|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Twisted Pixel|
|Release: September 13, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Cartoon Violence, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
The folks at Twisted Pixel certainly are an ambitious sort. You wouldn't necessarily buy into the idea that an undead marionette who doesn't talk would be an entertaining hero, but their most recent project, The Gunstringer, is a game that is full of surprises. Like Twisted Pixel's other blockbuster hit, 'Splosion Man, The Gunstringer has a persistent central premise that both makes the game instantly charming and works extremely well. And the good news is that playing a gun-slinging puppet is surprisingly fun.
The game introduces you to its central premise immediately. You lift your hand to pull the undead marionette form of The Gunstinger from his shallow grave. Control feels instantly natural, and moving the marionette from side to side and pulling your hand up to jump is effortless. However, the Gunstringer is about more than just moving around. True to his namesake, The Gunstringer carries a heavy pistol, and he's out for vengeance.
Make no mistake, though, The Gunstringer's vengeance is unlike anything else you've experienced. His first victim? Inflatable flailing-arm tube man. He's a menacing one, to be sure.
Shooting in the game is fairly easy, and has you pointing your hand like a pistol (naturally) to aim, and pull up to fire. The auto-targeting works very well, and shooting down enemies is effortless. The only snag is when you go into cover mode; you have to manipulate the marionette controls as well as the shooting, which can sometimes be a bit tough for the Kinect to register. However, when you are running down levels and shooting on the fly, shooting works incredibly well.
In addition to the single-player mode, The Gunstringer also allows a friend to join in the fun. However, instead of having two undead marionettes onscreen at the same time, the second player is nothing more than a disembodied second gun. This is a bit of a letdown, as it would have been cool to have two independently controlled Gunstringers, but if you want to play this game party-style, it does make sense. Be warned, though, there are lengthy platforming sections where a second player simply won't have much to do.
Although the precise controls are the centerpiece of the game (and what make it such a joy to play), the game's quirky story and outstanding visual design boost it past the level of a "good Kinect game" and make The Gunstringer feel like a solid video game all by itself. The story is your basic "revenge against all who wronged me" story, but when the people who wronged you are a whole bunch of western stereotypes and over-the-top characters, you're in for a seriously wild ride. If you're looking for incredible drama or thought-provoking situations, you'll get none of that here. The narrator of the story keeps the jokes coming, and you can expect the same kind of cheeky humor that you would see in the 'Splosion Man series. Oh, and if you are a 'Splosion fan, check out The Gunstringer's belt buckle when you get the chance.
This sort of referential humor is certainly charming, but the game's visual charm also deserves some credit for making this game such an achievement for the Kinect platform. Though the visuals aren't terribly impressive on a technical scale, they are off the charts on a creative level. The world of The Gunstringer takes place on a stage in front of a live-action audience that mixes seamlessly with the animated world on stage. Locations have a hand-made look to them, with taped-up settings and props making up the landscape. Though the game doesn't feature a whole lot of detail, the visuals are fun enough that you probably won't see this as a flaw.