When Microsoft released the XNA, I thought it was a great idea. This program lets normal Joes to create a video game that, maybe; a will someday reach the masses. Case in point, The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. When it was first released on the XNA, it came with critical success and was loved by thousands, which in turned allowed it to be turned into one of the most challenging and, hands down, one of the best XBLA games that I have ever played.
The Dishwasher tells a tale of, well, a dishwasher who was killed and brought back to life to seek revenge on those that brought him to an early demise; the evil Cyborgs. Who, by-the-way, have taken over the world. You take control of the dishwasher through fourteen Story Mode levels, fifty Arcade Challenges and through a Dish Challenge.
When playing through the Story Mode, the actual story telling is presented in a comic book-esque fashion. When the story bit for that level is over, that’s when the proverbial shit hits the fan. When I first laid my eyes on The Dishwasher, I thought the game resembled another great XBLA game, Alien Hominid but much darker and grittier. The only colors you mainly experience are gray, black and white, and red. However, any other colors added would take away from the grittiness of the game.
The action in the Story Mode is that of a side scrolling nature, and can get pretty intense at times. It starts out fairly simple by throwing a couple of grunt robots at you (they look like Men in Black). Besides the MIB robots, enemies can range from zombies to those robots that resemble the giant mech found in the movie Robocop. These baddies can get up there in size as well, but for me the most annoying enemies are the S.W.A.T. type robots. They typically shoot a grappling hook to the top of the level, climb up it and drop a grenade down at you. Did I also mention they roll out of the way of your attack so that when you miss they set you up to shot the hell out of you? I look at that as a good thing because it forces you to play the game with a certain amount of strategy and not play it as your typical hack-and-slash.
This is where Arcade Mode helps a lot. There are fifty levels of intense action, but not side scrolling like in story mode. Each of the arcade levels just drops you in and lets you go at it. As you start each level, you are given helpful advice on how to do certain things that allows you to kill your robo-foes a little easier. There is a Practice Room in the game that really only allows you to practice your moves and combos (the moves and combo list is accessible in the start menu). The huge downside to the Practice Room is that there is nothing to practice on. Anything would be a great help.
I mean what better way to hone your mad skills than training on some sort of practice dummy? Anything would have been better than just slicing through thin air. That really doesn’t teach you much. Thankfully there is the Dish Challenge mode that, like Arcade Mode, throws you into a level and has you killing as many baddies as possible before they finally get the better of you. In this mode, there is only level in which you slaughter those evil metal bastards.
As you play through Story and Arcade modes, there a few different weapons and items that you acquire to help you in your journey. Actually, you don’t get to use any items in Arcade Mode, you just acquire the different types of weapons as you progress. In Story Mode, you start out with a pair of cleavers that will turn any well respected kitchen into a bloody mess. As you progress to the later levels, you will find other weapons that will help you in terminating the Cyborgs. Eventually you will find a shotgun and a chainsaw. At a time, you can only carry with you two different weapons.
Since you keep playing through the story until you die, there is no place to switch out your weapons. So as you find the different killing devices, they are assigned a spot in the D-pad. If you want to use a certain weapon, hit the respective direction on the D-pad and it will be equipped. This changes only for the Dish Challenge because before you start playing the level, you can actually pick the two weapons you want to use.
To help you out a little further in Story Mode, you can buy health items and upgrade your weapons by the helpful little Halper Bot Shop. See, all robots aren’t bad. You buy things by collecting spirals that the dead enemies leave behind. And yes, they do carry over. So if you are playing through the game on Normal but find it a tad difficult, and switch to easy, all the spirals you have collected will be there waiting on you for you to spend them.
Besides those annoying SWAT Bots, the only other problem I have with the game is that when the action gets frantic, I lose site of my character. With every character on the screen being a black and white color, it is hard to tell who you are at times. Oh, and another thing that gets me is when you die, you start the level over. I would like to have been able to start back where I died. This really adds to the difficulty of the game.
Controlling the dishwasher is simple and learning the different combos is a snap. The combat is, essentially, done with two buttons. The X-button is your weak attack and the Y-button is your strong attack. Mash these buttons to form different attack combos (again, for a complete list of combos, hit the pause menu). The B-button allows you to grab your foe and slam them down. Now, those three buttons (X, Y, and B) also allow you to finish off an enemy. When one is weak and stunned, an icon with either X, Y or B will pop up over its head. All you have to do at this point, is to stroll on over to the enemy and hit the appropriate button, and presto! The bad robot is finished in a pretty gruesome way. If you finish off the robot with the appropriate button, you are rewarded with health, if not, well then I guess no health for you.
The jumping is handled by the A-button, while your Dish Magic is used by hitting the right trigger plus one of the three attack buttons. The L-bumper allows you to use the Dish Magic that you have previously used. If you want to switch between the two weapons you have equipped, just tap the R-bumper. Obviously you move the hero with the left stick and the right stick allows you to roll in whichever direction you flick it (you can pull this off by also holding the left trigger and moving the left stick). If you have the sword equipped, you can warp anywhere on the screen by using the right stick.
The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai is probably the most fun I have had playing an XBLA game, so far. With its simple to learn and use controls to the ton of levels you can play, I can see why this game was so talked about when it made its first run on the XNA. I am glad this game made its way to the XBLA; otherwise I might have over-looked a bloody, robo-killing good time. This title should not be missed by anyone. Even though the game can be difficult at times, it forces you to rethink on how to defeat the enemies and progress through the game. And the different game modes teach you all the ins-and outs on how to successfully accomplish that. If you have 800 MS Points (or $10) just lying around and don’t know what to do with them, you need to buy The Dishwasher. Even if you don’t have the points lying around, buy some and then buy The Dishwasher. It’s a crime if you let this game slip by you.