The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile was developed by Ska Studios and will be released on April 6, 2011 for 800 MSP. A copy of the game was provided for review purposes.

The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was an indie success story if ever there was one. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is the much awaited sequel to that success story and it’s going far beyond the scope of its predecessor. A story mode, 50 levels of arcade- both single player and co-op, and a never-ended Dish Challenge mode for the masochists of the world that want to fight endless waves of baddies. Standard beat ’em up modes, but the variety of enemies, the two unique characters with their unique weapons and coherent story makes The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile into a fantastic experience.

In The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile players take control of either Yuki (The Prisoner) or The Dishwasher, who is as of yet unnamed. The story starts off two years after the events in the first, with Yuki beginning her adventure in a space prison and eventually joining The Dishwasher on the moon. Both characters set out to dethrone, or rather dismember, the three major powers that have brought the scourge that plagued Earth to the moon.

Players are given a choice between which character to play as. Each character has a unique set of weapons and variation of the story. Gameplay focuses on stunning combos and use of evasion to stay out of harm’s way and keep the pain coming. The arcade mode presents 50 levels of challenges that limit weapon and character choice, sometimes with special conditions.

Here’s what we liked:

The Tale of Dishwasher: The story of this game is told very well and thoughtfully paced. While it might not win plot of the year, playing as either Yuki or The Dishwasher the first time through inevitably has you wondering what’s going on with the craziness on the moon. Throughout players will find themselves asking who is behind it all and what their counterpart is doing at this point in the story. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile takes a good approach to backtracking; employing it conservatively to divulge a sense of familiarity with an area without it feeling tedious or recycled.

Combo Variety – Going to town on a group of bad guys or a boss couldn’t be more satisfying than it is in this game. For the straightforward among the players is the trusty katana, but from there the other weapons start to make for interesting and unique gameplay. The Dekkentozter for instance has you using a squirt gun to wet enemies and a toaster to shock them for major damage; the Cloud Sword has you setting up the combat to give you a chance for an incredible charge attack. If melee can’t do the trick, each character also has ranged weapons and magic at their disposal. Figuring out how best to beat enemies and bosses by employing the right weapons is satisfying and enjoyable.

Gorefest – Not everyone will like the gore, but the graphical style helps take the edge off. For the rest of the world, the effects are over the top, brutal, and most of all fun to watch. Watching Yuki saw a baddie in half or Dishwasher cut an entire group of enemies with the Guillotine will bring an “Awesome!” to your mind on more than one occasion. The violence is gratuitous and the art style matches, making for an violent, frenzied charm.

Stuff to Do – There’s plenty to do in The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. While story, arcade and “infinite fight” modes are standard to these sorts of games that doesn’t mean they don’t offer tons of awesome gameplay experiences. Going solo through arcade mode and surfacing alive is a laudable feet and good luck lasting ten minutes in the near-endless Dish Challenge.

Great Co-op – The best facet to each of these game modes (except the Dish Challenge) is adding in a friend. The screen is well managed and so is the action, especially in Arcade mode. Taking on legions of enemies can be both a great experience teamwork-wise or as competition over top scores. The story gets stripped for the most part for co-op, but it stands as a possibility (albeit far fetched) canonically speaking and is easy to shrug off. Either way, running into the chasms of the pit and cutting a swathe to the end of the game with a friend is very entertaining.

Here’s what we didn’t like:

Losing Yourself – The lack of color in both your character and the enemies can lead to some confusion at times. Going solo it’s usually not an issue as you’re the only one teleporting (for the most part) and using ridiculous weapons. When a friend jumps in, especially in close quarters, things can get hard to follow. The game employs a colored triangle over your character’s head but in some cases it’s really not enough. Arcade mode has two variations of The Dishwasher that make it much easier, though: one with shining blue eyes and one with a red mask. Unfortunately the two variations of Yuki look almost identical. Turning the blood setting to black helps manage this chaos, but it still can be disorienting.

Minor Things – Not being able to replay amps either in or outside of the story without repeating the level is a bit disappointing. While they’re there primarily to break up the gameplay, some of the songs played are really fun and it’d be nice to play them. Along with that some of the sillier beads you can collect take up the same slots that the stat-boosting ones take; it’d be cool to have the silly ones be toggle-able settings, like harmless cheats, rather than opportunity costs. Lastly, the main battle music, while awesome, gets replayed a lot and players may grow weary of it.

This game is definitely game of the year material. A variety of enemies and ways to destroy them is essential to these sorts of brawlers and The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile has both in spades. Playing with a friend may result in some confusion in close quarters, but for the rest of the time (which is most of the time) fighting over the last bad guy in a battle to score points and rub it in the loser’s face. When sticking it solo, playing through both stories can be a real trip, and while it’s not some epic novel, the characters, the world and the social commentary are interesting to bear witness to through blood-stained glasses. The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is an absolute steal at 800MS and is worth it without question.

Score: Buy It!