Video Game: The Dishwasher
I am the humble dishwasher. It's my time to shine!
is a side-scrolling Beat 'em Up
series released for the Xbox Live Arcade
by (formerly) one-man design team Ska Studios
. The first game, Dead Samurai,
went up for sale in April 2009, with the sequel, Vampire Smile,
following suit two years later.The Dishwasher
starts the eponymous Dishwasher, a dishwasher
working in a bleak world where humans are choosing to be mass-converted into cyborgs and the undead run amok. One day, he wakes up in the restaurant kitchen with mild amnesia, a big hole in his chest where his heart should be, and an army of cyborgs out for his head. For lack of anything better to do, he picks up a couple of meat cleavers and carves his way through a tale involving evil supercomputers, long-lost siblings, an alien chef, and shotgun-wielding vampire cowboy assassins
. The games' plots are presented as a series of gritty comic strips which can sometimes make it a challenge to see whether the story is taking itself seriously or not.
The games have attracted some flak for their art style and threadbare, usually ridiculous story, but also attract considerable acclaim for their frenetic combat (reminiscent of Devil May Cry
and other combo-based beat 'em ups with scads of bloody finishing moves to boot) and impressive production values; everything from the cutscenes to the music are provided by Ska Studios. On top of a fairly involved story mode, both games also feature co-op play (although the first game's second player interaction is limited to a helper much like in Super Mario Galaxy
) and Arcade modes consisting of fifty increasingly difficult challenges. Both are available for 800 MS points each on Xbox Live.
This game contains examples of:
- Alien Blood: The Dishwasher's blood creeps through his veins despite the absence of, say, anything like a heart. It's nice to have such a magnanimous boss.
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: The final battle in Vampire Smile.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: Inverted - everyone has completely white skin, regardless of actual race and/or probable skin tone. The Chef is, according to the developer, quite black, but appears just as ashen as everyone else.
- Confirmed that The Chef is black, in Charlie Murder, another game by Ska Studios.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: The Dishwasher gets a shirt after you beat the first game, and a Nice Hat if you beat it on Samurai difficulty.
- Art Evolution: The second game's graphics are more on par with Braid or Limbo than the original, with marked improvements to everything from backgrounds to the Dishwasher himself.
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign, Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Iffenhaus Prison, the banker Ömödö, Dishwasher's Dekkentozter, possibly other examples.
- Assimilation Plot: The cyborg conversion movement turns out to be this.
- Awesome but Impractical: The Dishwasher's Dekkentozter in Vampire Smile is a ludicrous Improvised Weapon that consists of a squirt gun, a portable generator, and a toaster on the end of a wire. It does huge damage, especially if you soak the enemy first, but the generator severely hinders the Dishwasher's mobility and its range is far outstripped by the Violence Hammer.
- Awesome Yet Practical:
- The Dishwasher's Shift Blade is a katana that allows him to teleport. It's also probably his most well-balanced weapon, and rips enemies apart once fully leveled up.
- Yuki's Painkiller weapon is a giant syringe that not only has excellent lockdown and anti-air capabilities, but also sucks the life from enemies.
- Ax-Crazy: The Dishwasher himself may be unsettlingly violent with all his beheadings and grenade-feedings, but The Prisoner is flat out messed up.
- Badass Boast: "They call me the Dishwasher. I inspire fear among the fearless."
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: Several in the sequel:
- Yuki's nightmares quickly turn into battles with her dream monsters.
- The Invalid boss, with a heaping helping of Interface Screw.
- The final battle against the Fallen Engineer and his mind control takes place on a spinning dish in a glowing red abyss.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: In Vampire Smile, enemies in critical condition will often kill themselves if left alone for a few moments. Given what the protagonists tend to do to their opponents when they're dazed, this might be more sensible than it looks.
- Bittersweet Ending: Yuki's ending in Vampire Smile. The Fallen Engineer is dead (again), but so is the Dishwasher, and Yuki doesn't much care what happens to the rest of humanity now that her mind has been purged.
- Blade Lock: during a Messy Kill finisher, several of the more dangerous enemies will raise a weapon in defense, leading to this. You'll have to power past them with a Quick Time Event to deliver the coup de grâce. This also happens if Yuki initiates a Chainsaw Duel with a Cyborg Pumpkinhead.
- Boss Subtitles: Every boss save the Fallen Engineer has them in the second game. Some examples:
- Chainsaw Good: The Dishwasher gets a chainsaw in the first game. Yuki gets one grafted to her arm in Vampire Smile. Both do everything one could expect a chainsaw to do.
- Chekhov's Gunman: The masked rider in Dead Samurai is a well-camouflaged early appearance of the Big Bad.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Red Freaks are often sent in very large numbers. They, in turn, die in large numbers as well.
- Crapsack World: It's always dark and rainy, and there are cyborgs and zombies everywhere. In the sequel, it's revealed that the Dishwasher and Chef basically burned the world down and tried to start over on the moon.
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Literally. The architect of the transhumanist movement engineered the cybernetics this way. Cyborg bodies even poison the soil, causing the dead to stir.
- Deadpan Snarker: The Dishwasher in the sequel is a little more sanguine about his situation, leading to some very dry wisecracks every now and then. In particular, he's totally nonplussed by zombie sharks.
- Degraded Boss: The chainsaw-wielding Pumpkinhead mini-bosses from the first game show up as normal, if especially tough, enemies in the sequel.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Limited Palette variant. Enemies, for the most part, have very bright, colorful lights on their person, so the player can spot them through the chaos of battle better. Blood, and particularly imposing scenery are also colorful.
- Dissonant Serenity: The main reason Chef stands out like a sore thumb is his default expression: a placid smile. Cheerful disposition, it needs to be said, is in very short supply in this series. This makes it all the more jarring if Yuki kills the Dishwasher, since he sort of freaks out.
- Drop the Hammer: In Vampire Smile, The Dishwasher obtains the "Violence Hammer": A hefty pole with ninety pounds of steel girder on the end, wrapped in barbed wire with hooks, knives, and other assorted painful bits tied on, wielded like a polearm.
- Dynamic Entry: Present in both games from different sources:
- In the first game, Blue Freaks can land on you from above, though they're fairly small and are relatively easy to dodge.
- In Vampire Smile, however, there are the Shoguns: huge, armored, halberd and rocket launcher weilding minibosses that come down with a fairly large shockwave. Problem is, they can do this over and over again while swinging around the aformentioned halberd.
- Easy-Mode Mockery / Easier Than Easy: Pretty Princess mode, unlockable in Vampire Smile by dying five times in a row in the same room. In it, everything is covered with a pink filter, hearts float through the air, and enemies all bleed hearts and rainbows. Also, it's actually quite a challenge to even die on this mode.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: The Dishwasher and the Chef. In the second game, Yuki is referred to as "the Prisoner." Just about all the villains are addressed this way, too: There's the Doctor, the Banker, the General, and the Judge. And the Fallen Engineer.
- Finishing Move: A key point of the combat system. Once an enemy starts sparking, you are to finish him off with the attack button indicated over his head - either a Clean Kill (read: blood-fountaining Diagonal Cut) or a Messy Kill (A No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, usually with a side order of Hoist by His Own Petard). Doing so properly will restore your health and sometimes net you a Dish/Blood Magic Skull.
- Fragile Speedster: When you engage the Chef in Dead Samurai, he can kill you in seconds but drops in two strong combos. But as far as future battles and the plot are concerned, he's Nigh Invulnerable.
- Gatling Good: Yuki gets one of these on her arm, too, and it's implied she can switch between it and the chainsaw at will.
- Gorn: The first game splashed floods of gore across the screen, and the second amps it up even further. Finishers nearly always involve some form of dismemberment or someone getting Impaled with Extreme Prejudice. In Vampire Smile, one of Yuki's boss finishers turns the entire screen red for a couple of seconds.
- High-Pressure Blood: But of course. Old samurai movie-style blood fountains shoot out of freshly defeated enemies defeated by blades.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: The Dishwasher has at least one finisher per enemy in Dead Samurai that involves killing a cyborg with their own weapons. Of particular note is the one where he pulls a grenade out of their belt, calmly flips it around, and rams it into their eye socket.
- Hooks and Crooks: The Freaks of Dead Samurai use a pair of somewhat long hooks, though they replace them with long straight-bladed ninja swords in the sequel - probably in response to what the Dishwasher did with them: the Messy Kill against the Freaks involves impaling them with the blunt end of the hook and setting it upright on the ground for display.
- I Have Many Names: The final boss of Dead Samurai is called, alternately, the Fallen Engineer, the Masked Rider, and if you go by the achievements list, That Guy on the Horse.
- Improbable Weapon User: something of a recurring theme in the series' arsenal is The Dishwasher or Yuki picking up some dangerous object and comfortably and gracefully using as a weapon as though there were a thousand-year old martial art behind its use.
- Interface Screw: One boss in Vampire Smile, the Invalid, is a wheelchair-bound hospital patient who turns off the TV and turns it back on with the game in a different genre. He uses the distraction to leap out of his chair and strangle you while screaming his head off.
- Ludicrous Gibs: The ways that you can turn enemies into hamburger meat and blood are truly astounding. Sometimes you don't even need to be the one to kill them.
- Metaphorgotten: "Diaboldi's corpse looks like it's been hit by a truck...with knives welded to it...Maybe some sort of mulching mechanism."
- The Minion Master: The Doctor in the first game is a fairly weak boss who can summon hordes of high-leveled enemies more or less indefinitely. In Arcade mode, you fight two at once, which makes things a little hectic.
- Noodle People: The protagonists are pretty scrawny, especially considering their hideous feats of strength. The Big Bad, however, takes it into Body Horror territory.
- Not Using the Zed Word: Well, the game doesn't like calling Yuki a vampire, but she's got Blood Magic, Cute Little Fangs, and often tears open enemy throats with her mouth as a finisher, so if the shoe fits...
- The Obi-Wan: The Chef is something of a mentor and protector figure to the Dishwasher, appropriately enough. He's effectively the one who kicks the journey off by rescuing him from the Sinthesis, and of course is a rare source of exposition.
- One to Million to One: Yuki's method of Teleport Spam. A particularly nasty example since she is simply shredded into a full body version of Red Mist instead of transforming into a swarm and is implied to feel all of it.
- Ontological Mystery: The Dishwasher in Dead Samurai wakes up in a kitchen with no idea how he got there and his heart cut out. It doesn't last long, though, because his memory starts coming back.
- Orcus on His Throne: Averted in Dead Samurai. The Fallen Engineer personally leads the initial attempt to retrieve the Dishwasher, and serves as the first boss. It backfires, badly, since the Dishwasher steals his Shift Blade.
- Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: The dynamic "grab" moves used on sparking foes are invariably one-sided-beatdowns-par-excellence. In the sequel, however, a rare few of Yuki's foes will let her know, quite harshly, that they're not nearly dead enough for that to work on them.
- Reverse Grip: The Dishwasher's Shift Blade in both games, and Yuki's Conviction in Vampire Smile
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: This drives the Dishwasher in Dead Samurai. Also drives Yuki in Vampire Smile, though she's noticeably more vengeful about it.
- Short-Range Shotgun: Both games feature shotguns whose optimal range is kissing distance. In Vampire Smile, at a range it won't be much stronger than the submachinegun, but point blank it's powerful enough to One-Hit Kill several mooks.
- Shout-Out: Many.
- Your biggest hints that the game isn't taking its revenge plot seriously occur within one minute of the reveal of the underlying revenge plot itself: A girl with a Japanese name, on a quest for revenge, has her arm replaced with a chainsaw, and, after escaping from a prison whose name means "the house of If", the people she's going after are a general, a banker, and a judge.
- Weaponized zombie sharks mounted on robotic legs.
- A boss in Vampire Smile is called "the Murderfly." The developers were not aware of this reference but instead the Murderfly is intended as an homage to a logo by Ska Studios' Michelle Juett drawn in 2008.
- An achievement in Vampire Smile references Mortal Kombat (the method of initially unlocking the item that lets you get the "achieveables" required for it, which involves pressing Start after cat's head pops out of the corner of the screen when you juggle enemies in a specific area, which in turn transports you to a Boss Rush with the developers' heads pasted on the bosses), Red vs. Blue (specifically the "achievements PSA", with Caboose saying "I also have my own achieveables!" or "I have so many achieveables!" whenever you unlock one, along with the name of the achievement as well as the fake achievement popup being straight from the short) and the overall concept of silly achievements (3 of them consisting of opening a present, double jumping and shooting an enemy with the Awesome but Impractical weapon described above).
- Sinister Scythe / Epic Flail: The paired kusarigama (Kamas in DS, Kama-Kazi in VS), used alternatively like nunchaku and just plain sickles by the Dishwasher in Dead Samurai and then by Yuki in Vampire Smile. They take the role of the token Dual Wielding, quick, finesse weapon - in the first game, they effectively replace the cleavers.
- Sociopathic Hero: The Dishwasher doesn't have many compunctions about killing for someone who spent his life scrubbing plates (...on the other hand, that's not so surprising.) His sister in the sequel is even less stable; several of her finishers have her killing the enemy with her teeth.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Yuki's Buster Sword-lookalike Cloud Sword "harnesses the power of clouds and has nothing to do with anything else."
- Teleport Spam: The Dishwasher can blink forward in a smoky cloud with his Shift Blade; in the sequel, his sister Yuki can manage it at will. Players will need to learn to rely on it.
- Unfriendly Fire: While co-op partners can't hurt each other, enemies can end up smacking each other with attacks if they get in the way. They can even end up slicing a weaken'd comrade in half.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The Dishwasher in both games. He gets a shirt in Dead Samurai after you beat the Story mode.
- Wake-Up Call Boss: The Viking in Dead Samurai is the first boss who doesn't bat an eye at Teleport Spam, and his attacks are unpredictable, cover wide areas, and deal huge damage. When his health gets critical, he'll go berserk and start hacking up the entire screen in an attempt to take you with him.
- Where It All Began: The final level of Vampire Smile, the Stagnant Nightmare, is a twisted version of the first level of Dead Samurai.