Platform: Xbox Indie Games (Xbox 360) Price: 400 MSP / $5 USD If you're a fan of side-scrollers, zombies, robots, and can afford 400 MSP, go download the trial right now and read this review while it completes, you won't regret it. Also, I'll include the pros/cons right away this time rather than at the end: Pros: +Humorous story and great artwork +Survival mode = lots of replay value +Brought back side-scrolling fun +Zombies, robots, flying sharks, poisonous mushroom Mario reference, need I go on? +Good price Cons: -No difficulty selection -Lack of multiplayer (co-op survival would have been awesome) *Gameplay Video* [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfutU--MXw0[/youtube] Gameplay: Most side-scrollers I've played have been challenging and Veks and Silence is no different in this aspect (at least past level 4 but don't be put off by this as it's certainly not insanely hard as I was able to complete it despite me being decent at most retro side-scrollers). The game has two game modes, story and survival. The story mode offers 13 levels and for each level you beat you unlock one in the hard but fun survival mode (it only has 11 levels though). I'll start off by talking about the story mode. You play as Silence (the guy with the paper bag over his head) in both modes who starts out with 3 lives (in the story mode) and a set of 4 different weapons that all have unlimited ammo (pistol, sniper rifle, shotgun, and a chaingun). One of the cool things about these weapons is that you can shoot backwards which is very useful when there's enemies behind you. In addition to those weapons, you also have an unlimited amount of bombs at your disposal which comes in handy for taking out enemies behind a barrier. As for Veks, she's the girlfriend of Silence (at this point, I think you've figured out why the game has that title). Aside from those weapons, you also have the power of rage (which is quite fun to unleash) on your side if you manage to kill 10 enemies continuously. Rage temporarily makes you invulnerable to enemy attacks (you still die if you fall off a platform though). It's displayed as a red circle on the top left hand corner of your screen along with a counter that displays your score and lives. You can have up to 4 rage icons filled up and can use them whenever you want (they carry on to the next level as well assuming you don't lose all your lives). As for a health bar, you don't have one, as soon as you're hit with an enemy attack you'll lose a life assuming you don't have rage enabled or a shield on. If you happen to lose all your lives (which will happen unless you're some sort of Contra champ), you can replay the current level you're in as many times as you'd like but there are no checkpoints so you'll have to start from the beginning of the level again and your score will be reset along with your rage (which can be frustrating at times). Speaking of the shield, the icon for it is a glass of beer (or apple juice if your imagination prefers that). Shields can be found in crates as well as extra lives which will both come in handy in the later levels as the difficulty can become a bit brutal at times if you're not good at dodging waves of turret bullets, sneaky zombies and flying pests. Now I'll talk a bit about some of the enemies you'll encounter, while the game appears to be mainly about slaughtering hordes of zombies, the real enemy will become the turrets that you'll encounter. I'd recommend using the sniper rifle to take them out if you're able to do so without getting gunned down by them, be sure to avoid any zombies while using the sniper as the reload isn't very fast. The flying robots and the larger robots will also become a menace although they weren't as bad as the turrets in my opinion. Another thing that's worth noting is that this game is more than just a side-scroller, it's also a platformer and in a way, a pattern based shoot'em up as knowing where the enemies are going to come from and what lies ahead is highly important past level 8. I had to replay level 9 several times in order to complete it as I kept forgetting to anticipate certain enemies (mainly the turrets). Knowing what weapon to use is also important, especially when it comes to the levels where you need to make some rather stretch jumps from one platform to the next as apparently some jumps can only be achieved while wielding the pistol since you won't jump as high with the shotgun/sniper rifle (forget about the chaingun as you can't jump at all while using it). In terms of the game's length (story mode wise), it really varies depending on your skill. The game is not very long but due to the difficulty, it can take longer than a few hours if you're not an expert at side-scrollers. A more veteran side-scroller will probably complete the 13 levels of Veks and Silence much quicker. As for bosses, there are only two which is a reasonable number considering the game's length. The first boss is fairly easy to defeat once you figure out the strategy behind his demise and the last one is a bit tougher but not impossible (I'll admit that I went to GameFAQs for help). I personally found completing level 9 much harder than the final boss... Now to finalize this segment by briefly talking about the survival mode which is where most of the game's replay value will stem from. While you can play this mode at any time, I'd recommend playing it until after you've at least taken down the first boss as by then you should have gotten a good grasp of the game as if you're not careful a survival mode session could only last a few seconds. I've played all 11 survival levels and each has it's own strategy which you can use to see how far you can get, unlike the story mode, you don't have 3 lives (instead you have 0 remaining) but there are crates within each level that have a life stored inside. In addition, it's possible to acquire rage and due to the mode's difficulty, it's quite necessary if you want to stay alive. Graphics & Audio: For an Xbox Indie game, the graphics are fairly good but the hand-drawn artwork during the cutscenes is what really stood out. The movie poster style level descriptions were also pretty cool. As for the music, the songs were all lyric-less (at least from what I remember) and they typically blended in well with the level so they got their job accomplished along with the game's sound effects. Replay value: Despite the story mode not being very lengthy, the survival mode makes up for it as well as the high score system. Since there's no time limit in the survival mode you can literally battle waves of enemies for hours (although to be realistic, it's more like minutes due to the difficulty and if you suck, it may just be a couple of seconds). As for replaying the story mode, it's much easier the second time as you know what you're up against and while it's not as fun, beating your previous score gives you something to strive for especially if you're usually obsessed with scores. However, as stated before, the survival mode is the real attraction when it comes to replaying this game, even if each session will only last a few minutes, it's quite addicting trying to beat your previous score and assuming you've completed the game, you'll have 11 different levels to test your zombie pwning skills on. Also, while there is no multiplayer, you could take turns with a friend to see who can get the highest score in that particular survival mode level. Overall: As I've mentioned throughout the review, I at least found this game to be a bit challenging and as such, I can imagine that it probably won't appeal to casual gamers or to those who hate the idea of replaying a level several times until they get it right as well as possibly memorizing where and when an enemy will appear unless you're really good at dodging turrets/other enemies. Also, the lack of a difficulty selection option will frustrate those who are not up to the challenge and as such I recommend you give the survival mode a go in the trial as the first story mode level in the trial is very easy and is not a good representation of the difficulty that you'll encounter later on in the game whereas the survival mode is more of a challenge. In conclusion, while the game can be frustrating at times, the fun will outweigh the frustration and after a couple of level reattempts you might find yourself ROL (raging out loud, a term I made up after playing this game) but in the end, completing every level will give you both a sense of satisfaction as well as nostalgia of all the great retro side-scrollers you once played along with a new perspective on people with paper bags over their heads. Due to this, I'm giving Veks and Silence a well deserved 8.5/10. I'm definitely looking forward to a sequel as by the looks of the ending, there will be one...In the meantime, I'll probably be working on a Silence mask for Halloween in between survival mode breaks. This game was obtained from the developer rather than purchased, for review purposes.