PAXEast Hands-On Preview – The Gunstringer
I have said this before, but I will say again; Twisted Pixel is, without a doubt, my favorite among the small development studios. Every game they release is full of great retro gameplay and ridiculous humor; even the most common complaint, which is that the games they make are a little repetitive, is often a mute point since they are still fun and funny. I may not have played The Maw since I finished the last of the expansions, but I do still play ‘Splosion Man and Comic Jumper if, for nothing else, to show my friends what they are missing by not purchasing these great games. Their newest title, The Gunstringer, may just be their most ambitious title yet as it will be the first game released on Xbox Live Arcade to fully utilize the Kinect motion sensor.
For years the guys at Twisted Pixel had been wanting to do a game in which you controlled a marionette, and at a meeting with Microsoft when they first saw the Kinect in action they knew this was the device they were waiting for; but when it came to pitching a potential game to Microsoft they didn’t have any details past “marionette”. The key inspiration finally hit them when they noticed a painting of a skeletal gunslinger hanging on the wall of the room in which the meeting was taking place, and it was from there that The Gunstringer was born.
The Gunstringer combines modern motion controls, retro gameplay, and more imagination than most of the overrated triple AAA titles and pretentious indie titles combined. You control The Gunstringer, who has recently returned from the grave to seek vengeance on his former posse, which includes the usual assortment of wild west never-do-wells such as an oil tycoon, a old Chinese sage, a voodoo priestess, a brothel owner, and a wavy tube man (the kind you see in used car lots, only with a cowboy hat). Gameplay is very reminiscent of the classic shooter Space Harrier, though a better analogy may be Sin & Punishment for the Nintendo 64. The Gunstringer will run along a set path filled with obstacles which need to be maneuvered around; with your left hand you will control him similar to a marionette, moving him left and right and lifting your hand up to make him jump. To shoot all you need to do is make a gun with your fingers and point it at the enemies to highlight them, once you have highlighted between one and six enemies you cock your hand upwards as if your gun-finger is recoiling from a shot and The Gunstringer will dispatch all highlighted enemies. You also have special attacks, the one in the demo I played involved crushing you hand down at the screen to call down a giant hand to pummel your enemies (one of the puppeteers I imagine) and I hear there will be others, but all will involve simple motions to activate. It’s an extremely simple control scheme that the Kinect is known for utilizing, and it’s damn fun.
The game is done in the style of a marionette performance. It begins with a live action sequence of people showing up for an evening at the theatre, the whole thing was filmed at a famous theatre in Austin, Texas using a gathering of Twisted Pixel fans (I would have loved to be there, even though I hate being on camera). As the crowd gets ready for the show you see the performers getting everything set up behind the scenes, carrying The Gunstringer to his starting position on the stage, sitting him inside his grave and covering him with gravel and dirt. From there you need to lift your left hand to raise him from his grave and begin the tutorial where you learn the basics of moving and shooting. The Kinect works surprisingly well, this is actually the second game I played for the Kinect that seemed responsive and not overly gimmicky (the first being Dance Central). I was playing on a 15 inch TV and only about a foot and a half from the system while sitting down and had almost no problems with gameplay. It is astonishing that Twisted Pixel seems better at programming for the device than even Microsoft does. After you learn the basics The Gunstringer runs into the first member of the posse, Wavy Tube Man (posse secretary and events coordinator) beginning the first boss fight in which The Gunstringer takes cover while Wavy Tube Man flails around trying to smash him. The cover mechanic works surprisingly well, proving some nice gunfights later in the demo while not putting The Gunstringer at too much of an advantage.
After each segment you are treated to a reaction from the audience; cheers, boos, and two random men bro-hugging are just some of the reactions you will see, followed by a quote from a critic’s review. I played the first two scenes and was quite impressed with my experience, so much so that I will be actually purchasing a Kinect entirely for this game. I am dead serious. The game doesn’t have a set release date yet, but I heard we should be seeing it in 2011, here’s hoping sooner rather than later.
And on a final note, Twisted Pixel’s store has the best swag, especially their awesome line of maquettes (of which I have all buy Ms. ‘Splosion Man) so I will definitely be looking forward to what they put out for this (a real marionette would be heavenly).PAXEast Hands-On Preview - The Gunstringer,