Delivering the Xbox 360’s first hardcore Kinect game is no short order. Twisted Pixel, creators of ‘Splosion Man and Comic Jumper, is stepping up to the plate as that developer, and their quirky motion-controlled Western is just was the cutting edge sensor needs. My time with the game at the Microsoft Games Showcase in San Francisco promises that creative developers can do incredible things with the new device outside of sports and dancing games.
The game starts off with a live real life crowd looking towards a stage with anticipation. The fallen Gunstringer lies in a shallow grave, with his dusty cowboy hat and blue bones peeking above the soil. That’s where you come in as the omnipotent puppet master. By raising your right hand you can lift the marionette’s strings, making The Gunstringer rise from his grave. Then the introduction begins telling a story of betrayal. The Gunstringer’s old posse did him wrong, and it’s time to get revenge.
After the opening scene I took control of The Gunstringer. The mechanics are simple, yet fun and precise. The Gunstringer’s movement is guided by your left hand. Motioning left, right, and up causes the dead cowboy to move side to side and leap over obstacles as he automatically runs down a path. Pointing a reticule with your right hand paints targets like goats and outlaws, and a quick flick of the wrist upwards unloads all six chambers in a fashion similar to John Marston’s Dead Eye ability. At first I thought being auto-propelled down a path would be a disappointment, but I was so focused on pointing at enemies and dodging obstacles that I didn’t even notice. Eventually you gain the ability to thrust your hand downwards, causing a realistic hand to slam into the ground, smashing opponents along with the fourth wall. The Gunstringer can be played standing up or sitting down, and both work equally well.
When you’re not hopping fences and downing whole packs of vultures, you’ll be engaging in cover-based gun fights. The most interesting of these I saw involves The Gunstringer facing off against his former cohort, The Wavy Tube Man (pictured above). This boss battle is fought by painting the inflatable enemy’s weak spots while hiding behind cover, then using your left hand to lean out and fire with your right. The Gunstringer automatically races to new cover after a certain amount of damage has been done. Cover-based shoot outs like these do well to mix up the gameplay, and I can’t wait to see what else Twisted Pixel has in store.
The Gunstringer controls incredibly well and packs tons of Twisted Pixel’s signature personality. A yet-to-be seen two-player mode is also in the works. It will be similar to Mario Galaxy’s co-op mod,e which grants a second player an additional reticule but no new character. The game will be downloadable via Xbox Live, but the developer isn’t discussing price points yet. Whether you have a Kinect or are looking for an excuse to think about picking one up, be sure to keep The Gunstringer on your radar.