Kinect-based games are really starting to take the Xbox 360 to a new level in casual gaming. Sure, the more core games on the system are beginning to include features that utilize the motion device, but as more and more developers take notice of the impact casual gamers have on the gaming market as a whole, they are really starting to produce games that aren’t mini-game collections or licensed shovelware. The Gunstringer is one of those games that really makes sense on the Kinect, and is accessible enough that almost anyone that is able to play games using Kinect will probably have a fair amount of fun with this title. The brains at Twisted Pixel took the idea of a spaghetti western marionette show, and made it into a game that is full of the humor their games are known for.
The gameplay simulates the idea of having to hold an actual marionette doll up, while using your dominant hand to pretend you are shooting a finger-based weapon that is made of your thumb and index finger. Each level begins with you lifting your off-hand to pick up the on-screen character and begin that section’s adventure. From there, you guide your character through seemingly rail-based levels using your off-hand to avoid obstacles, jump over projectiles, or peek out from cover to fire upon your enemies. Most of the weapons are very forgiving, as you only have to be in the general area to mark the enemy as a target. Once you aim the cross-hair over your intended foes, they are selected, and you simply raise your trigger arm to let your bullets fly. There are riding levels, simple platforming areas, and cover-based shooting sections that break up the monotony that on-rails shooters can sometimes fall victim to. Perhaps the best part of the controls is that fact that standing is not required for this game, as sitting within working view of the sensor can provide a seamless experience that most Kinect games aren’t able to take advantage of. The levels are short enough that you won’t get tired and have an opportunity to take breaks, and are easy enough on the default difficulty settings that, even if you die, you have the option of continuing where you left off, as if you were playing an arcade cabinet. Some of the later boss battles might leave you feeling like you just took on a boss in a similar fashion, but the marionette-style battle will probably make you laugh at least a few times.
The graphics in the game follow the standard that the developer’s titles seem to abide by. Everything is crisp and neat looking, while the areas are full of bright colors that are anything but boring. The sounds are almost cartoon-like, and create just the right environment that you would expect from Twisted Pixel. The background music is subtle, but works perfectly for making you feel like you’re having that family, animated movie experience. The game even goes so far as to include live action cut-scenes of an actual, fictional audience watching a marionette show.
A standard playthrough on the default setting will only take you a few hours. As you complete each level, you earn money that you can use to unlock abilities and cheats, collectibles, and in-game rewards. Activating some of the level unlockables provide for a much more challenging experience, while you can also unlock the overall harder difficulty settings as you progress through the game. Completionists may have their work cut out for themselves, as some of the game’s more difficult achievements are meant for those gamers that are willing to master the skill required for this game. It won’t be impossible, but getting all of the achievements will require a lot of patience, and probably a little bit of luck.
While there is no online multiplayer component beyond the leaderboards, there is a pretty entertaining co-op experience that is fairly easy to jump into. The co-op is local only, but readily supports drop-in/drop-out functionality to keep the gun-slinging action going. Luckily, the game doesn’t punish you in the co-op mode like some other Twisted Pixel games have been known for, so feel relieved that you won’t have to rely on your partner to complete that insane co-op move that must be timed correctly in order to progress.
Overall, the game is a lot of fun and can easily give the whole family a reason to dust off the Kinect peripheral and take the exercise or dancing game disc out of the tray. Playing The Gunstringer can easily be played either solo or at a gathering of friends and family. It’s meant to be fun and obviously meant to be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. Oh, and just in case you’re a fan of bonus games included with your purchase, this one also includes an Xbox LIVE redeem code for the full version of Fruit Ninja Kinect!
*Twisted Pixel provided SlimGamer.com with a review copy.