Vampire Smile is the product of just one man. Everything, from the slick lo-fi graphics layered with intense lighting effects, to the urgent, industrial music, is by James Silva.
Don't be too quick to be jealous. Vampire Smile is the story of Yuki, a hallucinating cyborg who may or may not be bleeding to death in hospital, and may or may not be embarking on a screaming, disembowelly crusade against the men who represent the system who sent her to space prison: The General, The Banker and The Judge. From the outside, Silva's head seems like an alarmingly busy place.
With his first Dishwasher game, Silva set the tone - home-cooked, combo-powered blade violence in a side-scrolling world. With Vampire Smile, he's added a dimension (up), and a layer of intensity, noise and momentum that's utterly absorbing, even at its most button-thumping basic.
At the heart of the new system is Yuki's Blood Warp. Once unlocked, she can shoop a few feet across the screen in a mist of blood. It's similar to The Dishwasher's roll in that you're untouchable during the warp, but now you can shoop upwards. There's no limit to this - basically, you can fly around the screen like a furious wound.
Flipping your right thumb from warp to attack is immediately natural. You learn the timings of the bosses, and dash to their blindside. You learn the distance of the warp, and leap up to grab and slam a hovering robot into an enemy. While some of the bosses are surprisingly susceptible to mundane attacks, the variety on offer is impressive.
Silva has added a Pretty Princess difficulty setting. Replacing the infinite amounts of gore with rainbows and cuddles, it's a defiant "eff you" to the reviewers who said the first game was too hard. But you shouldn't need it: Vampire Smile's Normal mode is entirely negotiable. You might even be tempted to try out Ninja difficulty.
Once you've finished the game, other modes let you perfect your combat. Arcade mode is a series of short survival arenas, and Dish Challenge is an unending wave of monsters with a character of your choice. It's one of the few games where you might want to take that 15 minute break those manuals always recommend.
Welcome to one man's splintered, angry vision
- More intense, and generally better
- Blood Warp looks and plays great
- Unforgiving but not over difficult
- Can be hard to see where you are
- Probably not suitable for epileptics