The Gunstringer is a western-themed and Kinect-powered puppet show with an audience, no less. They appear in cut-scenes filmed in a mock theatre, and during the game they hoot, clap and cheer you on, booing when you’re hit by the bad guys’ bullets. Gunstringer is beautifully presented as a mock puppet show, and benefits from many touches of humour, the comical expressions and reactions of the audience all being part of that.
West of Eden
The game itself is an on-rails shooter crossed with a platform game. As the Gunstringer, you move down a set path, your left hand controlling marionette strings which move the character left or right, and cause him to jump when yanked upwards. Your right hand aims his gun, tagging enemies in Child of Eden style, and it’s fired by snapping your hand back in a recoil motion (just like playing cowboys as a kid).
There are vultures and varmints to be shot, boulders to be dodged, high explosives to be leapt over, precarious platforms to negotiate, stampeding herds of cattle to be weaved through, and giant fireworks to be ridden through the air.
Essentially it’s all dodging and shooting, but the game throws in a nice amount of variety, with some quite different scenes where the Gunstringer is involved in shoot-outs where he must pop in and out of cover, or simultaneously wield dual guns to shoot masses of incoming enemies. Boss fights are also thrown in for good measure, although these are a bit samey.
The Kinect controls work very well for aiming, as well as movement for the most part – although when you want to move quickly you tend to skip too far across the screen. That can have nasty results, particularly in the claustrophobic single-screen boss battles.
Gunstringer is certainly good fun, although best played in short bursts as your arms tend to get tired. It’s possible to sit down while playing, fortunately, but even then we experienced rather aching shoulders after 30 minutes or so. The campaign is pretty short anyway, so it’s best to make it last – although there are always high scores to beat, and a two player co-op mode for some extra longevity.
It’s also worth mentioning that the game comes with a free code to download Fruit Ninja Kinect, a welcome extra.
- Puppet theme and presentation is smartly implemented; leaping and shooting is plain, old-fashioned fun.
- Controls can be occasionally glitchy; soon gets tiring on the old arms.
A simple but entertaining on-rails shooter with platform elements, Gunstringer has enough variety to keep you entertained, and it's presented with commendable attention to detail. While they work well on the whole, the Kinect controls aren't quite perfect, and the campaign is a little short. Also prepare for your arms to get quite a workout!