The Gunstringer Review – Welcome To The Puppet Show
I’m of course talking about my recent playthrough of The Gunstringer on Xbox 360, what else?!
In case you’re not aware, The Gunstringer is a new on-rails shooter/platforming hybrid for the Kinect Sensor on the Xbox and is the first Kinect game to grab my attention since the immensely fun Dance Central and is also the first Kinect game to actually well, work.
You play not as The Gunstringer himself, a cowboy who was betrayed and killed, but as his puppet master in an actual live show. There’s an FMV (Real human) crowd watching you play the entire game from their seats, it’s hard to describe it exactly but it feels kind of cheesy and somewhat cringey to watch, the acting is intentionally hammy and camp but sometimes it’s just a little too much.
After rising from the dead The Gunstringer now makes it his business to seek vengeance on his would be murderers, quite a Kill Bill-esque story and to be brutally honest the story is probably the weakest part of the entire game.
Sure the basic plot is there and I’m not expecting an award winning tale from a Kinect game but it’s a bit too thin. You have a list of traitors to take care of (again, just like Kill Bill) and a handful of other “boss” type characters to take down, but each is extremely similar to the last in the way of actual gameplay.
I understand Kinect has its limitations – hey it’s not even a year old – and while that’s fair, maybe I was a little too eager to see a Kinect game that had a bit more depth, at least story-wise.
On the gameplay side, however bland the story, The Gunstringer really shines through.
You control the Gunstringer by holding your left hand out as if holding the puppet strings above him and aim with your right hand, holding it out to aim and cocking it upwards towards your shoulder to fire, like you imagine a real spaghetti western cowboy would.
It should be noted at this point that without even realizing it I had my right hand in the shape of a finger gun the entire time – the game is automatically more fun that way, fact.
There are variations in the format in the way of platforming sections, melee fights, samurai sword duels and even horse riding sections. You use your left hand to jump also, avoiding obstacles, enemy bullets and even crocodile pits to name just a few.
The gameplay is fun and unique for Kinect but can feel very repetitive after a while, not to mention tiring. You might not think playing a Kinect game would be tiring but try saying that to anyone who’s reached the advanced levels of Kinect Adventures.
There is one saving grace to the Kinect fatigue, although it could be misconstrued as a serious downfall too. The Gunstringer is the first Kinect game that allows you to and even encourages you to play sitting down which is a welcome addition.
A blessing in disguise perhaps though as the game seems to have a lot more trouble detecting your movements while you’re seated, quite a strange effect given that you don’t actually need to use your feet to play the game.
One scenario I found myself in all too often was that in certain sections where you use dual pistols, if I moved my hands too close then apart fast, the Kinect sensor would mix up my left and right hands leading to me taking a ton of damage from enemies. Not a game-breaker but definitely a nuisance.
The graphics are generally good, no stunning vistas or set pieces as expected but the art style and cartoonish character actions are both really nice and enjoyable, the visual style really helps to sell that you are in fact preforming in a live play.
The sound has a nice touch too, with a constant narration of everything The Gunstringer does (or doesn’t do for that matter). For instance if you fall into a hole, hit an enemy with every round or even just dodge a boulder, the gruff, old cowboy sounding narrator will describe it all. I thought it would get annoying at first but it can actually be fairly funny and is worth listening out for.
A friend can also join you to play co-op ‘on stage’ but the second player just controls a second weapon, not a Gunstringer of his or her own as that would be a bit too hectic, especially if you’re already cramped for room with one player. It’s a fun feature all the same and should lend to re-playability.
Speaking of that hallowed phrase -re-playability – The Gunstringer features free DLC titled “The Chronicles of The Wavy Tube Man” and even a code for a full copy of Fruit Ninja Kinect.
While free DLC and add ons are of course amazing, I can’t help shake the feeling they’re tacked on to justify The Gunstringer being packaged as a full retail release when it was originally, and perhaps better off going to be an Xbox Live Arcade Title.
All that said, The Gunstringer is a great addition to anyone looking for a new and fresh take on Kinect games and has a really nice visual style along with some great humour.
If you use Kinect to game with your kids or indeed any family or friends, it’s a worthy purchase.
Just be sure to give your arm a rest from time to time.
You can contact the author of this post, Luke Hoare Greene at Luke@techtv101.com or follow him on Twitter.