For the past year the Kinect has been a haven for party games and exercise titles. Our favorite funny folks from Twisted Pixel, however, have decided to go against the grain, delivering the sort of video game title we've been craving for since the peripheral made its debut a couple years back. Does The Gunstringer stand toe-to-toe with some of the other vengeance-influenced mayhem in the gaming world, or is it a couple bullets short of a six-shooter?
Taking place live onstage The Gunstringer follows the trials and tribulations of our recently-risen from the dead hero as he seeks revenge against the friends who double-crossed him. Taking on the likes of angry vultures, rusty cowboys and wavy tube-men the Gunstringer punches, burns and blasts away any obstacle that stands in his way. In the game players control the skeleton cowboy as if they're using him like a marionette. Your left hand acts as the cross bar that holds the strings of your puppet, moving it left, right and up (to jump) in order to evade drops, rolling logs & boulders and angry crocodiles that wish to bite your legs off. The right hand acts as your pistol, with you highlighting each character or object in your sights and flinging upwards to fire.
Throughout The Gunstringer you'll find yourself going head-to-head with the likes of rotten outlaws, evil birds, dynamite-flinging bandits, underworld spooks and kung-fu ninjas using your trusty pistol, and on occasion your fists to earn some cash for unlockable goodies. The game plays something like a rail shooter, where you basically roam around the level on auto-pilot as you try to avoid obstacles that will cause physical harm to your dead cowpoke. If you wind up losing any sort of health you'll also discover your financial earnings being ripped away with each hit, adding a much heftier challenge when it comes to reaching those high scores in the long run. If you eat a Taco Diablo, however, you will gain a cash multiplier for the time being. Be careful, though, for if you get hit in Multiplier Mode you will lose all the points you had earned, and then some.
Regarding the control-scheme my Kinect sometimes had a hard time reading me whenever I flung my arm up to fire. I wasn't the only one to notice this, as a couple of my friends I played with were also having issues with firing their weapons. There could've been some factors that had caused this, however, like how my game room literally has the minimum space needed to play Kinect, or we could've been flinging our arms up too quickly. Sometimes during shootouts you are given temporary upgrades that will help you during battles with multiple enemies, including flamethrowers, shotguns and swords. I found these upgrades helpful when it came to meleeing other cowboys and ninjas, although using the shotgun was more difficult as it didn't use the lock-on system the six-shooter does.
The Gunstringer was originally supposed to be an Xbox Live Arcade title, so it's fairly easy to see that the game still looks like something you'd download rather than purchase a physical copy of. Twisted Pixel, though, is more known for its presentation than its overall appearance, and the developers went all out for this one. Mixing in the game with some live-action shots of the theater audience added onto the humor the game showcases overall, whether it's a simple shot of the crowd applauding or seeing a guy get smacked in the face for being overexcited about a lumberjack/gator love scene (don't ask!).Then there is the storytelling aspect of the game, which comes in the form of narration by R. Bruce Elliot (the same guy who hilariously narrates Sgt. Frog, the funniest cartoon on the planet). Using a classic western twang and drawl Elliot tells the tale of the vengeful cowboy with as much enthusiasm as any classic Lone Ranger program.
Completing The Gunstringer first-time around will probably take you around four hours to do, which isn't that lengthy for a $40 game. However players will want to go back to earlier levels to do better during the moments they screwed up the most, not to mention earn more cash in order to unlock more of the bonus material. On the first day of release gamers were able to download the first DLC content for free: "The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles." Those who yearn for the days of Mad Dog McCree will be in nostalgia heaven as they take on a live-action adventure that has the touch of Troma added to it, including Toxic Avenger creator Lloyd Kaufman himself as your guide. (A free copy of Fruit Ninja Kinect also comes packaged, which is also a nicely-added bonus and makes the price tag more reasonable.)
- Twisted Pixel-quality humor
- Fun and exciting gameplay
- Challenges add loads of variety
- "The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles"
- Shooting sometimes can be a hassle
- Still looks like a downloadable title
- Very short for a $40 game
Twisted Pixel continues on with its track record of hilarious and highly entertaining titles with The Gunstringer. While some might be irked at its running time the overall experience that this game brings is what others have been craving for on the Kinect. Get your bouquet of roses ready to throw onstage, and be prepared to laugh yourself silly during the final moments of this title. The likes of Buffalo Bob Smith and Roy Rogers would be pleased that The Gunstringer exists, as it is a fine nod to the genre they had helped create in their careers.
FINAL GRADE: 8.3 (out of ten)
Review copy provided by Jay Stuckwisch and the folks at Twisted Pixel Games