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). I?m 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 that?s 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. You?ll instantly see a live action video start playing that shows people gathering into a theater for a play of some sorts that?s 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 you?re in control of this puppet and you?re the one putting on the show for the whole audience (of Twisted Pixel employees no doubt). You?ll 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, you?ll feel right at home if you?ve played Child of Eden for Kinect as it?s 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 isn?t anything mind blowing as it?s 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 he?s no longer human but a blue skeleton instead. Luckily he was buried with his hat and pistols as that?s all he needs to begin his journey of revenge. As he tracks down his former fellow compadres and eliminates them, he?ll get closer and closer to extracting his vengeance. You?ll travel from the dusty old western towns to the mountains, the swaps and even a world full of undead. He won?t 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. You?ll have a narrator constantly describing your exploits as you play ala Bastion and you?ll hear cheering and booing from the ?audience? to always make it feel like it?s a true theatrical experience.

Being that The Gunstringer is a Kinect only game, let?s 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 you?ll 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, that?s 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 you?re 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 don?t have to hold your right hand like it?s 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 you?re so inclined.

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

At time you?ll 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 you?ll 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 you?ll pick up a special weapon like a flame thrower, shotgun or sword that does extra damage just to change the pace a little bit. You?ll even get used to fighting with your fists as some enemies you?ll have to punch your way through (these are usually in the side scrolling platforming sections). There?s 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. It?s played in a view as if you?re in a seat in the theater watching this happen at a puppet show. You?ll need to avoid specific attacks and once the opportunity arises, you?re able to use your gun and shoot away. You?ll see silhouettes of audience members cheering you on though none of the bosses should pose too much of a threat for your skills.

Surprisingly, you?re 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 didn?t 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 I?m leaning too far and it?s thinking my legs are part of my arms? I don?t know, but it?s a shame it didn?t 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. You?ll 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 you?ll be privy to playing a forty minute full length FMV that clearly took inspiration from Mad Dog McCree. It?s called The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles and has some of the worst (purposely) acting you might ever see?ever. It?s entertaining and if you liked the humor from the game itself, you?ll enjoy this dumb-yet-entertaining addition. Hey, at least the price is right.

I really don?t have much bad to say about The Gunstringer aside from its short length. I finished it in one sitting?er?standing 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 that?s 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 couldn?t 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 I?m talking about? Go pick up the game if you have a Kinect. Is it worth buying one for if you don?t? I don?t believe so, but that?s what you?d also pick up Dance Central and Kinect Sports (and Child of Eden) for. It?s a short ride but it?s 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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