Review: The Gunstringer

I’ve just moved into a new apartment; having once again the room to flail about in front of the television, I decided to give The Gunstringer a shot(!).

The Gunstringer is an undead marionette who has been jilted by his posse. Now he’s out for revenge. The game is told (weirdly) as a stage play with a constant narration. I can see what developers Twisted Pixel were trying to do with it, to give the game a sense of Western charm and humour…but I just found the narrator to be annoying. The mix of live-action cutscenes with what was going on in the game was also a bit distracting.

With a Kinect game, the controls and how they feel are what really makes a game worthwhile or not. You use one hand to control the Gunstringer’s position — as if you were holding a marionette — your other hand controls your gun. You point your gun hand at things to lock on, and fling your hand up towards your shoulder to fire at up to 6 targets. I found the locking on to be very responsive, but the actual firing of the gun was terribly hit and miss (that’s the last pun, I promise!). Sometimes I had to spasm so dramatically, almost hitting myself in the face — very suave — and even then it sometimes didn’t register the shot. What can I say? It just didn’t feel fluid and really disconnected me from the game.

Not to mention that holding one hand out like a demented spider and the other in the “pew pew pistols” shooting position is far from natural, as much as you may think otherwise. I couldn’t take more than a few levels in a row before I needed a break for my arms. This is coming from a guy that can go hours at something like Dance Central or Fruit Ninja Kinect.

To give the controls some credit, The Gunstringer is playable while sitting down, although will always work slightly better when you’re standing. The coordination required to control movement with your left hand and shoot with your right — or vice versa if you’re left-handed — was a fun little challenge in itself. It did feel good when my arms worked together.

Aside from the controls, the game itself is alright. The majority of gameplay takes place as an on-rails shooter, which works for the Kinect. There’s also some boulder dodging and a little bit of platforming from different camera angles. Every now and then you’ll be thrown into a cover shooting section or given a neat weapon like a shotgun or dual pistols which breaks up the levels a bit. Nothing amazing, just what you’d expect from this sort of title.

Drop-in/out co-op features in The Gunstringer, but it’s not the main focus of the game. If you’ve got enough room to have a friend help you, it’s really more of the same and doesn’t really add anything extra to your experience — except for a greater probability for limbs to come in contact with your face.

To be honest, I just wasn’t engaged by this game. The style didn’t sit well with me, but I’m sure it will work for those of you who haven’t had enough yet of zombies or continuous narration a la Bastion. While it is nice to see some different styles of titles coming out for Kinect, I feel this would have worked better as DLC rather than a full-release game.

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