Saddle up, partner. Or should we say 'string-up'?
A gritty Jim Henson-like creation hellbent on revenge
A puppet has come back for revenge against a bevy of foes that will lead him into a variety of different worlds. He is The Gunstringer. A mixture of Jack Skellngton and a short Clint Eastwood, our protagonist is hellbent on revenge. Packing a six-shooter, this skeleton is 'dead' set on taking out the people who put him six-feet under.
What a fun story! Twisted Pixel, the makers of Splosion Man and Fruit Ninja, have put together a wildly fun story of a skeleton in the old west seeking revenge. At the beginning of the game you get a brief introduction into the world that The Gunstringer is about to bring to life. You start off with a full-motion video (FMV) tour of a theater, where the development team (no, literally them) is setting up the game to present to their 'real' audience. As soon as they set up, the lights come on and the curtain goes up then the game begins. Putting together a real life crowd to watch Twisted Pixel's opus unfurl is pretty unique. Once the game begins, and The Gunstringer starts on his way, you do come back now and then to the real audience watching the story unfold. Again, it's pretty unique.
Once the introductions are done, the gameplay begins, and it's not too bad. First, know that you will have to adjust your living room area to get the full cooperation of the game. Unlike other Kinect games, which give you a little leeway when it comes to body/limb identification, The Gunstringer is pretty sensitive about standing in a particular range from the Kinect. You're looking at 6-8 feet from the device, and your height is going to really determine that number. Once you spend a few minutes settling in to the range, you will find very precise movement detection, which gets you straight into the game. There might be a little frustration with getting the Kinect right, but the end result is worth the trouble.
The controls of The Gunstringer aren't really that complicated. You use your right-hand of the law to shoot. You use your left-hand to move our anti-hero. There are various other movements, such as jumping, ducking and what not that are controlled pretty darn easily. Those are basically the controls you are going to run into during the gameplay. Again, if you can get the Kinect set up perfectly then you're going to love how easily this game can be controlled, and you'll have a ton of fun with it. If you can't get the Kinect to identify your body then you're going to have issues with the controls. It's vital that you spend enough time getting that Kinect set up.
Anyway, assuming you do that okay, here's what you have to look forward to.
Along the way in the game, you'll come across various weapons and items that make this revenge story satisfying. In the weapons department, you'll find the standard six-shooter, a shotgun, a sword and your own two fists. For a game that is only five hours in gameplay length, there are plenty of weapons to choose from in the overall body of work. Each weapon requires a certain function from the Kinect. The hardest time I had with the weapons is when our hero brandished two six-shooters. Something about it I just couldn't get right, but again that can be attributed to the Kinect perfection that I might not have achieved fully. Anyway, there are plenty of weapons to use to complete The Gunstringer's revenge.
As for other items, you will find several things scattered throughout the game that you can obtain. One such item is the taco. The taco, which a skeleton arm reaches out of the ground with, allows for our hero to go on a kill streak. This provides more points and more fast-paced gameplay. You will find tacos pretty much everywhere in the game.
Now, let's get back to this whole 'five hours of gameplay' business. The game is short, but that's mainly due to the fact that it has a lot of Area 51 and Dragon's Lair attributes to it. In other words, it works like a full-motion video game from yesteryear. If you can accept that you have no forward control of your character, other than ducking in and out of cover, then you're going to love this game. If you aren't a fan of FMV games then you may not take to it as well. Just know that the game continually moves forward as you go from gunfight to gunfight, and there is little to no way of stopping the progression. Again, this is probably why the game is so darn short, but it doesn't make it any less fun.
Outside of weapons, controls and items, the presentation of the game is something special. While it's no RAGE or Crysis 2, the game is colorful and playful. It's colorful in the sense that you get some very friendly, fun character models and environments. Twisted Pixel kept the same motif of 'puppet show' as it establishes at the beginning of the game. You'll get some Toy Story like cowboy movements that are over-the-top, but cute and funny to watch. It's as if you were a child again playing G.I. Joes with your best friend. Added to this is the fact that each level is colorful, and each character is funny looking as hell. The Wavy Tube Man is potentially the best villain in the game, in terms of funny.
Another presentation plus is the narrator. The narrator says some of the funniest sh*t I've heard from a narrator in a game. You get moments where this Sam Elliot wannabe describes the taco's function, the wavy tube man's fighting abilities and gives suggestions about what you should be doing to avoid getting hit in a fight (during the actual fight). Without the narrator this game simply wouldn't work as well, or be nearly as humorous. I've never been a huge fan of narration in games like this, but this guy seriously takes the cake. You will enjoy him, if you can pay attention long enough.
At the end of the day, The Gunstringer is a fun game, but most people will have concerns about the $40 price tag, and rightfully so. Like i've stated before, the game is only five hours in length, but there is more included with the game. The game includes a copy of Fruit Ninja, plus you get a load of unlockables that will extend the viewing time of the game. Take all that stuff and add the replay value of the game, which is high, as you'll want to continually garnish more points and unlock more trophies. Added to that is the fact that you can play two-player, which makes this instantly a 'must keep on my shelf' sort of game.
Of course, all of the fun and replay value still go back to one simple hurdle; getting the Kinect to work perfectly.
If you make it beyond that then the fun is there waiting for you.
If you can get the Kinect, and your body, perfectly placed then The Gunstringer is a hoot of a game. While it is short, there is still plenty to gain from it (unlockables, trophies and a co-op mode) including a very fun and strange story. If you own a Kinect you might want to give this a go.