. The actual method of access to this arsenal of death has been improved. Where you used to have to break in the action in order to change your sub-weapon, you can now set multiple load-outs. These can be switched between with the touch of a button, allowing you to swap between your sub-weapons with much greater ease. The firearms are no longer classed as their own separate weapon, and are now permanently mapped to the right-trigger, further expanding the amount of ways you have to kill at your fingertips.
The dodging mechanic has also been given a minor but important tweak. It now has a kind of “soft” lock-on, so smashing an enemy to pieces in mid-air is now something you can do with an instinctive flick of the stick, rather than awkwardly teleporting around trying to find the correct position. Dodging past an attack at the very last second will also slow down the action for a split second – just enough time for you to evaluate what just happened, and plan your counter. Genius.
The visuals have also been given an improvement. It still has that excellent, Sharpie scribble-esque art style. It is kind of like the sort of stuff you’d find in the sketch book of a trench coat wearing Animé nerd a few hours after a particularly bad day at school, only now with superior animation and effects with only the coloured eyes of the various enemies and gallons of crimson blood breaking up the black, white and grey.
You’ve also got the choice of two characters this time, each playing through the same stages, but with a different storyline piecing them together. Yuki, the half-sister of the Dishwasher who he supposedly killed in the first game, and the Dishwasher himself, continuing on from whatever it was he was doing in the first game. Saving the world from an army of cyborgs, or something. It takes a few hours to blast through the gleefully nonsensical and, at times, utterly disturbing story, honing your skills against the rooms full of bad dudes and truly memorable bosses.
Perhaps the biggest new addition is the addition of co-op to the main campaign mode. With two players going at an increased enemy count it quickly becomes a chaotic cacophony of flying body parts. The plot, as odd as it may be, is even modified to accommodate the two characters taking part – a small, but nice, touch that even much bigger budget games fail to do (see, for example, the Resistance: Fall of Man co-op campaign, where the plot doesn’t change and absolutely everyone flat out ignores the mute black guy controlled by player two. Mind you, it was set in Britain during the Fifties…)
Once you’ve murdered your way to the end credits, be that with a friend or alone, you’ve then got the Dish Challenge and Arcade modes to keep you coming back for more. Dish Challenge is essentially a survival mode, with enemies constantly thrown at you until you run out of health. Arcade mode puts you in certain scenarios, such as restricting your weapon choice or putting you against a time limit, and you’ve got to kill everything and get the best possible score. It forces you to try out new techniques you may not have performed when playing through the story, and much like the best score attack games (like the Echoes mode in the recent Bulletstorm), encourages you to practice and get better. Both modes can be played in multiplayer, and scores are posted onto Xbox Live for bragging rights.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is an improvement over an already very good video game, and for 800MSP this is an absolute no-brainer for anyone who loves games like Bayonetta, God Hand and Devil May Cry. Instead of re-working tried and tested features for the sake of a follow up, everything about the first game has simply been done better. James Silva and SKA Games are now big players in the indie scene, and it is certainly going to be interesting to see what they have to offer next.