Games make puppeteers of us all, handing us control of digital marionettes through the invisible strings of our game pads. But where most games seek to hide that reality, this Kinect-powered title celebrates it by asking players to control the puppet star of a Wild West-themed Punch and Judy show.
The marionette is question is the game’s eponymous hero, an undead gunman out to deliver six-shooter vengeance on the dastardly desperados who put him six foot under, and moving him is a breeze. One hand acts as the vertical marionette controls: moving left or right drags him sideways while an upward motion lifts him skyward (forward movement is automatic).
The other hand handles the gun slinging – picking out targets before letting rip with a simple flick of the wrist. While there are platforming moments for variety’s sake, it’s the prancing around with a loaded index-and-middle finger that lies at the heart of The Gunstringer’s appeal. That and silliness, for The Gunstringer is nothing if not silly.
The game’s tongue-in-cheek narrator drawls a steady stream of jokes while the puppet show’s real-life audience boos, gasps and cheers along to the action. There are Muppet-like baddies and giant hands that roll Indiana Jones boulders at the Gunstringer. Not to mention the hobby horse riding, a fight with a giant inflatable tube man and – look away now if you’re squeamish – a lumberjack getting it on with a gator.
Cheery and quirky as this all is, it’s not unblemished. The platforming, which is reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot, adds variety but sometimes outstays its welcome, and the Kinect occasionally misses the signal to shoot (although the game’s forgiving enough for this not to be too problematic). But with its mid-range price tag, warped humour and a copy of Fruit Ninja Kinect thrown in for good measure, there’s still a rip snortin’ time to be had.