STAFF REVIEW of Gunstringer, The (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011.
by Adam Dileva

Gunstringer, The Box art When I think of a gaming studio that knows how to do humor in games in an entertaining fashion, Twisted Pixel actually comes to the top of my list because of their previous hits like Splosion Man, Comic Jumper and The Maw (all of which were fantastic). Im not really sure who else would be able to come up with a game idea about a blue skeleton marionette puppet, partial live action setting western based shooter and complete with Kinect controls. Twisted Pixel is a creative bunch of people that truly knows how to convey humor in a creative and original fashion and they know release their very first disc based game after being a success on Xbox Live Arcade for a number of years.

For those early Kinect adopters wanting something to play other than Dance Central or Kinect Sports, your new Kinect enabled title is finally here thats worthy of being in your game collection. Before I delve into the story and backdrop for the game I need to point out what happens the moment you start playing. Youll instantly see a live action video start playing that shows people gathering into a theater for a play of some sorts thats about to start. As you go behind the curtain you see people scattering, trying to get everything ready as the show is about to begin. The Gunstringer puppet is buried in dirt and as the lights go down and the curtain opens, the game finally begins.

As the game begins, you realize youre in control of this puppet and youre the one putting on the show for the whole audience (of Twisted Pixel employees no doubt). Youll be guiding the hero over the course of five decently length chapters in a story about revenge. Before I delve into the controls as well, youll feel right at home if youve played Child of Eden for Kinect as its very similar in idea. Twisted Pixel brings us an on rails (or should I say on strings?) shooter that emits charisma, charm and hilarity. I would expect nothing less from this fantastic studio.

The story isnt anything mind blowing as its simply a tale of revenge set in the Old West. The Gunstringer was buried and left for dead by his old posse. As he arises from his grave hes no longer human but a blue skeleton instead. Luckily he was buried with his hat and pistols as thats all he needs to begin his journey of revenge. As he tracks down his former fellow compadres and eliminates them, hell get closer and closer to extracting his vengeance. Youll travel from the dusty old western towns to the mountains, the swaps and even a world full of undead. He wont let anyone or anything stand in his way, even if that means cows that block his path.

While The Gunstringer may not be as elegant as the other Kinect on-rails shooter Child of Eden, it definitely has more presentation value. Because you know the whole game you play is being watched by an audience it brings almost another dimension to your gameplay. Youll have a narrator constantly describing your exploits as you play ala Bastion and youll hear cheering and booing from the audience to always make it feel like its a true theatrical experience.

Being that The Gunstringer is a Kinect only game, lets talk about the all-important motion controls. Could this game have been done on a controller instead? Sure. Would it have been as entertaining and fitting? Probably not. Being that Gunstringer is a marionette puppet, it makes complete sense to have hand based gesture controls as youll be controlling him as if you are the arm above the strings.

You are the puppet master. With your left hand you control basic movement. Moving your hand left or right will make him strafe and pulling up on the invisible strings will make him jump. Your right hand for the majority of the game will be your single pistol (these controls can be inverted for you odd lefties out there!) and is your cursor based on where your hand moves. You remember buying those cap refills for you cap-gun as a kid that had six or so shots on one of the plastic rings? Yea, thats your cursor! Completely fitting if you ask me. Just like in Child of Eden, as you hover your right hand over an enemy it will lock onto them and youre able to lock onto a total of six enemies at once for maximum carnage. How do you shoot you ask? Well once you have a single to six lock-ons, all you need to do is flick back your wrist as if you just pretended you shot a gun when you were a kid (bring your wrist to your shoulder). No you dont have to hold your right hand like its a gun, but I guarantee you will catch yourself doing it at some point without even thinking. You may even be shouting bang bang or pew pew if youre so inclined.

At first its a little confusing to control the movement and shooting at once and I guarantee youll hit a few obstacles from not jumping as youre more focused on aiming and shooting, but you eventually become accustomed any by act two youll be a great Gunstringer in no time. The movements will take some getting used to as youll most likely be over compensating to avoid obsticles, but again, youll get used to the nuances fairly quickly.

At time youll be forced to take over and you need to peek out to take your locked-on shots. You do this by moving your left hand to the left or right then doing the shooting motion with your right like normal. Again, at first this becomes a little confusing as to learn how much you need to move your hand to pop out of cover, but youll learn it quickly as well.

At times the Gunstringer will go on a shooting rampage and bring out his second pistol for more carnage. Each hand controls a gun and you simply move both hands where you want to shoot as he will be shooting constantly automatically. There are even a few sections where youll pick up a special weapon like a flame thrower, shotgun or sword that does extra damage just to change the pace a little bit. Youll even get used to fighting with your fists as some enemies youll have to punch your way through (these are usually in the side scrolling platforming sections). Theres a variety of ways that the Gunstringer extracts his revenge!

Each chapter concludes with you finally catching up to one of your former posse members and you are there to get your revenge on them for turning on you. Each boss section is the same style as each other but completely different than the rest of the game. Its played in a view as if youre in a seat in the theater watching this happen at a puppet show. Youll need to avoid specific attacks and once the opportunity arises, youre able to use your gun and shoot away. Youll see silhouettes of audience members cheering you on though none of the bosses should pose too much of a threat for your skills.

Surprisingly, youre supposed to also be able to play the game completely sitting on your couch should you desire to or become lazy. While it is supposed to be an option, it didnt work with even close to the same amount of precision and it quite often lost track of a hand or would register movements properly. Maybe Im leaning too far and its thinking my legs are part of my arms? I dont know, but its a shame it didnt really work all that well.

For the player that loves unlocking screenshots, movies, behind the scenes stuff, music and more, there is a ton of replayability here for you. Youll need to play multiple times to get enough money to unlock the entire bonus content. Speaking on bonus content, on day one there was even a free DLC add-on that was completely twisted and fitting of this game. Download the 2Gb DLC and youll be privy to playing a forty minute full length FMV that clearly took inspiration from Mad Dog McCree. Its called The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles and has some of the worst (purposely) acting you might ever seeever. Its entertaining and if you liked the humor from the game itself, youll enjoy this dumb-yet-entertaining addition. Hey, at least the price is right.

I really dont have much bad to say about The Gunstringer aside from its short length. I finished it in one sittingerstanding in about four hours start to finish. While it is short, it is very good and does have replayability, especially if you want to purchase unlockables. If thats not enough to convince you, new copies even come with a free download of Fruit Ninja Kinect as well.

I really enjoyed my (short) time with The Gunstringer and couldnt stop laughing once I saw the Duck Hunt mockery. I laughed even harder once I saw what a Gatorjack was and how it came to be. Want to know what Im talking about? Go pick up the game if you have a Kinect. Is it worth buying one for if you dont? I dont believe so, but thats what youd also pick up Dance Central and Kinect Sports (and Child of Eden) for. Its a short ride but its an entertaining one that a Kinect owner should experience.

Overall: 8.4 / 10
Gameplay: 9.3 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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