Wednesday 14 September 2011

Today's Review: The Gunstringer

Since I started this blog I have realised that games are a hell of a lot harder to review than anything else. For food, you just have to eat it. For movies, you just spend two hours of your life watching something. Perhaps you may miss minor plot points because you're too busy making up witty things to put in your review, but no biggie. But games are bastards, especially the massive ones that take ages to finish. I only play games in the late hours when everyone ghoes to bed, and while I can still finish a game in a steady week or two, by the time I've gotten round to finishing it everyone else already has it and a review seems quite pointless. Plus I may only have gone through the game one way of several, and can't be bothered to do it all over again, so it's hard to form a proper critique of everything the game has to offer. The few times I have reviewed games on this blog I have often only scratched the surface, and therefore have probably given a terrible and biased review.

But to hell with it this time, because The Gunstringer is awesome. Even though I have played it for less than an hour I feel I need to shout from the hills: "Hey everybody, there is a good Kinect game out!" The Gunstringer is the latest offering from Twisted Pixel, the people behind Splosion Man and Comic Jumper, the latter of which I haven't played, the former of which I have. Their style is quirky, humorous and original, which is probably the exact kind of people you want making a game for your quirky and original console peripheral.

The game starts with a video of a puppet show being set up. The audience is in place, the props are ready, all that remains is for you to pick up the main character's marionette. With a flick of your left hand the story begins. You play as the titular Gunstringer, an awesome looking skeletal cowboy whose old posse left him for dead. He is now on a mission to deliver them justice, armed with his sharp shooting pistol. After you find and deflate the Wavy Tube Man with ease, it's off to find the rest of your victims.

The game mostly plays like an on rails shooter. You can move the Gunstringer left and right using your left hand, and jump by moving it upwards, while your right hand selects targets and pull the trigger with a flick of the wrist. The game suggests you turn your right hand into a finger gun, and while this isn't necessary, it is fun. The gameplay does change up quite frequently though, briefly changing into a cover based shooter, a side scrolling platformer or a vehicle section. The stages themselves are quite short, but the gameplay switches up often enough to really keep it fresh so you never get bored.

The visuals are awesome. Glimpses of the audience from the beginning can be seen in the background at times, and the props range from authentic looking buildings and barrels to paper cut townsfolk and beer can horses. Often massive real life hands drop in to throw down obstacles and smash others. The graphics are crisp, the characters have great detail, overall it's just a great game to look at.

But of course, this is all a show, and it wouldn't be complete without some input from the audience. People cheer you on as you aim and shoot, and boo if you get hit or screw up in any other way. There's also an old time cowboy narrator whose lines are wonderfully written and delivered, injecting large amounts of humour into the events, or simply telling you the accomplishments you pulled off with your finger gun.

What of the gameplay? This is Kinect after all, and I'm sure a lot of people are still a bit skeptical about how well it all works. The truth is it's not perfect, but it's very easy to control, and not a huge amount of mistakes were noticeable. The left hand maneuvering is a tad off, sometimes overreacting, sometimes not at all. Perhaps it takes some getting used to in order to negotiate all the obstacles, but I found myself smashing into things when my hand was clearly trying to avoid them, or not jumping after a large flick of the wrist. The right hand control can't really be faulted. The crosshair follows your movement perfectly, and the targets are automatically picked out for you to easily dispatch.

So yes, The Gunstringer is the first Kinect game I have actually considered buying on release date. It has awesome visuals, original and fluid gameplay and a great sense of humour. While I've only played through the first of five acts, and haven't even scratched the surface of the extras you can buy for it, I can only assume that this will make the game more awesome than it already is. So while the control may be a little bit off at times, this is a must play for anyone who owns a Kinect.

My rating: 5/5

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