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The Gunstringer Review

Like many children, a disproportionate amount of my formative years were spent watching cartoons. While most of this time has gradually dissolved into a nebulous memory of the Warner Bros. roster, 1953’s Duck Amuck resists being lumped in with the more formulaic pursuits of Bugs, Elmer, Wiley and the Roadrunner. Pitting Daffy Duck against an off-screen artist who vexes the character at every conceivable opportunity, the film’s willingness to break the fourth wall has insured its longevity. Years later, Duck Amuck remains a creative benchmark which other animated works are measured against.

In many ways, recent Xbox 360 release The Gunstringer is the interactive descendant of that classic Daffy short. While most studios would have been content with mere recounting the story of a squinty-eyed cowboy marionette, developer Twisted Pixel frames the game as a live performance. Cleverly, the extra degree of separation is rarely squandered- players sporadically get glimpses of an audience and receive cheers and boos in accordance with their actions. During one sequence which strikingly recalls Duck Amuck, a hand comes on-screen to set a group of tumbling boulders in motion. Even the coup de grace of boss encounters is elevated by high fives and a cascade of red roses, delivering the sensation of performing in front of an audience, even if the game is being enjoyed by a solitary player.

However, without a competent control method, all of this postmodern quirkiness would have confined The Gunstringer to a mere Kinect-enabled curio. Fortunately, once players acclimate to the title’s ‘pat your head, while rubbing your tummy’ ambidexterity, they’ll find that the game’s input scheme borders on immersive. Playable while standing as well as sitting, the gamers’s left hand moves the Gunstringer along the horizontal axis. While in the game’s striding sequences, this maneuver is typically used to dodge environmental objects.  However, during the title’s large-scale shootouts, a bit of lateral movement sends the protagonist out of cover. Disappointedly, the gesture used to peek around corners isn’t quite as responsive as the running bits; which can be a bit frustrating when a cluster of dynamite sticks is being lobbed in your direction. Jumping is handled via an upward snap, solidifying the sensation that players are manipulating a marionette.

Meanwhile, the player’s right hand controls the Gunstringer’s trusty sidearm. With an index finger obligatorily outstretched like a gun, gamers can sweep the screen, locking on to any targets. Once any number of enemies are marked, a swift recoil-like motion, where players raise their hand to their shoulder dispenses a ballistic barrage. Most of the time, The Gunstringer feels like a motion-controlled interpretation of the Saturn game, Panzer Dragoon. Occasionally, the game will deviate to dispense a Donkey Kong-like barrel jumping sequence or offer a spirited duel-wielding deviation that pays homage to classic light-gun titles. Much like Twisted Pixel’s Comic Jumper, variety is transmitted at a breakneck pace, rarely lingering on one type of action for long.

Whereas many contemporary titles artificially stretch out their playtimes, growing tedious long before the final credits roll, The Gunstringer carefully evades such tedium. Packed with impromptu tidbits such as amusing character bios which pop-up on-screen whenever a new adversary is encountered, it would have been hard to imagine the game’s creativity transcending its six-hour playtime. Preemptively countering the claim that the title is too short, the developers packed the box with a cornucopia of content. From a comprehensive collection of unlockable movies, art, and commentary to a bonus game inspired by Mad Dog McCree as well as a Fruit Ninja Kinect code, The Gunstringer is bursting with supplemental material. To sweeten the deal, the game is being offered at a forty dollar MSRP.

Whereas many Kinect titles have felt like glorified tech demos, offering anthologies of disjointed mini-games, The Gunstringer artfully binds its variety of gameplay mechanics together. Crowned with a remarkable amount of verve, creativity, and polish, the game is precisely what Microsoft needs to maintain the momentum of their peripheral.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

25 comments

  1. Wow, I’m really surprised that you like a Kinect title.

  2. No ones really answered my question yet- does the puppet talk in the game?

    You know what would be a cool mini-game/bonus?

    Using Kinect to create puppet shows with the Gunstringer model. Then using the mic to move the mouth. Maybe add support for another person.

  3. I cant help but think the puppet thing is just a cop out that lets the character move all janky and lets the background graphics be real simple.

  4. Smaurage’s aka “Kinect is Shit, Long live the Wii” thoughts, please!

  5. Kevin Butler's Schlong

    Nice review. That I must admit, even I have little interest in the game.

  6. So Fruit Ninja not actually on the disk? I already have it, so I’m think I can sell it on ebay and lover the price by maybe 8 bucks.

  7. The demo is on my HD, I really need to get off my ass and play it.

    Speaking of (not) getting off your ass, you can play this sitting down? Does it work as well as standing?

  8. Duck Amuck is one of the greatest cartoons of all time. Good call.

    I don’t own a Kinect but if it ever drops in price, I may have to pick GunStringer up.

    • Agreed! Everytime I watch Duck Amuck I can’t help but laugh. One of the greatest.

      I don’t have a 360 but this game really sound interesting. Maybe I can get one of my friends to rent the game.

  9. Your review could have been a bit more timely, but it was enjoyable to read.

  10. I played the demo and it took me a while to get used to it like you said. But once I did I found the game to be really fun. Its too bad that the game is coming out at the time so many big games are, like gears of war3. It should have come out during summer time.

  11. What the hell is the big deal? Ive been breaking the forth wall for years.

  12. Thanks for the review.

    I usually like Justin McElroy’s reviews, but man he’s lost it lately. His Gunstringer review was kind of the last straw. It seems like he wanted to be clever more than just review the damn game.

    • You want a good laugh, check out McElroy’s big-baby tirade against a guy who questioned his perfect score for the game.

      I quote:

      “@ToTheMoon Hey ToTheMoon? I’m not joking about this, so I want you to listen to me closely.

      Leave.

      Leave this site, and never come back. You’ve single-handedly personified everything that’s wrong with comments on this site and throughout the internet. You’re not intelligent enough to hang with the cool, funny, smart people we have posting here, and I want you to leave and never come back. Whatever value you’ve assigned to yourself as a consumer of this website, I’m saying that I’m willing to sacrifice it to not have everyone else here tainted by the misdirected, poorly informed anger you call an opinion.

      Leave, and never come back.”

      Which is probably the douchiest thing I’ve heard all week, all maybe all month.

      Back to Gunstringer. I picked it up and it’s good but every once in a while Kinect will get my arms mixed up thinking my left in right and visa versa. Other than that is a good time, and like the review said it’s what MS should be pushing if they don’t want the Kinect to get put in the closet next to the WiiFit board.

      • I love Joystiq but can’t stand Justin. It seems every site has their own Arthur Gies / Jim Sterling / Justin McElroy “I’m a self-proclaimed asshole” ready to fire up the fanboys cheerleader.

        I can’t stand the concept.

        Like NOLA said last week, game journalist really need to improve. Cheap tactics to get page views are the Access Hollywood and TMZ of the industry, and they’re bring us all down.

        That said, great review Deagle. I know you probably don’t get 10% of Joystiq’s traffic (which is a crying shame) but your reviews are almost always some of the best around. Comparing Gunstringer to Duck Amuck makes a hell of a lot more sense that alluding to the author not being trusted.

  13. Good review and all but you didn’t talk about the graphic or sound. How come?

  14. @gungrave I’m with you on the like Joystiq but don’t like Justin. He’s one of those arrogant personalities who thinks they’re much more clever than then actually are. Ludwig and Christopher FTW

  15. good review. Thanks, Deagle.

  16. god damn this game is giving me tennis elbow. I played for 40 minutes yesterday and now I can’t move my arm. Watch out for the snapping motion you have to make.