I'm a one and done sort of gamer. I rarely bother to replay any game I own, since I'm usually uninterested in more than a single run through the campaign. When I discovered that The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile was being released on Steam, I knew it would be an exception. Originally released in 2011 as an Xbox 360 exclusive, does this 2D hack and slash hold up or should we hire a new dishwasher?
Vampire Smile is the sequel to 2009's The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, so you may be a little lost when it comes to the story if you haven't played that. The basic idea is that, in the first game, The Dishwasher accidentally killed his stepsister Yuki in his quest for revenge against a religion of cyborgs. She's revived by a vampire known as The Creeper, but before she can do much she's arrested and shipped off to a prison on the Moon, having been blamed for destroying Earth. Now she breaks out of prison and vows to take revenge on the three men who put her there, while The Dishwasher begins investigating the cyborg religion starting up on the Moon as well.
I did enjoy the story's style, throwing together many crazy elements into a world that manages to be cohesive in its insanity. The problem is that if you don't first play the first game and pay super close attention to the running story, you're probably not going to get much out of Vampire Smile. Some plot elements, like who the Fallen Engineer is, why Chef can revive a guy with no heart, and the relationship between Dishwasher and Yuki are either glossed over with very little detail or flat out not explained. If you're here for the plot, you may end up pretty disappointed.
At the start of the game, you're given the choice of playing as either Dishwasher or Yuki. Both characters have the same basic controls with only some minor differences, but get different weapons for their rampages. I found that I came to like Dishwasher's weapons more, the hammer and giant scissor combo being one that I found almost absurdly effective. On the other hand, Yuki's story has some extra beats that I thought made the jumbled plot a bit more interesting and provided a neat visual treat. Overall, you're probably going to at least have fun no matter who you play as.
This is thanks to The Dishwasher's combat system, which is inspired by fast-paced spectacle fighters such as Devil May Cry. You can mix light and heavy attacks with grabs and ranged maneuvers, all while zipping around the arena using your teleport dodges. It's very fast paced, with fights that quickly become a chaotic mix of blood and violence as you attempt to dodge enemy attacks and get in your own. You also gain access to magic spells, though they seem to fall more on the "emergency get out of fight free card" side of things. The spells are kind of neat visually, but most of them are just different versions of "kill everything near you".
Fighting against you is a creative group of challenging enemies. From chainsaw-wielding pumpkin-headed maniacs to spec-ops soldiers and zombies, there's a varied set of enemies that you'll be up against. No two fights ever felt the same since I would be constantly trying to figure out how to approach a new set of enemies. There's a real joy in figuring out how to best counter and defeat each enemy. The Dishwasher also has some fantastic boss fights thrown in. Each boss feels like a unique experience that is made up of grotesque monsters that have some unique abilities. One constantly teleported me to a field full of zombies, while another flew around the arena dive-bombing when it could. One fight even caused the game to alternate between an NES-styled brawler and a text adventure, offering up something different and unique.
Between fights, you'll be exploring levels, each packed with secrets to find. Arenas offer up special rewards for defeating enemies under a time limit. Shopkeeping robots allow you to trade money that you find to upgrade your weapons and health. You can also occasionally find guitars laying around that allow you to play a rhythm game that can earn you extra money depending on your rocking skills. There's also hidden beads that provide passive bonuses for your character when they're equipped. All told, there's a good amount of hidden stuff that encourages quite a bit of exploration.
There's also a pair of extra modes once you're done with the campaign. Arcade mode provides fifty unique one-off challenges that pit you against even tougher enemies and bosses. While one character's campaign will probably last a solid four hours, you can easily spend double that in the arcade mode trying to perfect the missions. There's also a survival mode that just asks you to stay alive for as long as possible while killing enemies. While this is fun, it's also nothing special.
The Dishwasher is a unique looking game. All done in a great sketchy style that goes very minimalist on the colors and using motion comics for the cutscenes that look fantastic. The artistic design of the weapons, environment, and enemies are well done, and everything in the game looks unique while still fitting in the style. The games rock-heavy soundtrack is another boon, with several of the songs easily getting me into the mood and amplifying the action on-screen. The game is already impressive from a gameplay perspective, but it doesn't falter when it comes to the artistic side either.
While the story may have ultimately been a letdown, make no mistake. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is still one of the best 2D action games available, even years after its original release. Frantic and fun with some fantastic style, the game can easily provide you with hours of entertainment. This vampire is smiling for a reason.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile was reviewed on PC via Steam using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Xbox Live Arcade.
Making a fantastic return, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile was one of the best 2D action games when originally released in 2011, and it still manages to live up to that today.(Review Policy)
- Combat is Frantic, Fun
- Great Enemy Variety, Boss Fights
- Lots of Extra Content
- Fantastic Art Style, Soundtrack
- Story is Nonsensical
- Magic Feels Like an Afterthought