Since the release of Red Dead Redemption, the western genre has been gaining steam in all forms of media. From movies to video games, everyone has cowboy fever. Even the good ol’ boys at Twisted Pixel of Austin, Texas have caught the fever with The Gunstringer. And who better to create a western game that uses the Kinect than a couple of Texas hombres?
This tall tale of revenge stars The Gunstringer: a rough n’ tough undead cowboy marionette who was betrayed and left for dead by his former posse. The game takes place in five sections that represent the Old West and uses some unique gameplay mechanics. But is that enough for the Twisted Pixel' posse's first disk release?
Now before I talk about the game itself, I want to talk about something that I really liked that wasn’t in the game at all: how the Gunslinger came to be. For those who don’t know, CEO Mike Wilford and CCO Josh Bear came up with the idea of the Gunstringer on the spot after they realized that the pitch they had done before wouldn’t work on the Kinect due to its inability to track individual finger motions. So during a dinner meeting with two Microsoft reps, Bear quickly looked around the restaurant to find something to base a quick concept on. That’s when he saw a picture of a cowboy skeleton and the rest was history.
HI-YO SILVER! AWAY!
A Show For The Ages - The presentation for the Gunstringer is unique. The game starts off with a live action bit showing a theater full of people and a theater crew getting ready for the evening show. As the curtain pulls up to start the show, we are pulled into the world of the Gunstringer. Twisted Pixel uses a mixture of live action segments and in-game cinematics/gameplay to bring the game to life, literally at times. From the mysterious giant fist that occasionally either helps or hinders the Gunstringer to the audience cheering or jeering the game, the game really tries to pull you into the world and it does a good job at it.
Bang, Bang You’re Dead - A running joke that the Kinect has spawned when first introduced was that games on the Kinect will make us use our hands as guns and we’ll go ‘pew pew’. Twisted Pixel thought that was funny and decided to do just that. The controls are really simple: left hand controls the Gunstringer while the right hand is his gun hand. Firing the gun requires sweeping over the enemies and once you have a lock on six just cock your hand back just like a gun and the Gunslinger will fire his six shooter. Feel free to say ‘Bang Bang’ for added affect.
Funnier Than a City Boy Getting Bucked Off a Bronco - If the Twisted Pixel team weren’t in the video game industry, they’d make great comedy writers. The Gunstringer manages to take all of the western themes and tropes we're familiar with and blending them together into one funny package. From the inside jokes that we Texans will get to the obvious nods to spaghetti westerns like A Fist Full of Dollars, The Good The Bad and The Ugly and many others, there are plenty of laughs here. In fact, the Gunstringer himself is modeled after Clint Eastwoods’ character in A Man With no Name. Not only to they pay homage to these westerns, but they also take a crack at them, and promote the game as using the greatest engine to be created: The Beard Engine.
Music So Good You'll Want to Wrangle Cattle - Twisted Pixel’s composer Matt “Chainsaw” Chaney delivers another great soundtrack for the Gunstringer. He takes traditional spaghetti western music and gives it a 21th century spin without losing its feel or intensity. When you listen to the music (which is free to download right now on the Gunstringer website) you feel like you’re the Gunstringer taking down rustlers and dueling in the middle of a dusty road as tumbleweeds roll by.
BACK OFF CITY BOY
Felt/Was Rushed - With all that good that has been said so far, how can there be something bad with the Gunstringer? Well there is and I feel it’s a big one. The game felt kind of rushed. Originally, The Gunstringer was set to be released in October on XBLA. Instead it was announced that Twisted Pixel would have the game go retail and get released in September instead. Whether this was their decision or as a part to seal their deal with Microsoft to become a part of Microsoft Studios, the game felt rushed. There times when the controls are ether not responsive or are delayed by a second or so. In addition to that, Twisted Pixel clams that this is the first Kinect game that you can play sitting down. While it does work to an extent, I found myself standing back up so that the game could properly pick up my gestures. With a small push back they could have addressed these problems and improved on the functionality of the Gunstringer with the Kinect.
The Gunstringer is a fun but flawed game. With its over the top action, great music and comedic writing, it will sure to please those who play it. However, the game should have taken the extra time to work out the mechanics of using Kinect. By no means is the Gunstringer a bad game, it’s a really good and fun game. I just feel that Twisted Pixel should have kept their original timeline instead of going to retail a month early. Either way, The Gunstringer is as rootin’, tootin’ and fun a game as you can find this side of the Rio Grande and should be given a chance.
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