With the initial introduction of the Kinect hardware, there was some speculation on how well it would perform over time. Now that developers have had a chance to learn how the software works with the camera the games are starting to become more well defined like the case of The Gunstringer by Twisted Pixel.
Players take on the role as a skeleton cowboy marionette named The Gunstringer who finds himself on the receiving end of a betrayal by his former posse, but he will be taking the West again by exacting his revenge on one person at a time on his journey through the vengeance trail. Players will have the ability to play the game either standing or sitting down and controlling the cowboy marionette with their left hand and firing a six shooter with their right hand. The game starts out with The Gunstringer being dug up from his grave as the game starts out as a western movie style theme.
The prologue will have the player learn about the history of The Gunstringer with a mix of in game graphics and real world videos that have been complemented to fit inside the game. Gameplay is every much like an actual play, so the player will go through four different scenes and then the boss battle will be considered the final scene in the act. At the end of each act the game will score the performance of The Gunstringer with tin, silver, and gold sheriff star based on the money earned in the level. The money earned from the game can be used in the bonus store for unlocking different modes, concept art, and some achievements. To start each scene the player is required to lift their left hand and take control of the marionette. As the player progresses through the level the commentary will be provided by a raspy deep voice will give information on how to play the game, comment on the actions of The Gunstringer, and also give some comic relief. His posse was made up of the usual suspects such as oil barons, samurai warriors, voodoo priestesses, the purveyors of the night, and of course wavy tube man.
The game features a great sense of humor about itself or doesn’t take it too seriously when adding things into the world. When playing through the game you will find a bunch of different animals such as beer can cattle, buzzards, bats, alligators and giant tarantula spiders. One of the great things about the game as the shooting mechanic. As players use their right hand to hover over objects, obstacles, or enemies they will light up with a red outline and then the player has to flip up their right hand and that will trigger the shooting sequence. The player can rack up six different targets at one time for full effectiveness. Not only will The Gunstringer have access to his six shooter, but he will also have access to using his fisticuffs, a shotgun, a flamethrower, and the ability to dual wield.
When players encounter the opportunity to dual wield weapons two reticles will appear on the screen and the left hand will control the blue reticle and the right hand will control the red reticle. These dual wielding sequences will appear at certain times throughout the game when there are multiple enemies on the screen. It’s really entertaining to watch as a flock of ducks attack the screen, with a nod to classic games such as Duck Hunt. It seems that the folks over at Twisted Pixel have a great sense of nostalgia when it comes to incorporating some ideas into their games and it is welcomed.
There is also section of the game where The Gunstringer will have to take cover behind objects and use the peek and lean to shoot from cover, so with your left hand lean out in either direction and then shoot the targets, but be careful for some enemies who will throw explosives. While the game is rated T for teen, there is some borderline jokes and nudges to the content that the older audience will get a good laugh at with the very choice dialogue that Twisted Pixel chose to include in the game with the commentary.
Controlling the marionette I found to be easy in the earlier levels, but then as more actions were required in the later levels such as aiming at targets, shooting, and jumping all at the same time to avoid obstacles it was a little more complicated and not as responsive as I would have liked. So when moving the marionette through the game with the left hand or with your right hand as they do have a switched left handed mode for those players who are left handed the game had some minor issues with accurately tracking your hand to perform jumps or moving left and right to avoid objects as I repeatedly tried to jump over a gap and fall into it, so it can be a bit touchy at times.
One of the hardest sections of the game came from running down hills and trying to avoid traps that were controlling the direction that The Gunstringer was allowed to go with falling trees, debris, or rocks falling down the hill. The movement was just too sensitive at times making it seem that I wasn’t in full control and losing lots of health points overall.
Overall The Gunstringer is one of the best Kinect titles that I have played that takes full advantage of the technology and allows players to feel great about playing the game. With some minor issues with the control sensitivity or accuracy, it doesn’t take away too many points in my book. The game does so much more right than it does wrong that it can still be enjoyed and played multiple times to keep racking up money and high scores. Adults, don’t be afraid to pick this game up as the witty commentary, silly antics of the characters, and ability to play the game in a two player mode makes it easy to recommend as I don’t see this is one of the most entertaining games I have played in a while, but still has something that can be enjoyed by everyone who plays it.