Platform: XBLA (Get Demo/Buy)
Developer: Ska Studios
Publisher: Xbox Live Arcade
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was a breakout Indie side-scroller that made the jump from the Xbox Live Indie scene into fully fledged XBLA territory. It was sick. It was horrifying. It was graphic. And it was truly fantastic. However, veteran coder Jason Silva has dredged through his deeply disturbing mind to produce a follow-up that fixes the few faults of the original to create one of the best downloadable games you'll play this year.
The juicy core is still intact. You'll explore sprawling 2D stages, do a little platforming and splatter hordes of ravening opponents across the scenery - accompanied by a gritty, nasty and intentionally raw art style. Rather than just resting on his laurels, though, Silva has punched absolutely everything up to obscene, wondrous levels.
The Dishwasher 2 introduces a new character, Yuki, who's a violent psychopath defeated by The Dishwasher in the original game. She's subsequently framed for destroying the Earth and shipped off to a brutal lunar prison colony to serve out the rest of her days. Naturally you'll soon escape after an orgy of destruction and head to the lunar surface to wreak vengeance against a selection of fatcats and industrialists - which provides a convenient vehicle for the violence. Sharp, referential writing, slick comic book panels and horrifying hallucination scenes make the story much easier to invest in this time around - and the ability to play as The Dishwasher himself allows us to experience the narrative from another perspective. But at the end of the day, the plot is just an excuse.
An excuse for the best, most sickening and flat-out wonderful melee combat that has ever graced a console.
Yuki and The Dishwasher share the same basic set of skills. The X button provides for swift strikes that can knock enemies off balance or juggle them into the air, with a heavy weapon (usually a massive chainsaw) mapped to Y for heinous, ruinous blows. B lets you grab and brutalise an enemy on the ground or in the air, allowing you to set up even more ridiculous acts of arbitrary violence.Weapons can be changed mid-combo or on the fly, making for a wealth of combat options and ways to deal with any enemy or situation. The variety of foes has been expanded to include commandos, zombies, flying horrors and massive bosses, meaning that you'll need to work out different strategies for each.
Bloodwarping is another deep gameplay element that you'll soon learn to spam relentlessly. Flicking the right stick causes you to teleport a short distance; allowing you to relocate behind opponents, dodge attacks and dart in and out of engagement range. Awesome. Dealing enough damage to a foe causes them to 'spark,' leaving them open to a disgusting finishing animation with a simple press of a face button. You'll frequently balk at just how nasty some of these moves are.
The bevy of abilities makes the combat a truly dynamic, evolving and gratuitous experience - and tight, responsive controls make pulling off insane combos much more intuitive than before. The window for initiating grabs and triggering combos has also been lengthened, causing the bloodshed to be more fluid than practically anything else out there. You're always moving; darting around your enemies and slaughtering them with merry, freestyle abandon. Put simply, it's the best hack & slash combat I have ever witnessed- and handily puts most AAA titles to shame. The insane amount of visual feedback (and gore) means that you'll need quick reflexes and a keen eye to prevail, but you'll feel like a God after butchering entire arenas without being hit.
There's a little more to occupy your time beyond rampant, joyous murder. The levels are more open-ended than before; providing scope for exploration and the acquisition of hidden secrets and collectibles. The Guitar Hero-style minigame also makes a welcome return - with Yuki whipping out a sick electric fiddle in place of a shredding iron - and caning the solos naturally rewards you with copious credits and masses of fireworks and applause.
Whilst The Dishwasher 2 is undeniably tough in parts, Silva has removed some of the more annoying design touches that made the original more aggravating than it should have been. A standard checkpoint system replaces cumbersome and punitive continue mechanics - and you don't have to collect rare Psycho Picks to upgrade your equipment any more. If you can afford it, you can buy it - rather than impotently sitting on a wealth of credits without the ability to spend it. As mentioned above, the combat has also been tweaked, though I'll do my best not to gush.
The gritty art style returns from the original Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, but a more clinical motif makes for a much more visually pleasing visual experience. It's raw and horrendous by design, with buckets of blood, rust and big, bold sprites that pop out of the screen. The insane amount of visual feedback can be a little overwhelming in parts, mind. Unfortunately the sound effects aren't quite up to par, featuring repetitive noisy clips that soon start to grate. Still, the raucous soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to the raucous action.
Finally, we need to talk about value. As well as two full singleplayer campaigns, 800 Microsoft Points will net you a massive selection of tough challenge rooms that are best shared with a mate either online or offline. The campaign can also be played cooperatively - which elevates the bloodshed to unprecedented new highs (and lows). There's an enormous amount of bloodthirsty content here... which cements The Dishwasher 2 as a truly essential purchase.
- Best. Combat. Ever.
- Massive value
- Stylish visuals and gritty storyline
- Repetitive by design
- Visual feedback can be confusing
- Weak SFX
The Short Version: Dishwasher 2: Vampire Smile contains the most visceral, fluid, brutal and satisfying combat to have ever graced a console.
Not only that, but it's packed with value and multiplayer shenanigans. So you should go and buy it immediately.