This arcadey follow up to indie maven James Silva's illustrious The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a grim and graphic beat-em-up that showcases an incredible amount of blood spatter and sword-spinning acrobatics dotted with pieces of really dark (and largely nonsensical) story. For those gamers that can find true happiness in hour upon hour of stylized, resolutely pitch-perfect strings of violent combos and boss fights, Vampire Smile is nothing short of blissful. For those looking for more than a few inches of depth, finding what you seek will be met with a lot of boredom and little reward.
The combat consists almost entirely of fucked-up femme Yuki, wielding a chainsaw arm and one of four sharp-ended objects, being locked in a room with a sea of sword-brandishing or gun-toting monsters and having to fight her way out -- over and over again. But Silva's fine-tuning of the aerial combat and impeccably paced upgrading system makes it unendingly enjoyable, and almost constantly fresh. Long arcade combos can be strung along seamlessly and choreographed by simple button mashing and directional cues -- a facet that becomes vibrantly apparent as the game's level of difficultly sharply increases, particularly in the exciting and varied boss fights that cap off each level.
Unlike the holistically brilliant downloadable games of late, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile has a disjointed, convoluted story that ends up merely serving as the basis for some slick visuals in cut scenes. Which is a shame, actually, because the potential of the story behind Yuki's mental musings and her relationship with her stepbrother, The Dishwasher, could make for a creepy, dreary, emotionally involving tale. But for as much as it doesn't work as a narrative, the plot is a serviceable string from which the fifteen separate chapters of Yuki's journey are clothespinned.
In short, my impression of this game is atypical of my normal responses to video games. The gameplay held my attention wholly, while the story did nothing for me -- usually I don't care at all about gameplay. But I found myself being drawn in by the constant visceral combat and immediate payoffs that came from eviscerating everything in sight. If you're able to simply delight in the unending fighting and deeply spooky, cool visuals, this game is easily worth the $10 and will keep you happy for a long while. If not, you'll be hard-pressed to find much to be pleased with in the end.
The Official Verdict: 4 out of 5