E3 2011 Coverage : The Gunstringer

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Twisted Pixel, creators of XBLA favourites The Maw and ‘Splosion Man revealed their first Kinect game with one of the cheekiest debut trailers ever produced. After standing in far too long a line at the Kinect stand I was offered the choice to play either Star Wars Kinect, or the game with the humorous, impudent reveal. Sorry, Star Wars fans – that Kinect game, from everything I’ve seen, looks like an abomination, making the choice a simple one. Is The Gunstringer just the sort of “core” focused game Kinect needs to embrace long-time gamers?

The Gunstringer follows the vengeful tale of a posse-leader done wrong by is own gang. Now a zombie cowboy, he’s out to take on each of his former gang-members, Kill Bill style. If there’s anything to be said for it, it oozes style; quite typical of Twisted Pixel’s work, really. The whole thing has the aesthetic of an elaborate puppet show stage play; the sets and characters are all two-dimensional cardboard cut outs – and there’s an audience mad up of real people who’ll interject the action with boos, cheers and applause, while a gravel-voiced clichéd spaghetti western narrator relates the proceedings. The Gunstringer himself is a marionette-styled puppet, controlled – as you were holding his strings – with your left hand. Your right hand, naturally, is used to aim and shoot his gun.

Controlling The Gunstringer is a surprising pleasure; moving your left hand about moves the angry puppet, while shooting is done in a manner reminiscent of Rez or Child of Eden. Sweeping your right hand (whether opting to make your hand look like a gun or not) across the screen paints up to six targets, with a recoil action – cocking your hand back as if firing – shooting them. Occasionally, you can take cover behind rocks and other obstacles and fire out of cover. Yes, like many Kinect experiences, this is mostly an on rails affair – but is a fun one. To mix things up a bit, another level had us controlling The Gunstringer from a 2D, platform point of view, jumping over obstacles and platforms not unlike Donkey Kong. It culminated in a cool boss fight where, after getting a second gun, we got to dual-wield them and the point of view changed to that of a typical rail shooter. It was, simple as it sounds, actually pretty difficult, requiring a level of ambidextrousness I don’t possess.

Originally slated to be another XBLA title, The Gunstringer is now set to be a full retail Kinect game. the game’s lead designer, Dan Teasdale, assured us that there’ll be enough content to make the shift from digital distribution to retail worthwhile. The game will include co-op, collectables, unlockables, abilities, rewards and more across its 4 acts. It’s incredibly stylish, and filled to the brim with quirky and absurd humour and I certainly want to play it more – but I have to admit that after 10 minutes of play my arms were starting to hurt quite a bit. You can play the game sitting down though, and you can also lower your arms and use smaller movements – but that kinda takes the fun out of it a bit, doesn’t it?

Last Updated: June 13, 2011

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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