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Microsoft hasn’t done much to dispel the belief that the
Kinect is just a gimmicky toy for children and middle-aged women. With games like Disneyland
Adventures, Zumba, and My Little Pony Tea Party Kinect representing the system, it would be easy for
hardcore gamers to overlook an excellent game like The Gunstringer.
Twisted Pixel, the developers didn’t help much by making a game about a cowboy puppet. At a quick glance it might come across as Howdy Doody: The Game, but it should be specified that The Gunstringer is about an undead cowboy puppet. It also must be specified that it’s not about an undead puppet that looks like a cowboy, but rather a puppet that represents an undead cowboy.
Because of this, The Gunstringer manages to be both silly and gritty at the same time. It’s narrated in authentic frontier gibberish by a grizzled old cowpoke, and tells a yarn about a feller who was betrayed and murdered - but he was too mean to die, and crawled from his grave in search of vengeance against the sidewindin’ bushwackin’ hornswaglin’ cracker croakers what done him wrong!
This earnest cowboy tale is told through a puppet show, and
the Player uses the Kinect to mimic the actions of a puppeteer; the left hand
lifts and moves the cowboy puppet, while the right hand aims and fires the
puppet’s gun. Players can fire guns by kicking
their hand up (Like from the recoil of a .45 caliber smoke wagon). The puppet runs forwards on his own,
leaving players to sidestep and jump obstacles, and shoot targets as they zoom
across the screen. While this
makes up the bulk of gameplay, the game frequently shakes thing up by adding
other gameplay mechanics, like a cover system where The Gunstringer stops running and hides behind something to fight
off waves of enemies. The player
makes him pop out of cover and shoot, much like the Time Crisis light gun
At other points it will switch to a sideways view for sidescrolling jumping where the player must use precise timing to jump over obstacles in a manner similar to one-button jumping games like Cannabalt. Then there are stationary turrets where The Gunstringer picks up a second revolver and the player must simultaneously aim two guns at once. With these varied modes, the game is anything but repetitive, and should keep players enthralled.
While the gameplay is excellent, The Gunstringer also has a unique story-telling method. All of the action is framed by the concept that this a puppet show performed before a live audience. The game begins with footage of real people settling in at a fancy theater, and backstage footage of the puppeteers preparing for the show. This is filled with insider jokes for hardcore video game nerds, because the audience is made of people from the game industry.
The Gunstringer alone isn’t justification to run out and buy a Kinect, but it is definitely the most compelling reason to buy one so far. It also shows the sort of potential the system has for shooter games, and hardcore gamers should keep an eye out for future Kinect games by this developer.