The Gunstringer Review
It’s the classic story of a marionette cowboy shot in the back and left for dead, rising from his grave to seek revenge, backed by the power demonic tacos and justice. Ok, so maybe it’s not the ‘classic’ storyline, but this game is sure to become a ‘classic’ Kinect title. Twisted Pixel, best known for the ‘Splosion Man titles, set out to make a game that not only played well with the Kinect’s abilities, but was also fun and unique.
The controls themselves work extremely well. I’ve found myself frustrated with other Kinect title’s control schemes. Feeling like a fool flailing my arms about and failing; I’d rather just use a controller. This is where The Gunstringer stands out from the Kinect crowd. Holding your left hand out in a loose horizontal position as if you are dangling a marionette puppet, you control our undead cowboy hero by moving your hand left and right and flicking upward to jump over the occasional obstacle. You then use your right hand to aim across the screen and hover over bad guys until all your bullets have a target, similar to ‘Rez’ or the more recent ‘Child of Eden’, you then flick your wrist back to shoot. Of course you should have your fingers positioned like a gun, because hey, it’s just more fun that way.
Unlike with most Kinect releases I felt the sensor was recognizing my movements nearly every time, having a few hiccups only when I moved my arms too close together or when my ceiling fan, the arch nemesis of motion control technology, was turned on. The game also allows the ability to play while sitting down, which for lazy people like myself, is a godsend. I mean… in case you have a leg injury and have to sit down while playing your Kinect, because, as we all know, the Kinect is the best way to have fun and stay active! Sadly however, I found the ‘sitting’ mode to not be anywhere near as accurate as when playing while standing, so couch potatoes can’t rejoice just yet.
The presentation of the game is something not seen before and really adds to the overall style and uniqueness of the game. Presented as if you are acting out a puppet show, and with props made from paper towel rolls, beer cans and house paint, you will at times see a real life audience that react to different events in the game, going so far as to cheer or boo depending on your performance. Each act ends with a boss battle that takes place as a puppet show, with spotlight, audience shadows, roses and all. The game itself is shown in such a fresh and stylish way that it creates a very enjoyable gaming experience.
The game spans five acts, following our Gunstringer hero across deserts, canyons, castles, and even to a Día de los Muertos-styled Hell. Each chapter links with a former gang member who planned the betrayal and demise of our dear marionette skeleton. With every chapter themed to each character’s style, it has a bit of Kill Bill flavor and a tad of kung-fu revenge story. The characters themselves are different and interesting, varying from a martial arts master that uses his beard as a weapon, to a large inflatable ‘Wavy Tube Man’ nemesis you may recognise from a sleazy used car lot. All narrated by the grizzly voice of the west, the game holds true to the Twisted Pixel humor and style.
Mostly sticking to a rail-shooter style made famous in arcades, the majority of the game plays like a treadmill, with the main character running down a path while you aim at baddies and dodge projectiles, pausing from time to time for cover sections that allow you a bit more control over the character. At times the game changes to stand still, allowing you dual-wield two pistols that continuously shoot an unlimited supply of ammo. At some points you will be given a new weapon; anything from a flamethrower to a large samurai sword. In these sections you stroll through wiping out enemies in a style reminiscent of the NES Zapper light gun classic, ‘Hogan’s Alley’. There are also some vehicle sections, but these are few and far between, and with the exact same controls as the rail sections, just with a vehicle, these feel clunky and are a bit disappointing.
After you’ve gotten your revenge and your arms are now noodles, (assuming you completed the game in one sitting), the adventure only lasts around four hours. While the length may seem a tad on the short side, there are loads and loads of unlockables to be discovered. Everything from behind the scenes videos, snapshots, and interviews, to music, themes, gamer pics, cheats, and more; the game gives you a variety of reasons to replay chapters.
Not to mention the free, ultra-campy, full motion video (FMV) downloadable content, released on day-one entitled ‘The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles’. A tribute to games like Mad Dog McCree, The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles features a storyline following “Doc” Lloyd Kaufman, of ‘Troma’ b-movie fame, having created a time machine which the son of Wavy Tube Man, the first villain featured in The Gunstringer, has stolen. Your job is to travel back to the Wild West and get the time machine back before Wavy Tube Man Jr. destroys the space-time continuum. And no, I am not making this up.
The DLC is played completely in full motion video, you aim and fire just the way you did in the original game. Featuring cheesy acting and horrible special effects, the ‘The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles’ DLC is something I haven’t seen or played since I was a six year old sinking monkey in the local arcade. This DLC is such a strange and different gaming experience it’s really hard to put into words. Living out an hour-long FMV is just something everyone should experience. With the goal being ‘so bad, it’s good’ the ‘Wavy Tube Man Chronicles’ delivers. And being free for anyone who owns the game, it’s something you can’t pass up on.
So if you own a Kinect, and you aren’t playing Zumba seven days a week, The Gunstringer is a game you shouldn’t pass up. With its lowered retail price and accurate controls, the game delivers on the Kinect’s promise of an innovative and fun game experience. With the only flaws being the length and ‘sitting’ mode, The Gunstringer is a game all Kinect owners should try.