Puppet skeleton cowboy shenanigans.
Yep, we all know that the number of decent games for the Kinect peripheral can be counted on one hand. The majority of games that are released for the peripheral seem to either cater to the novelty factor or just offer a throwaway mode for a controller-based game.
But now one more game can be added to that handful of must-have Kinect titles. The Gunstringer not only plays to the strengths of the Kinect and actually works, and not only is a lot of fun to play, but it can be played sitting down! The fact that Kinect was meant to get us all off our sofas when playing games was completely forgotten by Twisted Pixel, and for that they have my thanks.
In The Gunstringer, the player takes control of the titular Marionette on his wild west journey of revenge. The whole thing is played out like a stage show, with voice-over guy providing a narrative as the audience cheer, boo or generally react to whatever is going on in the game. Occasionally, the camera may sweep around allowing the player a glimpse of the audience and their reactions and every once in a while the real world may impose upon the on-screen action in a typically Monty Python way. The whole set up is a little surreal, but makes for a unique setting to this bizarre little Kinect game.
I have already mentioned that The Gunstringer can be played whilst sitting down. This is because the developers decided that games should be controlled with the hands, and rightly so. A positive side effect of this is that the game requires less space than most Kinect games, a pleasing prospect for Kinect gamers that are used to moving their sofas.
Controls are very simple. The left hand controls the movement in a similar manner to controlling a string puppet. The forward movement is automatic, whilst the player moves the left hand from side to side to move either left or right, and pulls the hand into the air to jump. The right hand is the gun, and feels much more authentic if made into a gun shape. Much like Child of Eden, the player swipes across the screen to highlight targets, but then pulls the gun up in a recoil fashion to actually fire. As I am sure you can imagine, using the two hands independently takes a bit of practice, at least for those of us who can’t easily rub our tummies and pat our heads at the same time. But after a bit of practice, it all comes quite naturally.
Once the controls are sorted, the game tracks speedily through a series of different levels which constantly keep you guessing. The main staple is a third-person view with much dodging of obstacles and shooting of bandits, cows, crows as you pass. But things are kept fresh with cover based static battles, where the player must lean out from cover to get their shots, impressive boss battles with some outlandish characters, the occasional side-scrolling platform action and other such sequences. There is nothing particularly clever or ground-breaking here. But the fact that it is all done so well makes it highly entertaining.
If you fancy sharing the shooting, co-op is included allowing another player to step into the Kinect area of effect and immediately start shooting their own gun. There are also plenty of unlockables to unlock and the more competitive player can challenge themselves to achieving the highest medals through each area. So although it is not the biggest game, there is a fair amount to keep the player coming back for more.
The Gunstringer is released as a budget priced title, which makes it an attractive proposition. Further sweetening the deal is the fact that the game comes with a code to download the also rather fun Fruit Ninja Kinect. This all adds up to an impressive amount of Kinect gaming goodness in a budget package.
The Gunstringer may not be enough to convince people to buy a Kinect unit, but for those who already have, it is a must-have purchase. It is not the longest or deepest game, but it provides solid gameplay with mechanics that actually work really well, all wrapped up with bizarre humour at a bargain price.