The Gunslinger - Xbox 360

Yes one could make the argument that The Gunstringer was released over a month ago now and this review may not serve much purpose. One could also make the argument that you need to shut your goddamn mouth. The point is, I’m still going to type up this review of The Gunstringer.

This game, along with the also recently released Kinect title Rise of Nightmares, was being heralded as the long-awaited debut of games for the hardcore on Kinect. While I can’t say this is the hardcore title that people have been waiting for, I can safely say that The Gunstringer is definitely one of the top reasons to own a Kinect so far.

I’m a pretty intense fan of Twisted Pixel. They are one of a handful of developers who I support whole-heartedly and will play any game they have their name attached to. So far Twisted Pixel has not yet let me down. I even highly enjoyed Comic Jumper, which many people seem to consider their one mis-fire. The streak remains alive because hey, surprise surprise, I highly enjoyed Gunstringer as well.

In The Gunstringer you play the titular Gunstringer who is a dead cowboy marionette on a quest for vengeance against a large-breasted robot woman, a half-man / half-alligator monstrosity, a wavy arm inflatable tube man, and more. It’s the kind of premise where you hear about it, nod your head and decide that goddamn it yes; I have to play that game.

There’s a great story floating around about how the basic premise of this game was created on the spot when the team was just looking around a restaurant and including items they saw into the plot, Usual Suspects style. If this is the result of them pulling a Kinect game concept out of their ass, I can’t even imagine the quality of a product they spent time and effort developing.

The idea of controlling a gun-wielding marionette translates pretty effortlessly to the Kinect platform. Your left hand works as though you were operating the puppet itself, holding out your hand as though there was a string tied to each finger. This is used to move the puppet around the screen, as well as to jump by flicking your arm up in the air. The right hand controls your gun, as you move your crosshair around the screen to paint up to 6 targets, then flick your hand up to fire at these targets. It’s simple but both movement and shooting work well and feel quite natural after just a few seconds of play. I’ve talked to a couple of people who had issues with the actual firing mechanic but I have not once had an issue. I recommend actually making a gun with your hand, no lie that shit really works well. Really this is about the highest compliment I can pay this, or any Kinect game really – it really works.

Although painting and shooting targets comprises the majority of the game play, certain stages do switch things up a little. Some put more of an emphasis on the platforming elements, which I admit are not my favourite as the jumping mechanics are the least interesting part of the whole experience. Fairing better are the sections where you whip out a second gun and for a while you control a reticule with each of your hands. Here the game takes on an old-school feel as the enemies have Galaga-esque patterns that you need to figure out so that you know exactly where to place your reticule. It was a tad disorienting at first to all of a sudden have control over a second weapon, but once I got the hang of it these actually became some of my favourite sequences. There’s also some hand to hand combat scattered here, which involves punching the air wildly. Really though it’s the shooting mechanics where the fun primarily lies, and there is thankfully a whole bunch of that.

Of course this being a Twisted Pixel game, the presentation is a huge highlight. With the Gunstringer himself being a puppet, the entire game is actually a puppet show, complete with a live action audience. This audience takes full part in the proceedings, laughing, cheering and reacting to everything happening in front of them. On top of that, you have the crew of the show setting up obstacles as you see human hands reach into the set to roll boulders towards you or knock obstacles your way. It’s clear everyone is having a blast and it translates over to the player as well.

The Gunstringer is not a particularly long game, clocking in at around 4 or 5 hours. It’s also not a very difficult game as health and checkpoints are provided in generous amounts. With even a little commitment, you could get through this game over the course of a couple play sessions, unless you’re me and your arms feel like they are going to fall off after just a couple of stages. Thankfully there is some replay value here as there are tons and tons of unlockables to get from the store, as well as different medals to earn in each stage. From what I’ve seen of the unlockables, there are worth the effort to obtain.

I should also touch on the other things that are included in The Gunstringer package. Of course once upon a time this was meant to be an XBLA title and the announcement that it would instead be a full retail product was naturally meant with doubt. Although I do think the game itself would have been worth the asking price, we get some other content that only helps to sweeten the deal.

First up is a code for a free copy of Fruit Ninja Kinect, normally 800 Microsoft Points. I’ll admit I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with this one but it seems fun in short bursts. Good to have if you have a few free minutes and need to destroy some fruit. The concept works well with Kinect and although I don’t think I could get behind it for 800 points, as a free add-on to this package it’s a fun little diversion.

More impressive is the free DLC that is included. I don’t want to say too much about it if you don’t already know what it is, but as someone who has recently been spending a good chunk of time playing old Sega CD and 3DO games, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised about what I got here. It’s short and can be finished in about 40 minutes, which is the perfect length. Trust me you wouldn’t want this going on for much longer after that.

Overall The Gunstringer is a great package that provides incentive to keep that Kinect hooked up. You get a fun central game and a couple of nice additions in the form of Fruit Ninja and DLC. Twisted Pixel’s track record remains in tact!