PAX Prime 2011: The Gunstringer Impressions & Details

Good news 360 owners! It’s almost time to shake the dust off of your Kinect again, because The Gunstringer from Twisted Pixel studios will be hitting the shelves this September. News and screenshots have been circling around for some time now, but this year at PAX, I was actually able to get some hands on time with this quirky new title. In The Gunstringer, you take on the role of a skeletal, sharpshooting cowboy out on a bloody quest for revenge. In short, I had a lot of fun with the game and think it looks like one of the most promising titles for the Kinect thus far. But lets delve a little deeper shall we?

As you play, you will be using your left hand to control the side to side movement and jumping of the gunstringer just as you would with a real marionette, while you manage aiming and shooting with your right. After a brief acclimation period, I found this all to feel very natural and intuitive. Holding your right hand in the shape of a gun and actually having it fire on screen is a strangely satisfying experience. Locking onto and shooting targets that flash across the screen is done in a similar fashion to what you might have seen or tried in Child of Eden, only with less elbow strain. Aside from the shooting portions of the game, however, The Gunstringer will also be prompting you to take place in beat em’ up style fist fights, 2D jumping and dodging sections, and even dual pistol wielding action in which you will be using both hands to shoot down targets in rapid succession as they come at you from both sides of the screen.

I really like the character

The game is meant to be a puppet show come to life, with certain sections and boss fights being seen from the audience’s perspective (which happens to be a real life audience recorded at a local theatre in Austin, Texas). Everything starts off with applause as the curtain rises and our hero emerges from a dusty Texas grave, seeking revenge on his former gang members that shot and left him for dead (Red Dead Redemption?). Taking a cue from Bastion, a grizzly sounding narrator begins walking you through the story and basics of gameplay. As you play through the first level, you will discover that the game tries not to take itself too seriously, with the narrator spouting out all sorts of goofy commentary, and the gunstringer picking up magical tacos that power him up and boost your score.

When I asked about what sort of problems the development team ran into in dealing with the Kinect, I was surprised to hear nothing but optimism. According to the Twisted Pixel team, developing The Gunstringer for the Kinect was both fun and relatively painless, in spite of the fact that it was their first time dealing with the new hardware. The studio had apparently been planning to make a game involving puppets for some time now, but it wasn’t until their on-the-spot meeting with Microsoft that they actually settled on a character. Apparently, as the story goes, the meeting with Microsoft took place in a restaurant, and the guys from Twisted Pixel were stressing because they still hadn’t come up with a suitable protagonist for their game; that is, until they were touched by a stroke of genius when they glanced over at the bar and saw a painted skeleton in a cowboy hat hanging from the ceiling.

The graphics match the overall style of the game

Sticking with the play format, the game is broken up into four separate Acts/worlds with four levels and a boss battle within each one. We will have to wait and see how long each of these levels are, but I think it would be safe to assume that this game will be somewhere between four to six hours in length. Aside from the standard six shooter revolver, you can also expect to see a shotgun and a flamethrower. Everybody loves flamethrowers, right? There will also be a co-op multiplayer option available, where player one controls the movement and jumping, along with the red aiming reticle, while player two helps by aiming and shooting with a second (blue) reticle on the same screen.

I personally haven’t used my Kinect since Child of Eden came out in June, which was extremely short lived. But in the time I spent with it, I found myself preferring the overall control scheme and concept of The Gunstringer over my memories of Eden. But only time will tell. I am happy to say that Gunstringer will be properly priced (as Eden should have been) at $39.99 rather than the standard sixty dollars, seeing how it isn’t exactly a fully featured, large budget, game like Deus Ex: Human Revolution. However, I most certainly think it will be worth your time. I wouldn’t personally go out and buy a Kinect just to play it, but the game looks promising none the less. It seems to be tailored to both hardcore gamers and families/kids alike, so there should be a little something for everyone to enjoy with this one.

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