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RevolvingDork The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai (XBLA) Review
Thu, Apr 16, 2009 5:41pm EDT
By RevolvingDork

The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is a frantic 2D hack-n-slash title available on Xbox Live Arcade. Developed by indie outfit Ska Studios, it combines the fun of classic beat-em-ups with a cartoonishly morbid sensibility.

You play as the titular dead samurai, a dishwasher who has been murdered and subsequently resurrected seemingly through the power of pure vengeance ( think The Crow ). Brandishing a set of increasingly sadistic weapons, you maul your way through mostly linear levels as you carry out your quest to give the world a taste of undead angst.

Dishwasher plays like a 2D version of the 3D Ninja Gaiden games, if that makes any sense. Players chain together a variety of attacks to inflict as much pain on as many enemies as possible. The combat is surprisingly deep, as the effectiveness of any given attack depends strongly on both its timing and the enemy that is being targeted. The lack of a third dimension works wonders here; you don't need to worry about the impairments of parkinsononian camera work and dreadful three-point perspective.

If you want to fully enjoy Dishwasher, you'll have to devote some time to exploring the combat system. There isn't much guidance provided by the game, so figuring out how to link attacks together is up to you. You can alter your attacks by holding up or down on the joystick, but because these changes don't always manifest themselves until you're already in the middle of a combo it can be difficult to figure them out. If you're patient, it's a rewarding process. There are mini-secrets to fighting each of the enemies that you will discover only through experimentation ( for example: air-throwing jetpack soldiers will result in an instant kill, tossing a special-ops cyborg while he's hanging from a high rope will yield you some extra life ).

The art style is reminiscent of something an angsty teenager would draw in their 7th grade history notebook. It fits the mood and the gameplay -- you can't adhere to anything very high-minded when you're playing a game based on hacking cyborgs to pieces with dual meat cleavers. The animation is a mixed bag, some of it is fluid and visceral ( the dishwasher's bladework ) and some of it is stilted and odd ( the special-ops cyborgs' kicks ). There is prodigious use of EXTREMEâ„¢ camera effects, including slow motion, film grain, and motion blur.

One of my all time favorite beat-em-ups was Sega's arcade game Spikeout. It generated a fantastic feeling of "crowd control", something that quickly became necessary as you'd be beset by ever-growing groups of thugs. Spikeout worked because it had tight control and fun enemy-to-enemy contact physics -- if you kicked an enemy and caused him to fall backwards, the enemies he hit as he fell also were knocked backwards. It gave the game a rare feeling of "If I was good enough I could probably beat this game with one credit".

Dishwasher generally lacks that kind of crowd control. The enemies only interact with one another after a few specific attacks: divebombing aerial throws onto other enemies and strong smash attacks. Enemies are immune to one another's attacks, and I think is a missed opportunity for even deeper gameplay. The aforementioned special-ops cyborgs will frequently use a grappling hook to swing to the ceiling so they can drop a wide-blast grenade on our undead hero. If those grenades affected other enemies in the blast radius, we'd have the possibility of trying to coax that attack out for our benefit.

Taking damage is also a little too subtle for my liking. When you get hit while on the ground it's difficult to tell unless you're watching the damage meter like a hawk. A more visceral sound could have made things much clearer. It's something you definitely get better at noticing given time, but with all of the split-second timing required to play the game it would be nice to be able to devote fewer braincycles to it.

You'll have a great time with Dishwasher if you're willing to give it a chance. There is a juicy-sounding co-op mode that I wasn't able to review, plus the innovative usage of a guitar peripheral as a controller for support characters. There is a lot of game here, including a story mode, arcade mode, multiplayer, leaderboards, and a host of extras. It's a complete package, and I commend Ska Studios on a job well done.
Marie the Bee
Aw, it really would have been interesting if enemies were affected by their own attacks. Hmm... sequel?

But, it's great to see the game turned out. Hooray for indies winning contests and publishing contracts! w00t!
I had a lot of fun with the demo, but after fifteen minutes or so of button-pounding action my right thumb couldn't take any more. There was a list of combos tucked away in the help menus somewhere, by the way.
I've been loving the depth of fun this game has. What I haven;t (yet_ enjoyed is the feeling that it requires repeated beatings to max out weapon and health levels. Though in small chunks I could see myself tearing this game apart.


Nice review, man.
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2022 Chris Maguire