When The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai came out, I felt as though I should have liked it more than I did. It certainly seemed to be made up entirely of elements I love, but ultimately it came across as a little too clunky for me to really enjoy. So it was with hesitation that I started up the sequel, hoping that it would feel a lot less like a port of a good browser game and more as though it was intended to be on its target platform.
My first impressions of The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, however, were not kind. Right from the get-go I encountered the leftover annoyances of locked difficulty levels and no D-pad support, though the latter would prove to be a non-issue. My eyes were also not initially pleased: while the graphics were definitely far sharper and more detailed than in the precursor, they still reeked heavily of the flat animation and the randomly thick lines that dominate Adobe Flash productions.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile constantly barrels forward with a deep hunger for violence.
Then, while maneuvering around the Dishwasher's stepsister Yuki, the game went in and out of hallucinations and let me experience the improved combat system. To call it glorious would almost be a disservice to the game, as the immediacy of the action and the polished controls stripped away my fears. The dodging, the grappling, and the reactions caused by the attacks were so far beyond the original it was a thing of beauty to witness. The layering and blood effects were fantastic, and even with the initial off-putting feel of the squiggly-lined sprites, the effects and style still accented the combat beautifully. Dashing around as a red or black haze while snatching people out of the air to carve them into pieces felt exactly as fast and immediate as it should.
The best part is that at no point does the game hold back; it constantly barrels forward with a deep hunger for violence. The levels aren't the most elegant in their layout, but they never overstay their welcome and arrows are liberally scattered about in order to assist the key collection backtracking. Rooms frequently lock to pour in a helping of enemies, yet it never feels like a forced shooting gallery, and the bosses have simple patterns but are almost always flanked by either waves of peons or have wondrously unique stylistic ideas. There are a few fights that transform the visual style of the game in incredible ways, but to mention what they are would be to ruin the surprise.
While the story mode may effectively play the same for both characters, it has different narratives for each. Yuki's is far better than the Dishwasher's, whose story mode seems almost like an afterthought. But Vampire Smile also offers multiplayer, a huge list of challenges, speed runs, and an arcade mode for slaughtering waves of enemies without those pesky levels getting in the way. This game is practically a love letter to its genre, and though the base graphics aren't as polished as something like Hard Corps: Uprising, the gameplay here offers almost nothing to complain about.
Ska Studios did ease up a bit on the difficulty of the first game in the form of now unlimited lives, but I found this to be a welcome addition. While the game may be fair most of the time, there are a couple of sticking spots late in the game, mostly due to the ease with which you can end up in inescapable situations if certain enemy configurations come out. Either to help alleviate that or simply to prevent anyone from becoming complacent, the amount of each type of enemy is predetermined for a room, but the order in which they'll be released is random. If nothing else, it certainly keeps retries fresh.
Anyone that enjoys 2D action games needs to own The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. The game may not be perfect, but during those times when everything clicks and I became an unstoppable god of death I would swear the game feels like it.