Over the course of videogame history there have been quite a few side scrolling action games. Some have gotten the feel of locomotion and combat right and some not so much. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is one such game that gets all of the intangibles right with a style all to it's own. Difficulty was very much an issue with the first game. Was this addressed? Can a small indie studio like Ska Studios pull of a quality game yet again?
Ska Studios' Tour
Vampire Smile starts off where the first ends (you'll see what happens at the end first game). You're The Dishwasher of who begins to have nightmares of a girl trapped in a prison of sorts in a flak jacket. You have limited control of this mysterious girl(you get the low-down on her later in the game) for a few seconds until the nightmare ends and you are once agian The Dishwasher. This happens a few more times where you eventually get the girl to a point of escape where you get full control of her. That's when the game officall starts. Comprised of a storytelling device, comic panel after comic panel gives you the low-down on all of the disposition of each character. A short while later is when the game gives you "the choice". Do you play the game from the story prospective of The Dishwasher or do you play the game as this new character Yuki (aka The Prisoner).
And that's where the game gets its sub title from. Yuki turns out to be a vampire of which comes in greatly when serving combat as Yuki. Just as with the Dishwasher your primary weapon at the start is a sword/kitana that doesn't initially feel any different. Could this be just a pallet swap in the vein of Mortal Kombats Scorpion and Sub-Zero? That would have been a real shame if that was the case yet you can rest assured that the game plays very differently rather you choose to stay the course with The Dishwasher or try your hand at the prospective of "The Prisoner". Comparitively, what makes the two sides of the game different is the variety of attacks each character has at their disposal and how you use them. The Dishwasher plays very much the same convention way he did before. On the other hand Yuki is a vampire and that is a mighty fine thing. Quick travel through the games enviroments is key just as before, but with Yuki her telporting is key to excelling with getting your combo streak as high as you can. With either The Dishwasher or the The Prisoner you'll likely be in dyer need to learn how to get you combo counts up to fuel your magic and other oddly named items you come across.
For those who don't make it passed the mashing of the X button stage that will be fine for you, but the real fun of the rather deep combo system comes when you get the hang of juggling the enemies in the air that comes back to smart use of the teleport. Teleporting behind an enemie to start your attack only to teleport again behind an adjacent enemie above to execute a melee attack slam that gives off splash damage to the same foes you where just attacking a hot second ago on the ground never gets old. Or how about attacking several aerial enemies in the air by teleporting between them while never touching the ground as create your mass carnage. The contextual finisher prompts are a nice touch that help you figure out what move you want to execute to finish of you enemie, yet often will likely be a mute point for those who choose to button mash their way to victory.
Whether you're playing "The Story" or not there is a good variety of other modes of play to show off those crazy combo styles you will aquire. Arcade mode is back, but this time you can play through it solo or in Co-op. Playing it with a friend is a crazy experience as there is one thing that is for certain. Vampire Smile is a bloody ass game. There will be blood pooring out of you TV ( no, not really ) after every session with this game. Over time your field of view will be seriously impacted by the amount of blood covering the screen which is a good and bad thing. Then again, that is where this game separates itself from the crowd from it style alone. No other game has a look like this game has. It's outwardly bizarre not some of the time, but all of the time. There are music rythm sections of the game that come out of no where if you find them just as in the first game cementing the fact you have a game that is very much one of a kind regardless if there are hundreds of other side scrolling "beat'em ups" out there.
In the 'Dish Challenge' you are put into a room and are tasked with doing nothing more than surviving an onslaught of oncomers to see how high and long you can get your combo streak. Between 'Dish' and Arcade that is where the bulk of the leaderboard fun with your friends will be. Every "level" you complete is put on a leaderboard for all of your friends to be ranked. Unfortunately here's where Arcade mode fails in a miserable way. The entire mode is just a series of killing rooms pulled from the story mode. While still fun, it would have been much nicer if more could have been done with the mode.
Fan's of these types of games are certain to like what's offered with Vampire Smile for the intricate combat alone (if you are willing to learn how to execute it at its fullest) as its not an inherent button masher although button mashers should feel fine playing the game with just the primary weapons having little to do with the secondary weapons or magic available to you. Unfortunaelty, if you can't get your head around the quirky style that everything is presented with this game may not be for you.