The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile review

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The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile review

As we died yet again, three things happened: our patience reached its limit, a shameful string of obscenities left our mouth, and we earned an Achievement. “Game Reviewers Shall Be Pleased,” it said; we’d unlocked the Pretty Princess pity difficulty level. This moment epitomizes The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile — the blissful coexistence of unbridled rage and giggly joy.

Back in 2009, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai caught plenty of critical heat for its brutal difficulty. Vampire Smile is as unapologetically unforgiving as its predecessor, and game creator James Silva continues to jovially rub it in our failing face. All we could do was laugh hysterically. Even when it crushed us, we couldn’t feel bitter toward a game that balanced its fast-paced combat sequences so deftly. Vampire Smile never feels unfair or punishing, which is what makes it such a satisfying brawler. Well, on top of the sickening dismemberment and WTF weapons (barbed I-beam on a stick!).

Yuki, our new heroine, isn’t just a palette-swap for Dead Samurai’s Dishwasher, either: their clobberin’ tools are just different enough to give each a distinct feel. Neither character is better; they’re just different with regards to how you chain combos with your humongous sword, chainsaw arm, and, uh, giant syringe.

You really get a grip on their subtle differences when you play online co-op, where player two is the Dishwasher. Yuki’s collapsing psyche makes for fantastic, unique single-player moments, but aspects like the branching-path structure and hidden, ability-modifying items (regenerating health, extra damage to zombies) are equally fun with one or two people. And you’ll probably pick up on more of the witty writing and great in-jokes (a ZP2K billboard, a Final Fantasy gag) when an ally’s helping you fight cyborgs and Sam Fisher clones — though with the added carnage, the game’s stylish, flashy visuals become nearly incomprehensible gibberish at times.

Like Castle Crashers and Shadow Complex, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai reminded us why we loved action-packed sidescrollers in the first place. Vampire Smile simply reasserts Ska Studios’ placement on the top-tier rung of Xbox Live Arcade developers.

On Xbox Live Arcade

+ Creative gameplay tweaks and great fights from start to finish.

+ Well-balanced difficulty is fulfilling alone or with a co-op pal.

+ Yuki is a sensational new hero in the Dishwasher series; genuinely and consistently funny.

? Could this soundtrack be any more rockin’? (The answer is no.)

9.0

 
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