The Gunstringer

8.0 Overall Score

Written by on October 17, 2011 in

 

When your posse has done you wrong and put you in your grave, there is only one thing to do: Rise again and go after them to avenge your death. This is what our fearless undead hero is going to do in Twisted Pixel’s newest game, The Gunstringer. The nameless cowboy has before him five different members of his former posse whom have caused him pain, and he needs to right this wrong before he can rest in piece.

Given that this comes from Twisted Pixel, it is safe to assume there will be some kind of, er, twist. In this case, the entire game takes place on a theatrical stage, with a full studio audience watching you play the game. Oh, and one other caveat: The Gunstringer and his posse are marionettes and the backdrops are stage set pieces. Like I said, a twist. The Gunstringer is played using only Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor. You can play it either sitting down or standing up. The left (or right hand, as there is a lefty mode that can be selected) controls Gunstringer, as the other hand controls the gun. Quickly, it becomes apparent that the controls for Gunstringer work very well.  Moving him left to right is very smooth and reacts almost instantaneously. The targeting reticule for the gun reacts, for the most part, the same and reloads at the appropriate rate.

As our story opens, you have to shake off the dust from being six feet under for a while. The quick audience shots show the shock on their faces as they realize that you were not completely dead when they put you into your grave. It is now time to take action and avenge your death, or undeath, as the case may be. With the picture of each of the posse members in your hands and the pain of their actions still fresh in your mind, it is time to head out into the desert and find those responsible. The unnamed narrator tells the story with humor and ease, and never stumbles upon his words. As the player, there is the option to head to the game store, with the money that you win in-game, to purchase a different narrator if you would like. This amps up the humor level a bit and also adds to the overall replay factor.

The progression moves along at a pace that keeps you wondering what is around the next corner, literally. The Gunstringer has to hide behind barrels, boxes, or whatever else is nearby to keep him safe from the enemy. You are able to target up to 6 enemies (or bullets) at once firing them off. You can do this while you are running, a requiescence that was amazing considering that you have to control both the marionette and the gun at the same time. When coming upon any of the minor enemies, you will be able to perform both actions simultaneously with nary an issue. The one time that this was not true was when there was a double reticule, relinquishing control of the Gunstringer altogether. During these scenes, the Kinect Sensor did not seem to pick up where your hands were. After multiple attempts, it became quite obvious that this was not an issue with the sensor, but with the game itself. These double barrel scenarios don’t come up often, so I wouldn’t call it a major issue, but it is worth noting.

 

However, when the boss battles come into play, you end up watching the entire show from the audience’s perspective, making the gameplay quite difficult. Trying to handle the marionette action, where The Gunstringer in now limp, moving him from side to side, up and down, along with moving him away from whatever the bad guy is throwing at you, can be quite jerky. Then the reticule for the gun shows up so you are able to shoot the boss to take him down for good. Yet, the whole experience just isn’t as seamless as it is throughout the rest of the game. Plus, once the gun is out of ammo, there is no real way to tell how to reload the gun, so you are left with a bit of trial and error trying to figure out how to gain more bullets. It would appear that you are to swing your arm up to your shoulder to reload your gun, however the motion doesn’t flow as naturally as it should. In other games like this, reloading is typically done by moving the gun down or off to the side, not up, so moving in an upward motions seems somewhat disjointed.

The art style is, simply put, beautiful. It is like looking at a painting. While not a 3D game, at times, it does feel as if you are playing in the 3rd dimension. Handling a marionette, as The Gunstringer, and moving him around the environment makes you interact with it in such a way that completely draws you in. From the falling rocks, moving train parts, runaway stagecoach, or the exploding barrels; they all appear to come right at you. There is also a section of the game where, instead of running around the desert and shooting it out, Wild West style, you are actually running up industrial steel and dropping bad guys with good ol’ fashioned fisticuffs. The different fighting styles coming at you mean there are no distractions to pull you out of the game; things slow down only just enough to allow you to understand how to handle them, and then move on.

When it comes to the mulitiplayer conponent, there is both a plus side and a minus side.  For the most part, it does an exceedingly good job. One player controls both The Gunstringer and his gun, while the other just has to deal with a gun. They need to stand, or sit, side by side so The Kinect can pick them up correctly. While playing through the different acts of the game, the player controlling The Gunstringer plays just as they would if they were going the solo campaign. The other player is only concerned with locking on the targets and taking them out. This would be perfect for families as the parent can control The Gunstringer and the child could take care of all the shooting. However, things do go a bit south during the boss battles. The play area is much smaller than the the rest of the game and to that end, the controls start to cross and are not picked up very easily, which can (and does) lead to frustration.

Even with the minor issues I found, overall the game is a ton of fun and has the humor that you would expect from Twisted Pixel. It is well worth the $40 price tag and, as a bonus, every copy comes with a code for Fruit Ninja Kinect (on Xbox LIVE Arcade).

A review copy of The Gunslinger was provided to TMG for the purpose of evaluation and review.

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Author: Kelly Brown View all posts by

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