I was a Cyborg Ninja Assassin
HIGH: Finally beating a particularly nasty wave of bad guys in the second-to-last level.
LOW: Realizing that the strategy for every single enemy is "warp behind them, then attack."
WTF: The text RPG boss.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is very stylish. The swordsmanship is slick as can be, and the dark, brooding visuals do a great job illustrating the dystopia of the game's world. When I started the game, I was convinced that I was in for a genuine treat. Sadly, that feeling evaporated after the first hour or so. Vampire Smile has very little depth under all that window dressing.
Vampire Smile, the follow-up to 2009's The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, follows two ninjas that are out for revenge of some sort. I think. The intermittent comic book cut-scenes, while very well illustrated, are extremely vague and never really gave me a concrete idea of what I was doing. Basically there's some evil business going down with some cyborgs, and it's up to the ninja hero/heroine to stop....whatever it is. Something is going on, but I'm not quite sure what.
Once past aesthetics, even if they're very good aesthetics, there isn't much left.
Vampire Smile is a basic 2D hack n' slash button masher with repetition oozing out of its appropriate orifice. Oh, and there's lots and lots of blood coming out of that orifice too. Hack n' slash gameplay is by no means a bad thing in and of itself, but there's no depth here. The levels are all closed-in rooms indistinguishable from each other save for a few setpieces, making them a perfect setting for all of the fights against indistinguishable enemies.
The simplicity becomes incredibly glaring. The game changes very little after the first level, with the exception of the ever increasing amounts of enemies per encounter. Even the new weapons I steadily acquired didn't break the monotony. Vampire Smile is button mashing in its purest and most unadulterated form, as my thumbs can attest to. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say I was playing a less varied 2D version of the recent Ninja Gaiden games.
The bosses were particularly disappointing, as I was hoping they'd be the game's saving grace since the way to my heart is through a good boss battle. (Or through my ribcage. One of the two.) Anyway, there are plenty of big baddies that provide an opportunity for more creative fights, but these chances are wasted since all of them (except one) can be defeated by using a warp move to get behind them and then ninja-ing the living crap out of them. Using the same strategy over and over and over and over and over and over again gets very old, very fast.
Since every level is practically the same and even the bosses can be beaten with the same strategy, the only thing left for the game to throw at the player is increasing amounts of enemies. The vast majority of fights can be tackled by using the same warp strategy I mentioned above, so progressing feels a lot more like a chore than it should. The minions kept piling on as I pushed through the game, and instead of any sense of progression there was just more and more frustration. Being difficult is just fine, but I need to feel like I'm earning something for going through all of this.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile is a game I really want to like, and I think with some more attention to level/enemy design this could be morphed into a winner. However, in its current form it's so shallow I just don't see the appeal in it. The only things it truly has to offer are some pretty weapon animations, lots of blood, and a certain feeling of old-school masochism. Fans of hand cramp-inducing button mashing or extensive weapon combos might find a lot to like here, but for everyone else there's just a pretty face and some scattered body parts.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time on normal difficulty) and no time in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains violence, blood, and gore. If my descriptions weren't clear enough, there's blood and body parts all over this game. No kids.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: You should be fine. There are no spoken lines, and all relevant information is conveyed through text.