Easter Eggs: The Gunstringer

By Chewie, 1 year ago
Welcome to Easter Eggs, where the TA Team shines the spotlight on games that many gamers might have missed, perhaps hidden away behind the millionth copy of Call of Duty or FIFA. Much like a gamer who finds an Easter Egg hidden away in a game and proceeds to trumpet it from the highest hills and forums, the TA Team is going to be featuring these Easter Egg games on the front page for all to see.Since it was first released in 2010, the Kinect has been a bone of contention amongst gamers. Whilst some embrace the possibilities of motion control to enhance and expand the medium, others see it as a gimmick that delivers little and works even less. The majority of games produced for the device probably didn't help the argument, with most fitting in the dance, fitness or "special" genres, rather than any immersive story-driven experience. Proponents of the device were waiting for that "killer app" that would show just what it could be capable of to silence the naysayers. Then, in 2011, Twisted Pixel (the minds behind such titles as Splosion Man and The Maw) brought us The Gunstringer.

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The Basics

The Gunstringer is a rail-shooter featuring the titular hero, a skeletal cowboy hell-bent on revenge against the gang of crooks who killed him. Working his way through four "plays" of five acts each and a boss battle of epic proportion at the end of each play, ol' Stringy uses his trusty six shooter to blast his way through hundreds of baddies. The player uses their hands to control his movements (left) and aiming/shooting (right). The majority of the game is a linear path where the player most navigate over, under and around obstacles whilst shooting. There are also sections where the stringer must set up shots from behind cover as assailants jump out of saloon windows and from behind hay bales, as well as some levels that mix things up by introducing different play-styles. As well as playing solo, the whole game can be played in couch co-op.

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The Hook

What sets The Gunstringer apart from other rail shooters is two things. The first is the game's humour. Other Twisted Pixel titles are known for their irreverent and literally twisted comedy elements, and this game is no different. As an example, the first boss of the game, encountered in the tutorial, is a giant wavy tube man of the kind found in car dealership forecourts. Also, the game has a unique and genius framing device that the whole thing is being presented as a theatrical performance and features live action scenes of the audience reacting to the unfolding events. This also allows for a wonderful gravelly-voiced narration over the action, as well as gasps and cheers from the audience at appropriate moments. If you like things a little off-the-wall, this is definitely a game to look into. Each play has a unique visual style that reflects the big baddy who the hero is rooting out, from eastern influenced samurais to undead armies, things are kept fresh whilst also staying rooted in the game's Western-style origins.

The other thing that sets the game apart is the controls. This is an instance where the Kinect motion aspects actually enhance the experience as they are integrated seamlessly into the action. Having the game's hero as a string puppet controlled by the player's hand is a slick choice whilst using the other hand to target baddies, then pull back to fire off your rounds, feels natural and fluid. The other thing that sets this Kinect title apart from many others is that it can be played entirely sitting down. Yes, that's right, no clearing a load of floor space and jumping around like a loony, simply pull up a chair and go for it.

As a score-attack game, there's plenty of replayability as you try and go for that perfect run. As well as getting a score and medals, you also gain credits that can be spent in a store to unlock various modifiers that effect how the game runs, as well as tons of bonus content.

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The Achievements

The base game of The Gunstringer has 50 achievements for 1000G. There are also two achievement carrying DLCs with 250G each, bringing the grand total to 1500G.

Strangely enough, the majority of players have only unlocked a handful of achievements in the title and only 20% of players have completed the main story. That shouldn't put people off though as the story isn't particularly long and is easily completable on lower difficulty settings. In fact, as with many Kinect titles, the ratios for many achievements are quite inflated, so if someone's looking for a quick TA score and ratio boost, this is definitely the game for them.

Simply playing through the story will net you around 20 of the game's achievements, whilst most of the rest of them are for doing specific actions such as getting a high kill streak or not losing any hearts in a play. Although quite a few of these are much more easily attainable than their ratios might suggest, there are a handful of achievements that could be considered serious business. Two examples task you with getting gold medals in all levels and playing the whole game on Hardcore in one session without dying. That last one has a whopping 13 ratio and I salute anyone who's managed it.

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The Stats

Fewer than 14,000 tracked gamers have started The Gunstringer. Of that number, fewer than 80 have completed the main game (0.55%) and 50 have completed it and all the DLC (0.37%). Our community has rated it at 3.8/5 from 1160 votes, whilst Metacritic has it at 77/100.

The Price

(Don't feel the need to scour the web for the best price, just check your usual online sources.)

In the US, GameStop has the game for under $20 new, whilst Amazon.com currently lists it at $15. In the UK, Amazon.co.uk has the game for new for under £12. New copies also come bundled with a free code for Fruit Ninja Kinect. Pre-owned, the price drops to around the $10 / £5 mark. Pre-owned versions will probably miss out on the free copy of Fruit Ninja, though.

The two DLC packs are currently $2.99 / £1.99. Although both have been on sale before, they haven't for a couple of years now.

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The Verdict

Love or loathe the Kinect, if you've got one, you'll be doing yourself a disservice by not giving The Gunstringer a try to see what can happen when the device is implemented well. It's one of the main arguments for what the device could be but is sorely underplayed. Even disregarding the Kinect, it's simply a fun and funny title that should be played. Now if only someone would make some more similarly decent Kinect titles for the One.

If there's a game you'd like to see featured in Easter Eggs, be sure to let us know in the comments!
Written by Chewie
Chewie is a Wookiee from Kashyyyk. Since helping the Rebel Alliance defeat the Emperor, he has taken up Achievement-Hunting and Newshoundery on TA. Also, ice-skating.