When we first took a look at the gory follow-up to last year's XBLA hit The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, we couldn't wait to get our hands on it. Recently Ska Studios gave us that chance, with a playable demo that featured segments from Yuki's story campaign, a few of the game's varied challenge missions, and a look at the new, ego-bruising Pretty Princess mode. Here's what fans of the series can expect.

The Story So Far
Dead Samurai had one of the more confounding storylines of recent years, so we'll forgive you if you can't remember what exactly was going on while you were hacking and slashing everything in sight. The story went something like this: The Cyborg Assimilation Movement (or CAM) was a cybernetic cult that was taking over the planet. Duped by promises of a better future, the Dishwasher and his stepsister Yuki both joined the organization. The Dishwasher was then subjected to cruel experiments until he was rescued by Chef, who saved his life with a blood transfusion - only Chef turned out to be an alien, and his blood turned the Dishwasher into the super-powered badass we all know and love. The Dishwasher then set out on a mission of revenge against CAM, accidentally killing Yuki (who had been turned into a cyborg assassin, 'natch), before defeating CAM's Sinthesis AI and its creator, The Fallen Engineer.

Vampire Smile takes place after the events of Dead Samurai. Having been left for dead, Yuki was bitten by Slava, "The Creeper," and (we're assuming) turned into a vampire. She was then blamed for her brother's crimes and incarcerated in a space prison for cyber terrorism. Upon waking up in space prison, it's Yuki's turn for revenge, which involves hunting down the three masterminds behind her incarceration: the Banker, the General, and the Judge. As she's mowing down endless squads of enemies however, she'll have her own internal problems to deal with, including a worsening mental illness, and the bloodlust caused by her vampirism.

Finally, a game that understands the dangers of cyborgs!

The story looks to be as ambitious and creative as Dead Samurai, and in the short time we got with the game it was evident that James Silva (the founding member of Ska Studios and sole programmer for both Dead Samurai and Vampire Smile) has stepped up the delivery of his story-telling. The game's cutscenes now support animation, and playable flashbacks during the game - such as one that involved Yuki shuffling through a deserted psych ward - make the story much more immersive. We didn't get to see any of the Dishwasher's storyline, but we're told it will give a different view of the events of Yuki's story.

New and Improved
Not one to rest on his laurels, Silva is writing a completely new engine for Vampire Smile. Not only does this mean a significant bump in visuals (the psychedelic graphics were already impressive and we're told they are still very much a work in progress), but it also means smoother gameplay thanks to various tweaks to the mechanics. These include the ability to break out of combos, and a more zoomed-in camera angle that highlights the action. Finishing moves, which were a source for some frustration in Dead Samurai, now push back nearby enemies and make you slightly invincible when performing them.

The Dishwasher will have his own campaign to shoot through

Yuki offers her own changes to the gameplay: her Blood Warp ability allows her teleport across the screen just like the Dishwasher's Shift Blade, only she can use it with any weapon she has equipped. Other minor tweaks gave her a unique feel, while still delivering the same blister-producing action of the original game.

About That Difficulty Level...
In addition to the other improvements offered by Vampire Smile's new engine, Silva is also balancing gameplay to make sure the sequel is easier for new players to get into. A gentler learning curve is also accommodated by a more forgiving difficulty level: Normal mode is reportedly two steps easier than it was in Dead Samurai. If you think this means Silva has gone soft however, think again: The higher difficulty levels are just as punishing as the previous title's offerings, and the new challenges - such as kill as many enemies as you can in two minutes with a given set of weapons - will keep masochistic gamers busy for a long time.

Yep, this game has some blood in it

If you're not up to the challenge, Vampire Smile packs the hilarious Pretty Princess mode. In addition to making the game easier, Pretty Princess mode replaces all of the blood and gore of the normal game with rainbows, hearts, and confetti. The end result is so entertaining that we hope it's added as option outside of being tied to an easier difficulty level - who says exacting revenge on your enemies has to be a gloomy affair?

There's no word yet on when The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile will be released, but we'll be sure to bring you any future news as soon as it becomes available.