Hands-on: The Dishwasher Vampire Smile (XBLA)

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Hands-on: The Dishwasher Vampire Smile (XBLA)
Like a lot of people, I purchased The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai when it launched during Microsoft's 'Days of Arcade' promotion in April 2009. But for some reason I didn't play the game as much as I thought I would. Perhaps it was its punishing difficulty or the swarm of releases that chewed through my time but once the game was safely in my digital collection, I abandoned it. After getting time to play two levels of the game's sequel at the Ska Studios booth at PAX East 2010, I'm looking forward to wiping the virtual dust off the original and play it as I patiently wait for The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile.
At first glance, The Dishwasher: Vampire's Smile doesn't look very different from its predecessor. Stylish and dark graphics, mysterious protagonist and a frantic Devil May Cry gameplay style. However, utilizing the latest version of XNA, Vampire Smile looks and plays much better than the first. (It should be noted that the final game will be built on Microsoft's XNA 4.0 engine, the PAX East 2010 demo was running on XNA 3.0.)

Unlike the original, Vampire Smile features two playable characters. The Dishwasher returns but this time players can control the mysterious Yuki, a cyborg assassin killed by The Dishwasher in the original game and resurrected in Vampire Smile. While each character will share some levels, their stories are much different. From what we've seen, Yuki's story is a little more complex than The Dishwasher's. At times during the demo the world around Yuki would drastically change in a flash, switching perspectives to young woman walking through the halls of an insane asylum, much like a mechanic seen in Velvet Assassin. In these scenes, Yuki's character model would change to a robed inmate, spewing blood from her missing arm -- which in non-flashback sections is replaced by a melee weapon. In our demo we saw a chainsaw and gatling gun attachment. It becomes immediately apparent that Yuki has an internal struggle with a demon within herself that still wants to complete her original objective: Kill The Dishwasher.

The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile will also feature two-player co-op. According to Ska Studios dev James Silva, no matter which character you select "you will follow the same path, but each will be slightly different with a unique outcome." Silva wouldn't comment on how the story would change during coop play which puts The Dishwasher and Yuki on the same side.

In the demo for The Dishwasher, Silva had removed button-prompts which let players know when they are able to utilize a devastating execution move on enemies (ala God of War, and also found in Dead Samurai), instead replacing it with a series of blue electrical sparks as a visual cue for the event. However, I was told that the prompts may return in the final build of the game, which would be a shame. There were a number of boss battles in the demo, each introduced by a Hugo Stiglitz-inspired freeze frame and name card (a concept former Joystiq writer and current Ska Studios employee Dustin Burg added, Silva tells us). It's a great moment that gives each of the insanely designed bosses their moment in the sun before they are sentenced to a pile of blood-soaked rubble.

There's a lot of style in The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. My time with the two level demo went by far too quickly. Perhaps it was the easy difficulty setting I selected to ensure I would see the entire demo (the last game was super hard!) or maybe it was how much fun I had with the game, but Vampire Smile is a title that's landed on my radar. Let's just hope I play it when it comes out.
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