The Gunstringer is an ambitious western style shooter made for the Xbox Kinect. Brought to you by the guys at Twisted Pixel studios, the Gunstringer is their first full retail game and it is now available from the Xbox Games on Demand service. With a blend of playing styles the game is part platformer which at one point see’s you jumping over flaming barrels similar to the gameplay of the old Donkey Kong classics and part first-person-shooter. So the Gunstringer has something for everyone and will make a great addition to people looking to reinforce their collection of titles to play on the Kinect.
The story of the game follows a rootin’ tootin’ undead cowboy puppet that you control with your physical movements; I’d sum the storyline up in my own words but Twisted Pixel have nailed it themselves already. “Buried and left for dead by his former posse, a skeleton cowboy marionette begins his journey of revenge, aided only by his gritty resolve and trusty pistol. He will track his betrayers down, one by one, and bring justice upon them. They will pay a mean price on their own turf, from the plains of the high desert, to the swamps of the bayou, to the East Asian mountains, down to the depths of the undead underworld. Nothing can stand in his way; nothing will stop him on the vengeance trail.” (http://thegunstringer.com/)
As you can guess from that summary, you’re on a mission to slaughter all those who betrayed you and left you for dead. However the cartoonish design makes your killing spree’s fun and almost comical at times, bringing to life those childhood dreams of actuality being a cowboy. In fact the characters of the game go to show just how much of a comedic glow this game has with the first boss you encounter being a Wavy Tube Man, who just happens to also be the one who set up the plan to kill our hero. Along with the Wavy Tube Man you also encounter the GatorJack, a half man/half gator that has previous history with the Gunstringer; the Beard Master who is a ninja expert in the art of beards, and the Lady of the Dead who is Queen of the Underworld. The layout of the levels is also amusing occasionally seeing a massive human hand coming out of the sky altering the area; and walking down streets and canyons filled with cardboard cut-outs of the stereotypical images you’d picture in the Wild West such as cacti, saloons and banks.
But the controls themselves are what really make this game stand out, in truth if it wasn’t for the Kinect’s fun motion sensor control it would probably be overlooked by the majority of gamers. Luckily although the constant stream of tips on the loading screens would suggest controls to be difficult to master but they actually aren’t too complicated to learn, especially since moving forward through the game your puppet automatically does itself. Hurtling through each level you will occasionally taking cover behind rocks or crates to shoot dynamite out the air or take down your enemies in a shoot-out.
As for your movements, you use your right hand as the aim for your trusty gun, pointing at the screen to aim, and swinging your arm in an upward motion toward your shoulder to fire. Don’t worry though you don’t have to have pinpoint accuracy because when aiming at onscreen targets your crosshairs lock-on before you shoot making sure you hit the target every time; hopefully with time, the control for similar shoot-‘em-up games won’t be so simplistic and can move on from relying on lock-on targeting. Your left hand is used for controlling the puppets movements; raising your arm to jump, and waving it from side to side to move left and right around obstacles in your path and pop out from behind cover. At times throughout the game you will be given opportunities to go gun crazy and you’ll have to use both hands as weapons; it’s pretty simple though as the guns automatically fire themselves and you just have to use both hands to aim at the oncoming targets. In addition at times you will have to punch your way out of trouble, whether it is to clear barrels out the way or taking down a bunch of snakes.
The use of the Kinect in this game definitely makes it one of the more innovative games that I have played on the Kinect, yet it isn’t the only fun feature the game beholds. The perceptive and funny narrator brings a whimsical element to the game with his story-telling qualities and his expressionless style. Between the narrator and the game there are also brilliant live-action clips showing footage of real-life actors in a theatre as though they are watching the story of the Gunstringer as a play. This again adds another hilarious take on the game with the crowds exaggerated displays of emotion, especially when one member of the crowd during a shocking moment in the game does a triple take. You can also hear the crowd during the game, booing when you take a hit and cheering when you’re unleashing havoc.
Another added bonus is competing for high scores with your mates, the more damage you cause the more money you earn and you can mark yourself on the leaderboards. With this money you can spend it on tons of unlockable content within the game; you can unlock special modes such as Hardcore which makes playing through a lot harder and in game commentary, as well as behind the scene footage and access to lots of free songs. Not just that but you also get a FREE DLC in the Wavy Tube Man Chronicles that follows the story of Wavy Tube Man Jr who travels back in time to prevent his father’s death. It’s an entertaining add-on but only lasts about 30 minutes or there about, and it is just you shooting through a live action shooting range. It keeps intact with the feel of the game being funny and outlandish and definitely adds to the value when you’re only paying £19.99 for the game. Not just that but there is more, you also get a FREE yes another freebie in the form of Fruit Ninja Kinect; a fun little game that uses the Kinect very well, and that many will be familiar with from mobile phones where you slice up fruit with your movements.
There are however a few bugs with the game, though nothing major. Firstly the controls don’t always register as they should, so sometimes when you try to fire, the crosshair decides instead to just move up the screen rather than firing. Also occasionally I had problems jumping in certain points as the Kinect didn’t register my movements, and when popping back behind cover for example from the right, the Kinect would instead sense that I tried to pop out the left hand side and I’d end up getting shot when I was trying to take cover. The second negative aspect is that a few of the gameplay sequences seem to fall a bit flat because the enemies aren’t really placed with any real dynamism.
Overall I have to say I am in love with this game and if I could, I would marry it. I’ve been waiting for a game like this for ages that really makes use of the Kinects features and feels so authentic, at times I thought I really was holding a puppet. There are so many other positives about this game too; the narrator really makes the story fun and easy to follow, the live-action clips are funny, the tons of unlockable content make it rewarding to play, and the free DLC and Fruit Ninja Kinect really mean you’re getting value for money. If there was one game I’d recommend you get for the Kinect this would be it.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.