The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile Preview

We spend some time stylishly slashing our way through bad guys in this upcoming XBLA sequel.

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2009's The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was a slice of stylish, bloody arcade fun. Today at Microsoft's February Games Showcase event, we got to sit down with its forthcoming sequel, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, and see how things are shaping up.

Vampire Smile will feel immediately familiar to those who played Dead Samurai. It's a side-scrolling action game in which light and strong attacks can be chained together into devastating combos and in which your enemies frequently spurt copious amounts of blood before they collapse. A quick dashing roll lets you evade enemy attacks and come at foes from behind, and you can switch weapons mid-combo to maximize your deadliness. The controls were tight and responsive, making it easy to jump in and immediately start pulling off some fast and furious attacks. The memorable weapons from the first game, including a pair of meat cleavers and a samurai sword, are all making a return. We also saw a sadistic new addition to the arsenal: an attack that involves spraying bad guys with harmless water and then hurling a toaster at them, which can cause a chain reaction of electrified enemies.

 Things are gonna get messy.
Things are gonna get messy.

Like Dead Samurai, Vampire Smile makes use of a distinctive comic-book style to advance the story. The art design here is very much in the mold of the previous game, but a new engine is powering the visuals, which appear sharper in the sequel. The story sequences we saw focused on Yuki, the dishwasher's sister. A brief, early story sequence made it clear that her psyche was frayed, and that as she wrestles with her demons, she is unlocking incredible power within herself. At one point, she awoke from a nightmare, only to have apparently unwittingly killed several people in the real world while she was dreaming. Although what we saw focused on Yuki, the dishwasher will also be playable in his own separate but related story campaign. And this time around, the story levels can be tackled in local or online co-op.

As we played, a representative from Ska Studios talked to us about some adjustments that have been made to the overall difficulty. Whereas in the previous game, finishing moves sometimes left you vulnerable to attack from other enemies, they now push enemies back so that you're not penalized for killing in style. Things have been tweaked a bit to make the action less punishing, but those seeking a serious challenge should still be able to find it. And those who want to coast through the game with as little challenge as possible can access a new difficulty option called Pretty Princess. In addition to making the game much easier, it fills the grim landscape with pretty floating hearts, giving a humorous sheen to taking the easy way out.

The Arcade mode provides 50 new challenges that will let players test their prowess and climb the leaderboards. And the Dish Challenge mode, which pits you against wave after wave of enemies, also makes a return. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile will be the first Xbox Live Arcade game to support 3D, and viewing the effect, we found that it added a cool sense of depth to the 2D action, with neat touches like the way comic book text panels appeared to float in the air. We'll have more on The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile as its spring release approaches.

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