The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile
- Xbox Live Arcade - 800 Microsoft Points (Ł6.80)
It's well documented that I enjoy killing things, but even my more psychotic urges have their limits.
As insane, side-scrolling beat-'em-ups go, this sequel to Ska Studio's indie hit delights in putting ideas of sensible moderation to the sword. Obliterating everything in the most frenzied, violent way possible is once again the name of the game, as you battle through 50 increasingly claret-splattered stages in the name of revenge over something presumably important.
The unremitting bleakness has a certain stylistic charm, but such is the relentlessness of it all, Vampire Smile is too intense to digest for more than a few levels at a time. It's an-all-you-can eat banquet at gunpoint.
But if you've got the appetite, the content is almost overwhelming. Two intertwining story campaigns provide the main meat, along with hefty side servings of co-op play, as well as various standalone battles to compete in if you enjoy leaderboard bragging rights. It's even got a 3D mode if you enjoy looking silly in your own home. (It made my eyes hurt after about 30 minutes, though.)
There's no question that the whole package is extremely polished. The dark, twisted artistry is a hellish vision like no other, but whether you'll get on with the endlessly repetitive button-mashing combat is another matter.
At its best, the lightning-fast dodge mechanic adds twitchy strategy, and the presence of unlockable special attacks and multiple weapons to discover lures you through the chaos. But when it boils down to it, there's only so much limb-severing a man can take.
Chime Super Deluxe
- PSN - Ł7.19
Zoe Mode's wafting music-creation block puzzler felt like something of a work-in-progress when it first emerged on Xbox Live Arcade.
You'd settle down and have a thoroughly pleasant time, laying down irregular shapes, and trying to create as many 'quads' of 3x3 or more as possible within a time limit. The more quads, the more 'coverage', and the more notes layered on top of the basic backing track. It was forgiveable that there wasn't much in the way of modes or content, because it was all for charity.
A year further down the line, though, and its arrival on PSN addresses many of the niggles that people had with it in the first place. Zoe Mode has added a handful of new songs, for a start, as well as a glassy new visual sheen, beefed-up lighting effects and generally jazzed-up presentation.
More significantly, this Super Deluxe version adds both four-player (offline) co-op and versus multiplayer modes, giving the gameplay an entirely different slant. If you're feeling benevolent, working together in co-op mode to get that elusive 100 per cent coverage is a pleasantly chilled way to pass the time.
But if you're in a destructive mood, then, equally, being able to pinch each other's quads and generally cause havoc with each other's coverage adds a welcome competitive dimension to what was once all about feeling the love. The absence of online play is a bit of a shame, but maybe that'll find its way into the Super Duper Deluxe version. We can but hope.