This is probably one of the most talked about releases as of late, and here’s why, be warned I did throw some spoilers in it!

The Gunstringer is just your average frontier tale: a gun-slingin’ puppet done in by his own posse comes back from the dead to get revenge. Use Kinect to pull the strings and guide a hero with a couple six shooters and an intense desire to punish those who put lead in his bones. Unlock bonuses and earn shooter achievements as you track down villainous varmints like a samurai cowboy, voodoo priestess, and Wavy Tube Man. You’re essentially inside an action-packed old west diorama. So don’t be shocked when the giant hand of a puppeteer reaches down to deposit an object or a send a boulder rolling to smash you.

The Story

The Gunstringer is a marionette that you, as a manipulator, bring to life. The game is presented in front of a pre-recorded live audience in a theater with a stage. The background of The Gunstringer is that he was once in a notorious posse in the wild west days. The background that we don’t know is how The Gunstringer died. I recall something about the voodoo priestess killing him minus details, but why is he fighting against his ex-friends if they were friends at one point? It’s questions like these when I first played the title that made me not really care for the story as I’m one of those gamers that need to understand why I am playing this game. Anyhow, the story goes with the voodoo priestess brings The Gunstringer back from the dead, but in a marionette’s form. Why The Gunstringer is out for revenge is anyone’s guess, but he could just be diabolical as the ending shows. The game takes you through each of your ex-posse’s killing them once and for all.

The environment is absolutely brilliant and colorful. Trees are made out of paper towel tubes with cardboard taped on. Cows are created from beer cans, the town folk are created from paper cut outs. The entire theme is set in an old western area, with a narrator using a grisly western tone, although he does become annoying when there is nothing to narrate as his handful of phrases becomes very repetitive.

The Gunstringer hates snakes!

The Gameplay

This game works very well with Kinect. You can play it either sitting or standing and either by yourself or cooperative with another player. Your left hand becomes your “manipulating” hand and you can make The Gunstringer run left/right and jump. It’s also used to move out of cover, yes the game has a cover system, albeit basic, but it works. The right hand is used to move your cursor around and “paint” targets. You can tag up to 6 targets being that you have a 6-shooter. Once your targets are locked, simply lift your right hand up like a recoil action and all 6 bullets fly out. You don’t need to shoot 6 targets at a time and as you progress later on, the quicker the better it becomes. You can make a pointy gun with your hand, but it’s not required, although it does feel more natural. Soon you will start making sound effects just like you did when you were 10.

As you progress later on in the game, you obtain a few different weapons. There is a sword, a flamethrower and a shotgun. The sword is used making normal sword motions and to also train you on how to be better at fruit ninja, or vice versa. The flamethrower is a constant flame of pain. You can just burn up everyone which makes it fun! The shotgun, I did not quite understand, it shoots like a bomb. The reticule is so huge, you don’t even have to bother aiming. I was more or less fist pounding on my leg and just blasting everything, whether that strategy works for everyone, time will tell.

Your 6 shooter also can transform into a fully automatic pistol, sometimes allowing you to wield another pistol to really rack some lead in the baddies. Basic hand to hand fighting is included as well, which is just a repetitive punching motion. Lastly, you get to play a “Superior” being, using your fist to pound down baddies. It’s great fun but can become repetitive.

Who doesn't like to blow #*&@ up?

The Annoyances

Every game is not perfect and The Gunstringer is no exception. There are annoyances in the game due to different things. One I mentioned previously is the narrator, he becomes repetitive when there is nothing to narrate, however Twisted Pixel has a solution, you can listen to their somewhat humorous commentary by unlocking it, but try playing the game on hardcore mode and get near the end, die and start all over again and you’ve just entered repeat realm.

Another issue I experienced is the cover system. It’s very awkward to use your left hand to move right, out of cover, and use your right hand to aim and shoot baddies that are on the left. Because of this, Kinect had confusion with tracking, either I wasn’t able to shoot or wasn’t able to move.

The cover system doesn't always work...

Twisted Pixel is also known for their humor.  There is a small percentage of humor in the game, but nothing where you are going to laugh out loud, you might get a giggle but that’s about it so don’t expect some type of comedy game that will make you change your drawers. This title is also somewhat short, on normal difficulty it took me approximately 2 1/2 hours to complete, which isn’t long. Luckily there is replay value.

My last annoyance was the playability of the levels, they seem to all be repetitive in some form or another, however due to the great backgrounds and environment I could look past this.

The Awesomeness

You are probably thinking, “Wow how is this review a 9?” – Easy answer, I pointed out the downfalls early so you could get a true understanding of what this game really is and how awesome it really is. With that, most reviews are either not comparing this game to anything or comparing it to a Banjo Kazooie/Crash Bandicoot/Other Platformer title. That’s the problem, this game is NOT a platformer. How do I figure this? There’s a particular level which triggered my childhood memories and I’m not sure if this was intentional as I’m probably around the same age as most of these game developers in this day, but it did it.

This level revitalized my childhood!

The level instantly gave me flash backs of old side scroller shoot ’em ups such as Galaga, R-Type, Contra, Metal Slug and Ikaruga. If you never played any of these types of titles, then unfortunately you probably won’t understand and The Gunstringer will fall short of your expectations. If you have played these titles, yup I’m going there. The Gunstringer is basically a shoot ’em up except instead of you being in some type of spacecraft in some alien world shooting some alien things that have huge alien bosses that you have no idea what they are, it’s been translated to a normal, comparable world to the real world using real world enemies and weapons even if they are made out of common household items. The transformation of this gameplay is what makes The Gunstringer awesome. You still have your HUGE bosses that take up a lot of the screen, you can still shoot like crazy, you still get your “power ups” except they are just weapon upgrades, and there’s certain bosses that you have to “break down” just like back in the day. When you look at The Gunstringer from this perspective, it’s just awesome and Twisted Pixel did an awesome job on creating a modern, yet old western, shoot ’em up.

One of the great boss battles

More of the awesomeness continues, there are quite a few achievements to unlock and some quite difficult. Speaking of unlocking, I think there is more to unlock  in-game than Call of Duty. Yeah that’s a bold statement but I’m almost positive its true, I did not have time to count each thing individually and compare them side to side. If the normal mode bores you, you can also buy and unlock hardcore mode. Hardcore adds a whole new level of challenging. You are rated on your level completion, killing baddies, animals and town folk for that matter, earn you cash as well as not getting hurt. The more cash you collect, the higher you are rated using a medal rating system (bronze/silver/gold). The more cash you earn as well helps you unlock more stuff faster, but good luck, there is a TON to unlock.

The awesomeness continues even more if you play with a friend. A friend adds another reticule to the screen and helps you earn achievements and kill baddies. What more fun could you want and what better way to really USE your friends? Player 1 is the manipulator at all times so Player 2 can be anyone from the never gamed before to hardcore gamer. A note on the soundtrack, it was custom created for this game and they are part of the awesomeness category. It sounds good and they did a good job.

Lastly, everyone disagrees, but I think the full motion videos should be in this category as well. I am a fan of all of the FMV games back in the 90’s and still play them from time to time to this day. I think all games should have FMV or nothing less than what LA Noire did with the facial technology. Anyone that states they want a game story to have modeled characters where their mouths barely match the words spoken has me scratching my head. This leads into the bonus DLC that was made readily available on release day, The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles. I did find this funnier than The Gunstringers’ humor, however I enjoy FMV type games and even though it’s very basic gameplay along to watching a B-rated movie, (at least the main chicks are good lookin’), I found it enjoyable.

Scratching my head...

Conclusion

If the awesomeness section didn’t explain anything, you do know you get Fruit Ninja Kinect with this as well? Bottom line is there are more reasons to play/own it than not to play/own it. No, we are not being paid to give a good review of this game, heck I don’t even get free copies to provide a review with. I’m a normal gamer like yourselves (except I spend A LOT of time playing games more than normal people) and have a regular job not in the video game industry and reviews are just a hobby for me, but I try to give a real unbiased review and not doctor them up and from a normal point of view. Anyway, The Gunstringer is a good game, I’m sure if it does well it’s already setup for The Gunstringer 2.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of The Gunstringer
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?