The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile
2009’s independent beat-em-up hit “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai” was a genuinely well received game, largely due to its out of nowhere release by small designer and proclivities to throwing caution to the wind and rewarding those who could make it through the end with an over-the-top ultraviolent experience. Frankly, I found the game rather shallow and quickly repetitive, but appreciated the small-time spirit of the production.
Two years later the Samurai is back for a sequel that one would hope has taken the old game and made it better. “The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile” is unfortunately no more engaging or deep than its predecessor, offering up mindless action with a few token additions. This time out, you’re not limited to playing as the titular hero, but instead start as Yuki, the hero’s sister. After a prologue level that sets the stage for what is to come, consisting of straightforward beat-em-up action mixed throughout an incomprehensible plot that tries way too hard to be edgy and quirky, you get the option of playing the game as the new addition or switching back to the Dishwasher. Since the game sets the story up as Yuki being the heroine, I pushed through and a little over two hours later, found myself limping to the finish, trying to muster enough energy and enthusiasm to actually finish.
“Vampire Smile” is a love it or hate it game, and I’m firmly in the latter camp. The plot that drives the game is phoned in, making the plots of classic beat-em-ups such as “Final Fight” actually look well structured in comparison. There’s an underlying narrative of Yuki wanting to punish various authorities in power, while a mysterious figure haunts her occasional blackouts to nightmarish sequences set in an asylum/hospital. The core plot advancement is kill, kill, and kill some more, and that is where “Vampire Smile” falls apart. There are 4 primary melee weapons you’ll unlock over the course of the game, but with the inclusion of a minor leveling system for these weapons, you’ll only have enough XP/credits to upgrade one. I found myself only relying on my main samurai sword entitled Conviction and an oversized but powerful syringe. Small but quick Kamas and a giant Cloud sword (obviously a nod to the Final Fantasy character) round out melee offerings, but neither are particularly impressive. A chaingun is also available, but like the other weapons requires upgrades to be effective, although a mid-game addition of a shotgun function is fairly useful. Last but not least are three magic attacks two of which inflict pure damage, while the last does decreased damage but transfers some of it as health to you.
The most egregious error “Vampire Smile” commits is it’s repetitive nature. All beat-em-up’s are repetitive by definition but it doesn’t take long before you’ve seen all the enemies of the game and realize they all die the same way, just some take more hits. The rush attack handled with the right analog stick adds some fun to the combat allowing you to fly around the screen attacking enemies on the ground and above, but the novelty quickly wears off. The game’s last-ditch effort to keep players interested comes in the reappearance of the “fatality” system. Beat an enemy up enough and hitting grab, standard attack, or strong attack (your chainsaw arm) has Yuki dispatch them in an incredibly violent fashion. However, since the action is so fast, every encounter is a giant blur of colors (mostly red) and only every so often do you get a proper idea of what Yuki is doing. In short, “Vampire Smile” is two hours of one giant, loud shallow, ugly mess, repeated ad nauseum.
If you enjoyed the first “Dishwasher” game, you’ll likely have a blast with this one. There are a few moments, mainly boss fights that I did find myself having fun with, only if due to a minor element of strategy popping up with these moments. I also noticed the game’s difficulty on default settings to be much more forgiving than its predecessor, which is a double edged sword, since the hardest setting isn’t unlocked until one run through. I also tip my hat to the developers for tying to add depth to the game with combos, perks and power-ups, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t notice the perks until I was well on my way to beating the game, and the in-your-face approach to combat doesn’t reward those performing combos any more than those mashing buttons. Even the game’s bonus modes: an Arcade mode, co-op mode, challenge mode don’t do anything more than attempt to prolong the game more than it should, but I guess if you charge 800 points ($10) for a 2-hour beat-em-up that will have you struggling to stay engaged after 30-minutes, you need all the bells and whistles you can to make the package more attractive.
- The simplistic graphics of the original are back and are entirely competent for the style the game aims to be.
- For as small as the characters are, there are quite a few little animations thrown in, but sadly as hectic as the game gets, you don’t often notice them, still they are appreciated.
- Even with dozens of foes on the screen either shooting, stabbing, or exploding, the framerate remains solid and doesn’t stutter one bit.
- The sound effects all blend with one another and aren’t aided by limited variety.
- The soundtrack is equally generic, but oddly catchy and aids in transitioning between various battles, with the most fearsome featuring the most intense music.
As I said before, if you enjoyed “The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai” then “Vampire Smile” should be an easy purchase. However, if you’re looking for any depth to your game or anything clever and witty, pass this one up. It’s an incredibly flash experience that pulls you in instantly, but quickly reveals that’s all it has going for it. Two years after the original game, I really expected more and that’s what burns so much. “Vampire Smile” is messy and boring, a true shame given the lack of any real control issues and unique art design. Give the trial a go and if you can burn through it a few times without getting bored, then maybe plunk down your money, otherwise, delete it and seek out greener pastures. Rent It.