Your revenge on Wacky Inflatable Arm Tube Man awaits!
Marking Twisted Pixel’s first foray into the retail realm, The Gunstringer also serves as the company’s first Kinect title, as they find a way to incorporate their off-the-wall humor with Microsoft’s motion-control device in a way that’s both fun and engaging. The Gunstringer sees players leap into the shoes of the titular Gunstringer, an undead outlaw who’s risen from his grave to exact revenge on his former gang—the ones who put him six feet under to begin with. The kink in the plot, though—in vintage Twisted Pixel fashion—is that our hero’s actually just a marionette. The player’s the puppeteer in front of a “real” audience that applauds your successes and groans at your failures—all while you’re putting on a stage show, with stagehands running in and out of the screen and a “live” narrator. That last element’s similar to Bastion, as The Gunstringer’s disembodied voice reacts dynamically to everything you do—for example, explaining that the Gunstringer doesn’t know where these “mysterious forces” may come from, as long as they don’t get in the way of his main goal: vengeance!
The Gunstringer’s controls are simple and also mark the only Kinect game to date where you can actually play the entire game while seated—a landmark in and of itself. Your left hand controls the marionette strings that move the Gunstringer in its third-person shooter view, swinging him left to right across the screen (the entire adventure’s on rails, so you never have to worry about moving forward) and having him “leap” over obstacles by yanking your hand skyward. Your right hand controls the aiming reticule, where you automatically lock on to up six targets at once. Pulling your arm back like you’re firing a gun causes the Gunstringer to do the same, sending lead hurtling toward whatever his targets may be. And after a quick tutorial that ends with you taking revenge upon the first member of your former gang—the dastardly Wacky Inflatable Arm Tube Man—you should be a master of the controls.
The remarkable thing about these controls is that even though they’re beyond simple, they leave you feeling very satisfied and rewarded. The lock-on feature allows you to concentrate on the occasional platforming and dodging elements thrown in to give the action variety, and you’ll find that even as you blow through the game on normal in just a few hours, a smile won’t leave your face for most of the game. This is mostly a credit, of course, to the real driving force of the game: the humor-laden writing by the Twisted Pixel guys that propels you to keep going through the game’s levels just to see what absurdity they’ll throw at you next. Whether it’s power-ups that’ll make you flash back to old-school shooters like Contra or the corrupt sheriffs, ninjas, or buxom temptresses that will try to get in your way, The Gunstringer’s an adventure game that needs to be seen to be believed.
Still, the game does have a couple of shortcomings. It does feature local co-op where a second player can jump in and pick up a six-shooter, but aside from leaderboards, there’s very little competitive reason to come back to the game. And the action can become somewhat repetitive rather quickly, so once you’ve seen the story and all the cutscenes, you may not be that compelled to jump into the harder difficultly levels to replay the game.
The Gunstringer’s definitely head-and-shoulders above any other Kinect release, though. It’s hilarious, it’s easy to pick up and play, and with a $40 price tag that includes a code for day-one DLC that gives the origins of Wacky Inflatable Arm Tube Man and a token to download Fruit Ninja Kinect, this is probably the best bang for your buck on the device.
Summary: The simple-yet-satisfying controls combined with classic Twisted Pixel humor makes this easily the best Kinect game yet.
- The Good: Classic Twisted Pixel humor mixed with simple-yet-satisfying controls
- The Bad: Repetitive—and not as challenging—as other Twisted Pixel games
- The Ugly: Undead zombie marionettes