Zengence: Take Aim with Every Breath

Developer / Publisher – Deepwell DTX
Price – US $19.99 / CAN 25.51 / EU €19.99 / UK £19.99
Release Date  May 2nd, 2024
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area –  Seated, Standing
Store Links – Meta
Reviewed on – Quest 3

Pistol Whip was a huge deal when it dropped and is still hailed as one of the must-play VR games regardless of the headset and it’s a little surprising to me that we haven’t seen many clones of that lauded title.  Zengence, at its core, really does feel like Pistol Whip but changes up enough mechanics to not make it feel like a cheap knock-off.  It is still on the rails though in here you are travelling through more abstract and surreal environments.  There’s not much story to worry about, in fact nearly none at all, with your goal being to vanquish the Wraiths threatening your world.

Use your orb by humming to reveal all the Wraiths hiding in the stage.

The 1st 10 stages in Arcade mode only allow you 1 weapon with each stage utilizing 1 weapon type which can range from a single shot blaster, grenade launcher, shotgun, bounce shot and so on though these aren’t actual guns but rather different floating shapes surrounding your forearms.  The problem here is that some weapons are much harder to use than others, specifically the grenade launcher, and whenever those stages popped up, I struggled to hit my targets to a point of frustration. Stages 10 and on let you dual wield with either the same weapons on each hand or some mix and match levels though once again, you can’t pick these, they are preset and every few levels will irritate with those more challenging loadouts.

Initially the game is fairly chill and behaves very much like a relaxed version of Pistol Whip save for the main mechanic of audibly breathing.  The Wraiths in every stage are hidden from sight though you have an orb floating in front of you that can reveal them.  This orb is activated by humming (or making any continuous loud noise) which sends it off to seek out these shadowy beings and very much reminded me of Yondu’s arrow from The Guardians of the Galaxy Films (For the record, I did try to whistle, and it did work, but whistling for long periods proved to be more challenging than it was worth).  Once revealed, you’ll see where these figures will spawn thanks to some black, smoke-like shapes that shimmer in the environment.  This mechanic is designed around breathwork as your orb will only fly out for so long before flying back to you and needing a quick recharge and in that time humming is useless so it’s here where you’ll need to take a breath and it’s that mechanic alone that establishes a sort of rhythm.

Each stage has preset weapon loadouts and not all are created equal.

When enemies spawn they could be stationary or run to a set position before attacking and come in enough forms to keep me on my toes with the various attacks having to be dodged or shot down before they hurt you.  To get the highest score and/or unlock the next stage you need to not only reveal all the foes in a stage but destroy them while not taking a single hit.  I came close to perfection on a few 1st run goes but never got the gold on my 1st try as the later moments in a stage become quite hectic forcing me to not only dodge and shoot constantly, but remember to hum to ensure I didn’t miss seeing my targets.

Unfortunately, the 30 stages in the game are just remixes of the same 10 levels, just with new enemy placements and weapons which, despite the increase in challenge, does make for a more repetitious experience than other games of this ilk.  This is also somewhat hampered by that humming/breathing mechanic as I found I enjoyed it just as much as it annoyed me.  I know the point is to find a sort of flow state where dodging, shooting and humming are used seamlessly but on more than a few occasions I forgot to hum for a few seconds or was so busy dodging and shooting at the enemies surrounding me that it was just easier to hum as long as I could and not worry about whether the orb was ready or not.  I appreciate what the devs were trying to go for as it is a unique layer to the game, but it can get in the way of the experience at times and had me questioning if there wasn’t a better way to utilize this mechanic.

The art style pops in the headset.

Beyond the 30 campaign stages is a Zen Garden mode where you can just breathe and hum and includes some additional imagery like leaves flowing to your breaths and a large circle in the distance that grows and shrinks to help keep you breathing at a steady pace.  For those that care I suppose this is an alright way to chill out and the more you do this, the more pearls you earn which allow you to take a free hit in arcade mode, though those can only be used once per run so there an extra reason to do this daily beyond just meditation.  There is also a daily challenge map which remixes a stage with new enemy placement and weapon loadouts with an attached online leaderboard just like the arcade levels for a little extra motivation should you want to prove yourself better than everyone else playing though once again, this is basically more of the same thing.

I mentioned that on a few occasions I forgot to hum and that’s because of 2 main reasons, the 1st of which is the abstract art style that does look impressive in the headset and once again borrows from games like Pistol Whip in that everything in here is simple geometric shapes stitched together to create everything around you.  The levels have you slowly travelling in a straight line so they are mostly narrow with cliffsides or buildings masking the endless void in the distance but it’s that design and the art style chosen that lets you see as far as your eyes will let you.  Some stages feel quite grounded in their design while others have you floating above and through larger abstract creations and had me wishing for zen mode where I could just float through each stage and not worry about any gameplay, though I guess you could just not hum and enemies would never pop up so I guess never mind on that one.  It’s a shame then that there are only 10 levels in here as I found each to look great but after seeing them a few times, they did lose their lasting appeal.  Overall, I really enjoyed the visual presentation, I just wish there was more of it to take in and keep me coming back to the game so hopefully this sees some additional content in the future.

The soundtrack is fantastic…in my opinion.

The second reason why I forgot to hum is I really love the licensed soundtrack as it not only contains one of my current favourite artists Clozee, but other similar ambient and worldly electronic artists that compliment the gameplay amazingly well.  The thing is, I’m humming over all of these tunes and whether I had headphones on used the built-in speakers, I was drowning out the kick-ass soundtrack.  This is the main reason why I think an option to not hum should possibly be included, even it that nullifies the online rankings, as the music really is a large part of the total experience here.  Sadly, with only 10 levels is a 10-track soundtrack and despite my love for it, there isn’t enough here to keep from having everything start to feel samey well before I finished all 30 stages.  I did enjoy the spatial audio as it’s immersive when you can not only see but hear projectiles cruise past my head though once again, as I was humming half the time, I was drowning out most of these effects as well.

Later levels get very intense.

I enjoyed Zengence and waffled back and forth on how I felt on the all the mechanics as sometimes it was genuine fun to be shooting, dodging and humming while watching my orb fly ahead of me zipping around the stage to reveal Wraiths.  On the flip side was a game that got in the way of itself thanks to that humming mechanic and the very limited selection of both stages and songs.  I know Zengence is a relatively cheap title and having top quality licensed acts does elevate it somewhat but unless the mediation aspects appeal to and you don’t mind playing through the same few stages multiple times, I still find it to be a bit of a tough sell at the current price.  Humming aside, if more tracks and stages are added, this could be a little VR gem but at release I feel like it needs more variety in its content and some way to play without having to Crash Test Dummy my way through the entire game…give yourself 10 internet points if you get that reference.

Deepwell DTX provided The VR Grid with press access for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!



  • Aweomed Ambient EDM license soundtrack
  • Slick looking art style
  • Additional meditation and daily change modes
  • Gets fairly intense during later stages


  • There is a 30 stage campaign, but only 10 unique levels to play through
  • Some weapons are not that fun to wield
  • It gets failry repetious
  • Humming gets in the way the fun more ofen than not


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