Reviewed: October 6, 2011
Released: September 13, 2011
The Gunstringer has certainly been one of the most anticipated titles for Kinect this year, right next to Dance Central 2, and rightly so. This charming, witty, and totally functional game from Twisted Pixel is, without a doubt, one of the best games you can play on the Kinect whether you are six or sixty.|
I was totally captivated from the very first second of the live-action opening that sets up this puppet show theater and never backs down from that presentation concept until the closing credits. We see an attractive girl get out of a car and enter an old-style theater where she joins a group of other audience members. We then head behind the curtain as stagehands are hastily preparing the sets and props for the upcoming show. With our hero properly buried, the curtain opens and the credits roll. Amusingly enough, your gamer tag will be credited as the starring role – nice touch!
The Gunstringer maintains that Western charm with a slick narration by a grizzled-voice announcer that sets up the story and follows you through it, not entirely unlike Bastion, only this is more Waylon Jennings-Dukes of Hazzard. And you never forget you are playing in a virtual puppet show thanks to real video of the audience seen in reverse stage angle shots and fantastic crowd interactions like cheering when you do well or booing when the bad guys show up.
Gameplay is also devoted to the concept of having your hero actually being a marionette. You hold out your left hand to move and control the Gunstringer right and left or to make him jump, and your right hand is used to shoot the swarms of enemies and other random targets in what is essential a lightgun game on rails, only your finger is the gun. Merely point at the screen to aim the cursor and paint up to six targets then flick your arm up to fire as many bullets as you have locked. It’s very similar to another Kinect game – Child of Eden.
The gameplay concept is quite easy to learn, even when they mix things up by shifting to a side-scrolling Donkey Kong level or turn the game into a temporary cover-shooter where you actually have to peek out left or right before you can fire your gun. You’ll have ground targets and air targets to shoot and the occasional taco to feast on as well as environmental objects like TNT containers that will blast open your path forward. It only takes a few levels and you’ll have the movement and the gun play system down and working them together in perfect harmony.
Visually, The Gunstringer is a pure delight with amazing CG graphics, especially for our hero and his many unique bosses and various enemies that even include a flailing tube man. Level designs are fantastic, colorful, yet always exude the charm of the Wild West, and the game never lets you forget you are playing in a puppet show, especially when you see a human hand reach down from the “heavens” to toss a boulder at you.
The audio is excellent with a great narrator and plenty of environmental sound effects as well as the crisp ring of gunfire and exploding dynamite. There is plenty of authentic western music and the added sounds of audience participation are a great dynamic that really sells the core puppet show presentation.
Sadly, The Gunstringer is rather short, clocking in at around 5-8 hours depending on your skill and dedication. There are plenty of reasons to replay the game, chapter modifiers, optional commentary tracks, and a host of unlockable bonuses, so you won’t stop playing even after you’ve won. The game also has some DLC already included as well as a code for a full copy of Fruit Ninja Kinect – another great Kinect game. All of this should help ease the $40 ticket price for what is arguably the best puppet show you'll ever play and one of the top five best Kinect games out there.