When I first heard about this release from Xbox guru Major Nelson on Twitter, I thought it was an April Fool’s prank. However I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn’t, and promptly checked out some of the available gameplay videos. These turned out to be surprisingly gruesome and frantic – and if you can describe a game with those words… I’m there.
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai was conceived when game creator James Silva was himself a dishwasher, finding himself the butt of many a joke. After pointing out that Bruce Lee was a dishwasher, he began to conceive a game about one that slaughters an insurmountable array of highly trained agents… and that became what we have here today.
The Dishwasher is a 2D sideways-scrolling “hack n’ slash ’em up”, where you take control of the unnamed protagonist who was captured by cyborgs that had a view to assimilating him into their collective (yes… sorry, that was a Star Trek pun… it will be my last). Freed by “Chef” – his mentor – he is given Alien Blood that resurrects him from death, and imbues him with incredible powers.
And we of course like nothing better than to use these awesome new abilities to pulverise anything that moves into a bloody pink/red mist.
Initially we’re given a basic starting weapon (meat cleavers) and can earn new weapons and upgrades by defeating bosses and collecting “spirals” from defeated enemies. Weapons include the cleavers, the shift blade katana, a machine gun/shotgun combo, chainsaw, and kama. There is also a magic system, dubbed “Dish Magic”, which can be bought at later levels.
As far as gameplay is concerned the controls are easy to pick up – The X and Y buttons being light and hard attacks respectively, the B button throws and A is used for jumping. You can switch weapons with the D-pad, and movement is dealt with on the left analogue stick. One of the great features of the game crops up with the “Shift Blade” – a katana that allows you to teleport about 10 paces in any direction – this mechanic is used via the right analogue stick.
You would think that this new shifting ability then makes the game too easy – happily this is not the case. While it does open up a whole new can of ass-whoopery to the player, the AI seems to ramp-up in response – kicking out big semi-boss characters that pound the crap out of you rather easily. You find you need to look for openings where an enemy is vulnerable from behind, then shifting and making your move.
One of my favourite aspects of the game is a very simple finishing move mechanic. Once you’ve decimated an enemy to within an inch of their life, you’re often prompted to hit the Y or B button. Should you hit Y, you’re treated to a “clean” kill, with a little blood spilt. My preferable option however is to go for B – the messy, gore-soaked death (Mua ha ha haaaa).
The other great gameplay facet is the inclusion of a local and Xbox Live multiplayer option – twice the carnage! Fortunately the game’s AI does take this into consideration too, so enemies are harder and faster (or so it seems). Oh, there’s also a guitar minigame that can be played using the peripherals from most Guitar Hero & Rock Band games.
Thankfully the game’s aesthetics aren’t something to sniff at – between gameplay we’re treated to a nice graphic-novel-esque story before we’re dumped back on the streets awash in Matrix-like agent & zombie blood. Yes… I said zombies – this game has it all! The visuals during the game suit the bleak tone, mostly washed out dark colours, with the blood spatter exuding the most colour – though that may only be because there’s a lot of it splashed about!
The music throughout the game is high-tempo to match the frantic gameplay – this, although not to everyone’s tastes definitely helps to keep the adrenaline pumping and fits the general tone of the game.
Overall The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai doesn’t really excel in any particular area, but it doesn’t fall down anywhere either. One the whole it’s fun whether you’re playing solo or with a companion – and the fact that the multiplayer is available through Xbox Live too only helps to make more of a case to fork out the 1200 MS points for the game.