The Gunstringer Hands-On Preview: The Good, the Bad, and the Controller-FreeBy Jake Gaskill - Posted Feb 26, 2011
The developers at Twisted Pixel have a true gift for creating games that not only feel entirely unique, but also look unlike anything you’ve ever seen. From The Maw to Splosion Man to Comic Jumper, Twisted Pixel have moved from one visually and mechanically fascinating title to the next, ramping up the quirkiness and originality with each step. For their latest effort, the marionette-inspired, spaghetti western parody title for the Kinect, The Gunstringer, the team has pushed this trend to the next logical level: motion controlled puppetry…with guns.
“Where he came from no one knew…though I once heard tell he was kicked out of Castolon, Texas, for teaching a mule to play poker, breaking one of the few laws in that frontier town at the time. His goal was to get revenge on his old posse who had packed him with lead and left him with a permanent address under three feet of Texas clay...then get dangerously drunk on apple jack whiskey. He was a one-man judge, jury and executioner on the bloody vengeance trail. He was...the Gunstringer."
After dragging himself out of a premature grave, the Gunstringer staggers his way through a sun-baked graveyard, in desperate need of someone to step in and put his strings to good use.Since the game is powered by Kinect, and it’s puppet-based, the controls are about what you’d expect. Your left hand controls jumping (motion up) and is used to move the Gunstringer from side to side; the game moves the character forward, and into/out of cover, automatically. You use your right hand to move your reticle across the screen, allowing you to mark and target multiple enemies at once; when you’re ready to fire, you simple make a recoil motion with your hand. You can also pull off a super attack by waving your right arm down sharply, which, again, in true Twisted Pixel fashion, causes a live-action fist to descend from the sky and wipe out all the enemies in the area.
What was most surprising about the controls, aside from the fact that they were allowing me to manipulate a virtual marionette into blasting vultures and cows to bits, was how natural it felt. There was a slight lag, but it was much more responsive than I was expecting. The only slight issue I had was with the firing motion, but this was mainly when I was shooting from around cover. You move your hand left or right to lean, but sometimes, when you lean to the right, your left hand can cross into your right hand’s zone, which appeared to confuse the Kinect sensor. Of course, this was an early build of the game, so this kind of issue isn't terribly surprising.. But for the most part, the game felt solid, even in its early state.
At the end of my 15 minutes of hands-on time, I had successfully navigated an avalanche of boulders, shot my way through dozens of gun toting baddies, and brought down a towering, dancing balloon boss, all without a controller. I honestly couldn’t name you five Kinect games that are coming in the next year, but I can tell you the one I’m most looking forward to seeing more of. Here’s a hint: it rhymes perfectly with The Gunstringer, and its scheduled to release on Xbox Live Arcade this fall.