Friday, September 16, 2011

Gunstringer Review - A Classic Standoff

Score: 7.75 / 10
The Gunstringer

Xbox 360 Kinect
Developer: Twisted Pixel Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: September 13th, 2011

  • Classic game mechanics make it a blast to play
  • Characters and presentation keep it interesting
  • Slew of unlockable modes, concept art, and more
  • Gameplay is constantly shuffled to keep things fresh
  • Gold Medals can offer a true challenge to obtain
  • Kinect lag is ever present and must be compensated for
  • Though co-op is offered it is poorly executed
  • Boss fights are set up in an all too predictable manner

Kinect titles as of late have..well...disappointed. For a piece of technology that is so impressive, the lineup has been much more "adorable" than I would have liked. Luckily, Twisted Pixel has heard the cries and given us Gunstringer, a Western gun slinging puppet show...cannot make this stuff up. Despite a few technical setbacks, Gunstringer is a solid Kinect title that separates itself from the typical shovelware.

Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down

The Gunstringer features a typical story of revenge filled with a colorful cast of characters. You were betrayed by your former posse and must hunt each down for a little payback. It is a classic tale of revenge in an Western environment, told through cut scenes and an ominous narrator with a voice that amplifies the experience. The catch is that the whole story is taking place with puppets on a theater stage, with a live action audience viewing the story play out. It is no Inception as far as plot is concerned, but it is an interesting take with an unusual approach.

It is not the story that stands out the most but the presentation. You are essentially putting on a play for an audience, and are reminded of this through the course of the game. Subtle visuals such as stampedes of cows constructed by soda cans, riding a pencil for a horse, and the backdrop of an audience that cheers at each heroic deed really gives the game a unique, cartoonish feel. Coupled with Twisted Pixel's spot on humor, a fitting and well rounded soundtrack, and the perfect fit of the narrator allows the game to become as much a joy to watch as it is to play.

Me and My Six Shooter

Gameplay in Gunstringer at its core is like that of a rail shooter, without confining itself to repetition. Furthering the theme of a puppet show, one hand controls the Gunstringer's marionette strings which you can use to move him around and flick to have him jump. The right hand controls the gun, in which you sweep over targets to lock on and flick your wrist to send bullets flying. It is a simple scheme that is easy to pick up and easier to perform. As you get the hang of things, gunning down a string of baddies with a flick of the wrist becomes a satisfying experience.

The game does not limit itself to just one central focus with the controls. Some instances you will find yourself running and gunning, some will throw you behind a cover system, and others will have you don two pistols at once. This continual shuffle leaves an unpredictable nature to the game, as just when you think you have seen it all a new weapon or function is introduced that mixes up the typical run and gun expectation.

The very noticeable Kinect lag and faulty reads are present in the game and will take some getting used to. This can become tedious during the platforming portions of the game or strive for gold medal perfection, but the penalty is not too taxing and the game sets you up to immediately try again mere feet from your fall.

Trials of the West

The game is broken up into different acts with a boss fight at the end of each act. Though enjoyable at first, these boss battles soon became too predictable and each boss felt like a copy of the last. They each shoot a projectile, each move about in a weird manner, and each get dizzy to open themselves to attack. It was unfortunate that the most fun I was having was working towards these bosses, and not the actual fights themselves.

The co-op in the game proved to be one of the more disappointing additions. The second player raises his hand and can join in at any time to act as a second pistol. The trouble with this is that there is not always a pistol standoff every second, so your partner will end up standing next to you waiting until you finish your platforming segment before they can hop in again. For a developer that made Splosion Man such an enjoyable multiplayer experience, it feels odd that such a feature feels so tacked on.

Repeated Revenge

The game is relatively short, and you will blaze through the story in about 6 hours time, but it's the arcade inspired score, slew of bonuses, and strive for gold medals that keeps you coming back for more. At the end of each level you are given a score total. Factors that weigh into this range from enemies killed, to health lost, and multiplied score from combos built from the Taco El Diablo item multiplier. The strive to obtain gold medals can be quite challenging, and is incentive to focus hard to hit every target along the way.

In addition to obtaining a medal you are awarded currency for the bonus store. The bonus store in this game, like all Twisted Pixel titles, are packed full of goodies to enhance the experience. Movies, concept art, and the soundtrack are just a few of the goodies the game has to offer.

Game modifiers make the game experience the second time around a bit different. Hardcore mode provides the challenge needed to make the game much more difficult with increased damage and a drop in score if hit. There are other modifiers similar to skulls in Halo that make second trip through the story a different experience with additional reward.


Gunstringer is not a bad game by any means, but I will admit that I expected more from it. It still has the satisfying arcade rail shooter feel, I just wish more had been done with bosses and co-operative play. Though short lived, if you are a Kinect owner it is one to add to the tiny library that is your Kinect shelf.

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