|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Twisted Pixel|
|Release: September 13, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||ESRB RATING|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
I love weird games. I have become totally enamored with Twisted Pixel and their hits like 'Splosion Man and Comic Jumper. Recently, I heard the studio was going to be making a new shooter that combines old westerns with marionette puppet shows that would be totally controlled with the Kinect and revolve around a main character that is also a zombie. Twisted Pixel, you have out-weirded yourself again!
The game in question is The Gunstringer, set for release late this year, and it's not only one of the most bizarre concepts I have ever seen, it also looks pretty fun to boot. The entire game takes place in a puppet show that tells the story of a Wild West bandit back from the dead to get revenge on the posse that killed him. The enemies, environments, and even effects are all set pieces made up to look like they are part of a puppet show. Though the action is as fast-paced and frantic as any other shooter, the whole thing comes off with the quirky charm that Twisted Pixel is known for.
At its heart, The Gunstringer is an on-rails arcade-style shooter, much like Sin and Punishment. Our titular hero will move forward endlessly unless he becomes involved in some sort of cinematic event, and it's up to you to move him around while blasting away at the enemies in your path. However, it's how you move him around that makes this game unique.
First, let's talk about the shooting system. Hold your right hand out like a gun. There, that's the shooting system. Doing this will move a cursor shaped like a cap gun around the screen, locking onto enemies as it passes over them. By flicking your wrist upward (as if the gun had recoil) The Gunstringer will unload his clip into the enemies you locked onto.
Now take your left hand and hold it as if you were holding a marionette. That's the movement system. By moving your hand left or right, you make The Gunstringer move left or right, and flicking your wrist up makes him jump. These are the basic controls you will be using for most of the game.
But basic controls are boring and Twisted Pixel knows this. Thus, every stage in The Gunstringer will have some sort of section that breaks the standard control scheme. For example, some sections will have our hero crouching behind cover. You can lock on all you like, but you can't shoot until you blow cover by leaning left or right. Other sections will have our hero on some sort of vehicle (we are guessing a mine cart or a horse) unable to change his direction. In these sections, both of your hands become guns, blasting away at enemies on all sides. There are even sections that ask you to throw dynamite at your enemies by—you guessed it—making a throwing motion.
The guys at Twisted Pixel have spoken about many other gestures available to the player as well. For example, The Gunstringer has a special move for taking out enemies at close range: a Clint Eastwood-style haymaker punch. How do you do it? Throw a haymaker punch in real life. (Just be careful not to punch your TV.) At another point in the game, an arm will descend from the heavens and squash certain enemies in the environment. And I mean a live-action arm, like the arm of some dude off-stage at the puppet show. You eventually get to control this arm and squash enemies yourself.
The rest of the game is completely built around its puppet show atmosphere. The life bars, for example, are shooting targets hung from a steel pole. The first boss in the game is a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tub man. The fourth wall is broken so often in this game, you'll need a construction team to rebuild it. (Perhaps that strange offscreen hand could be of some assistance...)
More importantly, the game is fun because it isn't trying to do too much. It has a unique control scheme that works and a funny premise that keeps you playing. That's about it. The game was originally going to be an XBLA title, but has received such a great response that it will be coming out full retail instead. It has advertised four separate acts, collectibles, unlockables, new abilities, rewards, and more. It also features co-op play if you want to get another zombie cowboy into the mix.
Personally, I think I'm going to enjoy The Gunstringer. But then again, I like weird games like this. Frankly, I'm just excited to have another Kinect game to play other than Dance Central.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
CCC Contributing Writer