The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile review
It's delightfully dark and gruesomely twisted, it's made by just one man and it's a new Xbox Live Arcade game. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile review by James Bowden.
James Silva is incredible, let’s just dispense with that huge elephant in the room right now. Both the original game, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, and this new installment are made entirely by him. From the music to the sound to the visuals to the fisticuffs, it’s all James Silva, all the time, and to see something like this through from concept to complete game is a huge accomplishment regardless of what anyone thinks of the game’s ultimate quality. Right, with that out of the way let’s talk about the game proper.
Vampire Smile picks up where the first game’s head-scratch-inducing plot left off. Quick recap - basically there are robots everywhere and a crazy dishwasher and the head chef of the restaurant he works in went on a rampage to kill the head ‘Engineer’ and put an end to humanity’s robotic rulers. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile sees the first game’s titular Dishwasher (although I’m not sure how much actual dish washing he gets up to) and his deranged step sister land on the moon.
Once there they go about seeking revenge against a trio of powerful figures from human society who not only put said step sister in jail during some interim events, but sympathise with robots to boot. What this means for you is access to a second character that has a combo heavy fighting style and a chainsaw arm - how very Evil Dead - and a proper co-op story mode which is brilliant fun. Huzzah!
Creature of the Night
If The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile proves anything it’s that a product made entirely as one man’s complete vision has clear advantages. Vampire Smile is a wonderfully cohesive package. Oh it’s a dirty, messy, and even filthy one at times with its thick, raggedy black outlines, dismal grey scenery, swathes of grizzly, visually-clotted blood, overly-distorted guitar wails and worryingly pained death cries, but it all gels into a gloriously macabre experience. Indeed in an age of clinical by-the-numbers FPS games and racers boasting frighteningly realistic car models, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a refreshingly grotty experience. Like a nervous trip to the Moulin Rouge after a day in the ‘nice’ parts of Paris, it’s okay to indulge in something like this. It’s natural.
This concept of polished grime is especially true when you get into a scrap. The Dishwasher’s fighting is fast, frantic, bloody, and wonderfully measured. It’s the closest thing you’ll find to a side-scrolling Bayonetta… Combat is a natural evolution of the The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai’s system. It’s still based on dodging with the right stick and using weapons and magic to dice enemies into small chunks but its smattering of noteworthy improvements, instantly available guns, more unique weapons and stat-boosting pins create a far more playable experience.
Stake to the Heart
Combat can still be ‘cheated’ by clinging to the ceiling and chipping away at foes, but enemies are far less ‘cheap’ than they were in the first game, with clearer attack signals and less random explosives. The first Dishwasher made you play dirty because some enemies were plain unfair. Vampire Smile still isn’t perfect but there are far fewer unexpected blades appearing in your face, meaning it’s only easier because it’s less infuriating, which is nothing but good news. However it's unfortunate that there isn’t as much variety to the raw combat as in the first game, which for example had you fighting enemies while sliding down a roof.
But when it comes to memorable moments, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is undoubtedly the better experience, with a keen eye for sly homage riding strong throughout. We’ve already mentioned Evil Dead but everything from Final Fantasy to Mortal Kombat earn a nod before the credits roll. But even when trying to nitpick, any issues melt away once you get involved in the game’s blisteringly superb combat. Hacking an enemy into the air and slamming their head off with a rotating suplex, using a hammer the size of an oven to smulch a line of zombies into a gloopy paste, darting away from an enemy just as another takes a shot at you, causing the bullet to nail his friend in the head, or the way a last second dodge are all seasoned with a fist-pumping moment of slow mo glory.
When you’re slicing through a torrent of flowing claret and seeing your orchestrated chaos splatter the grey surroundings in gore, performing last second dips and dives, perfectly landing a never-ending stream of carnivorous attacks on innumerable foes, you’ll find yourself ‘in the zone’ and loving every second of it. Then once it ends you’ll notice you take a huge gulp of air. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile’s intensity literally takes your breath away.
Arguably one true fault of The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is that it gets repetitive, but that same ‘problem’ could be thrown against any spectacle fighter like Devil May Cry, God of War, or genre queen Bayonetta. Just like those games, if you swap weapons around and make a show of your enemy’s slaughter then you’ll find a wonderfully enthralling brawler. It’s only boring if you make it boring.
There’s also loads of content to ensure you’ve always got a reason to carve something up, from playing the two/three hour story mode in solo and co-op on numerous difficulty levels to a huge arcade mode which, again, can be played alone or with a buddy online or off. Then once you’ve beaten and mastered these it’s on to time trials and the high score baiting ‘Dish Challenge’ for more indulgence in Vampire Smile’s glorious fighting engine. Ultimately, however, by being one man’s creation The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile roars an almost offensively personal melody. Like enjoying Kraftwerk’s greatest hits or BBC bizzaro-sitcom The League of Gentlemen you need to ‘get’ it or else be left bewildered and slightly concerned for the creator’s mental health. But for those that harmonise with its boisterous melody, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile fixes many of the first game’s issues and refines the experience in all the right ways. Even the guitar solo mini-games are back and better than ever. If you can appreciate Silva’s refreshingly grungy style then The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile may just be your new, dirty addiction.
Words: James Bowden
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is available now on Xbox Live Arcade for 800 Points.
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