E3 2011: The Gunstringer hands-on preview

Twisted Pixel is one of the few developers to make a Kinect title not carrying the Dance Central name that we’re actually excited about. Two years after releasing its first game on XBLA (the excellent ‘Splosion man), the developer is making the jump to retail with The Gunstringer.

In The Gunstringer, you guide a six-shooter packin’ marionette through four distinct plays, each divided into several acts. Our demo began with us jumping right into the fray in an Old West play, in which we guided the title character around Ponderosas (the trees, not the all-you-can-eat buffet joints), shot varmints and yellow-bellied cowards alike and even had to escape certain death from runaway boulders and logs.

Moving our cowboy around with our left hand and controlling his crosshairs and trigger with our right took a bit of getting used to – the separation of duties is a little like playing drums or rubbing your stomach and patting your belly at the same time. The learning curve lasted all of five minutes and after that, we had no problem painting up to six targets at a time and racking up combo kills with a wave of our hand. Thankfully, during the chase segments all we had to worry about was steering and jumping in time to clear gaps and other obstructions.

What surprised us the most was the amount of diversity in the demo – it seemed like we were always doing something different. In the Old West level, there was a heavy focus on gunplay, but even that changed things up on occasion. We had shootouts where we were offing enemies who were popping in and out of cover one minute and dual wielding pistols the next, with each gun firing automatically as soon as we acquired targets. In this case, the targets were crows – murderous, murderous crows.

The next section we saw was based on New Orleans. And while it didn’t exactly resemble any swamps we’ve seen, its hand-made aesthetic, with platforms made of popsicle sticks and trees made from paper-towel tubes, was heartwarming. This area had a heavy platforming focus with no combat until the very end. Before watching an uncomfortable scene depicting the tryst of an alligator wrestler and an alligator, we had to fistfight a boss with both hands. In typical Twisted Pixel fashion, even inter-species erotica is handled with a wink and a nod; in this case, “Let’s Get It On” was playing during the love-fest.

We’re counting down the days until The Gunstringer releases so we can finally put our Kinects to use for something other than dancing or (gasp) workout games.

Jun 15,2011

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