If you needed any reassurances that Xbox Live’s Indie Games platform can contain products of memorable quality then look no further than Veks and Silence. Meticulously designed and positively oozing with dense and engaging gameplay, the 2D side-scrolling shooter is a throwback to classic games such as Streets of Rage and – a favourite here at Midlife Gamer – the Metal Slug series.
Playing the role of faceless, paper-bagged ‘hero’ “Silence”, the game is split into 13 levels of masochistic and claret soaked action, where the ‘Ratatatatat’ of Silence’s mini-gun and ‘Blast’ of the shotgun compliment the comic book vibe that influences the game’s gorgeous visual style to a tee, along with the crudely animated but well presented cut scenes that lay down a brief narrative of Silence’s bid to rid the city of the undead creatures. Tipping the balance from the 3D graphics that bring Silence to the horizontal levels, VaS also showcases exceptional 2D art that populate levels, from backing detail to stabs at popular culture in any of the humorous billboards that stand out in the highway levels that open the game (a film ad for “Mega Chicken vs. Death Burger- ‘Cholesterolocalypse’”).
Edible Entertainment manage to give each level a sense of individuality also, providing a number of different locations, from zombie graveyard, to littered highway and a construction site, and although some levels work less well than others for differentiation in play techniques, others strive, where “Devil Machine” particularly excels and stands above the likes of “Industrial Zone”. A conglomeration of deadly projectiles, murderous robots and complex level design, Devil Machine will be sure to test your skills to the limits and highlights the challenge that the game stores in abundance- double jumps, ducks, and stick waggling a guarantee if you’re not to use up the 3 lives that are given at the start of each level (although not carried over upon completion).
Apart from the jumps and ducks that inform Silence’s movements throughout the surprisingly colourful levels, Veks and Silence delivers generous portions of other tropes from run-and-gun shooters with it; picking up extra lives, combo kills (that lay out exclamative after exclamative depending on level of the combo, from “Awesome” to “Genocider!”) and a score system that racks up from laying waste to the citizens of undead and robots that ensure diverse enemy types are on show, the slow moving horde of zombies in contrast to static turrets and flying sharks with wings, while the screen is often awash with coloured projectiles in every which direction, intricately detailed 3D models and splashes of deep red blood.
Armed with four weapon types (each assigned to a corresponding button on the D-Pad), one of the few problems that arises from the game comes with the seeming lack of variation from each of the pistol, sniper, mini-gun and shotgun. Indeed, the shotgun is more appropriate for close quarters, but it’s not that the pistol is under-powered in these situations at all, in fact the rate of fire goes some way to rivalling the might of the “shotty”, as the game refers. Throughout my whole time with the game, I found myself much less inclined to vary weapon type and would instead often revert back to the trusty pistol, if not only to get a better jump (other guns deter Silence from long jumps). If Edible had managed to infuse gameplay with nervous switching to and fro through weapons then VaS might have been even more brilliant, although the addition of earning ‘Rage’ through extended bouts of ass-whupping that, when enabled, turn the screen a violent red as Silence incurs invincibility is a nice touch.
For a drop in the ocean sum of 400 Microsoft Points, you really can’t go wrong with the title. Sure to guarantee lengthy sessions of play and an ideal candidate for replayability, whether you choose to complete ‘Survival Mode’ for a new high score, or look to increase cash on a standard run-through, Veks and Silence is a challenging and meticulous revival of old-school 2D shooters with enough personality to shine through any cracks that may be present.
MLG Rating: 8/10
Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 08/08/2009
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Veks and Silence for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on an Xbox 360 Core. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.