One of 2009’s best Xbox Live Arcade games was, without a doubt, “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai.” It offered simple gameplay mixed with a unique aesthetic and a creative story that came together to make it one of the breakout indie hits of the year. Now, two years later, The Dishwasher has returned in “Vampire Smile,” a follow-up that retains all the things that made “Dead Samurai” great, and layers on more bloody goodness.
At its heart, “The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile,” is very much like its predecessor; a very traditional, side-scrolling, beat ’em up staring, but this one stars two playable characters, The Dishwasher and Yuki, with two separate storylines. While both characters are playing through the same levels on the moon, fighting the same cyborg and undead enemies, their reasons for doing so are different, and ultimately, their stories intertwine. Throughout the game you’ll be able to level up your character, their weapons, and apply special power-up beads that are found hidden throughout the levels to make your journey a little less painful.
In addition to the two story campaigns, “Vampire Smile” also includes co-op multiplayer, 50 arcade levels, and a survival mode for those players that think they can handle wave after wave of enemies.
The Dead Rise Again
As the name may imply, The Dishwasher makes a return to the game, even after blowing up the earth in the original. As a nice twist, Yuki, the sister that the Dishwasher unknowingly murdered makes a resurrected appearance as a second playable character (accompanied by the cutest flying cat in video game history, Paka) who is out to take down the men that framed her for destroying the Earth. The two characters’ storylines build off of each others, and unless you play them both, you won’t have the full story behind “Vampire Smile,” making this one of the few games that actually presents a compelling reason to replay the same levels twice.
Blood Here, Blood There, Blood Everywhere
“Vampire Smile” takes the original’s unique look and feel one step beyond further by amplifying the creepiness of the story. Yuki’s tale in particular contains some of the most disturbing scenes this side of a “Silent Hill” game, and that says a lot for a 2D sidescroller. Wandering through a bloodstained hospital with your arm cut off is creepy enough, but doing it in black and white, with blood as the accent color, makes for a special experience.
Don’t Go At It Alone
One of the highlights of “Vampire Smile” is the option to go at the game’s campaign and arcade mode with a friend. Even though the characters may tend to get lost amongst the hordes of enemies, besting a friend in battle points is still one of a simple pleasures in life.
X, X, X, X, X, X, Y, X, X, X, LT + X, X, X, B, X, X, X, RB, X, X, X, X… And So On
Beat ’em ups all suffer from a very similar problem: if they require more than one sitting to complete, they’re bound to get at least a little repetitive. It’s not the game’s fault, it’s just the nature of the genre. Mashing the same attack button over and over is tedious no matter which way you slice it. Even though “The Dishwasher” does offer numerous options to break up the monotony, once you settle in with your weapons of choice, you’re bound to get a little tired of the gameplay in the final throws of the game.
“Vampire Smile” takes all of the ideas that “Dead Samurai” introduced and builds on them in the best way possible for a sequel; by adding more, without diluting what made the original great. The new intermingling stories, as well as the difficulty modes and co-op offer a level of replayability that make the game a steal at 800 MS points. The gameplay, its subtle humor, the adorable cat, and the overall creepyiness of the game, combine to make “Vampire Smile” a must play for fans of the original, as well as anyone looking for a simple, yet deep, XBLA game to burn more than a few hours with. It’s a bloody good time.