Ultra violence at its best
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a downloadable title for XBLA. There are two playable characters in the game; The Dishwasher and his psychotic stepsister Yuki. Depending on which character you choose you will have a slightly different story. That doesn’t mean much though as every environment, enemy and boss fight is the exact same no matter which you choose. Yuki’s story is basically a revenge story. She was framed and was punished for a crime she did not commit. Thus, she is hunting down the ones responsible. All the while she seems to be gradually losing her sanity. Not that there was much left of it to begin with. The Dishwasher however is simply there because he is trying to kill the main antagonist. The story is largely unimportant. It’s straight forward and not very interesting, but it does provide a great mood for the game. Yuki’s story especially has a great air of insanity to it. The Dishwasher’s story seems a bit forced in parts. He goes through the same areas as Yuki and he apparently arrives after Yuki every time, yet the exact same enemies and bosses are still there. The last boss however, seems more intended for the Dishwasher in my opinion. There is also a multiplayer mode which I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to test. If this is a story option, then some of the contrivances of the main story line might be cleared up. It’s not very important however, and some suspension of disbelief will get you a long way in The Dishwasher.
While the story is lackluster the mood and combat however, are the strong points of the game. The art style and animations are beautiful in their own grotesque way. It’s a good mix of 2D sprites and great visual effects layered on top. There is always a good amount of seizure inducing action going on and even the worst of players can make a fight look well coreographed. Even if it is on the part of the enemies. This is a game I would not mind simply spectating just because of the pure adrenaline pumping spectacle going on at all times.
The game is a 2D side scrolling action game. You fight your way through room after room until you find your way to a boss. The basic mechanics of the combat are simple, but the combat itself can be complex. You have a grab, a light and a heavy attack as well as a dodge mechanic. The dodge is controlled by the right stick and depending on the weapon you’re using you can stay in the air as long as you want to. It can be used to dodge through attacks if timed correctly. All the animations are snappy and fast, something which is incredibly important for a game like this. You never feel constricted by the character’s animations and as a result you can get through any fight without ever taking damage if your reaction sufficiently fast. The combat is more based around movement more than stringing together combos. You can even make your enemies kill each other by leading their attacks towards another enemy. Whenever an enemy gets to a certain amount of HP it will become “sparking”. With small enemies you can generally kill them by using X, Y or B when this happens. These context sensitive actions are my only real complaint with the combat. The game is bad at prioritizing sparking enemies or bosses if they are standing on top of another enemy. For example; there was a boss which spewed out weak zombies. These were essentially always “sparking”. As a result whenever the boss became sparking and you had to press B it was a total gamble whether it hit the boss or the zombie. This would happen often with other bosses/enemies as well. I understand that it is hard to strike a balance that will function properly when there are several “sparking” enemies on screen, but it would be nice to have a more reliable priority.
While the stories and levels are pretty much the same for the two playable characters their fighting styles, animations and weapons are unique. Both of them have a sufficiently unique handling to justify them being different characters even with the lack of diversity in the storylines. Both of them have some variation of two light weapons, two heavy weapons, a machine gun and a shotgun. The weapons can change the way your dodge works. It will affect your general speed and whether you can jump infinitely or not in addition to having different combos and such.
At every turn the game will be pointing you to the critical path and keeping you moving towards the goal. For anyone who bothers to tread off the beaten path however, there are rewards to be had. Both in plain sight and hidden at the dumbest, practically invisible places, much like in the Metroid games. One of these rewards are “Beads”. You have four slots for Beads. They are enhancements for your character. Your other character customization involves upgrades to your HP, Magic capacity and weapons for money. Any upgrades or items you find during your playthrough carry over to any later playthroughs as well.
Checkpoints are handed out fairly generously as they simply checkpoint you at the start of any fight. So even if you find the game to be a bit too hard you don’t have to repeat anything except the section you were having trouble with. As a result the game isn’t all that punishing. However, this is changed as you go up in difficulty. The checkpoints are still at the start of the fight, but towards the end of the game there are a couple of fights where you have to fight for something like 10 minutes straight. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you constantly have 6 or so enemies that can do 50% of your HP in a single hit fighting you plus some weaker copies of old bosses and items you use don’t get refunded when you load at checkpoints it becomes about as punishing as having your nails ripped out every time you fail.Regarding the general difficulty of the game I would say it's pretty challenging. Normal isn't going to keep you beating your head against any fight for long, but it's exactly challenging enough the first time to stay entertaining without being frustrating. The highest difficulty; Samurai, is much harder. They simply buff the damage of all enemies, make some fights longer and let you meet the same enemies you would at the end of normal at the start of the game. They also have a difficulty called "Pretty Princess" which unlocks after you die a certain amount of times. It's beyond ridiculous. I can't find any pictures or videos to show you, but it's the same old game, except it's pink and the blood and gore is replaced with hearts and rainbows. Unfortunately the game has some slight pacing issues on the higher difficulties. The difficulty is all over the place and the bosses are much, much easier than most normal fights on Samurai difficulty. The experience is much more finely tuned in the Normal difficulty.
In short The Dishwasher: VS is a great game even with its flaws, both for people who are looking for a challenge and people just looking for some mindless ultra violent combat with some interesting ambience to it. It’s well worth the money and time spent.