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The Gunstringer Is a Retail Game Now, But Is It Any Good?

In which Alex attempts to make objective judgments about a game his name appears in.

Let's just push this bit of business out of the way right up front: my name appears in The Gunstringer. Twisted Pixel's lead designer on the project, a surly, vaguely unattractive Australian by the name of Dan Teasdale, is someone I've worked alongside in my sordid past. Part of the game's grading system involves "review quotes" from various "critics." According to Teasdale's site blog on the subject, he apparently wanted a "likable jerk" to help provide quotes. Evidently, he first thought of me, which I guess is sweet. Sort of.

The only thing more terrifying than skeletons with guns is Dan Teasdale's haircut.
The only thing more terrifying than skeletons with guns is Dan Teasdale's haircut.

Anyway, I sent him a bunch of fake review quotes to use in the game. I did this entirely gratis, as it'd probably be something of a conflict of interest to be paid for such work. Plus, I like dangling favors like this over people's heads, calling in return favors at the most inopportune and uncomfortable times. And, I get to say I contributed to a game alongside a personal hero of mine in Troma Films founder Lloyd Kaufman, who also submitted some alarmingly bizarre quotes. Seemed worth potentially tarnishing my good name.

Now that you know all of this information, you may now marvel as I attempt to actually make objective judgments about The Gunstringer, based on my first attempt at playing it at this year's E3. The unpleasant Australian man himself is at the Microsoft booth demoing the game, and despite my general reluctance toward being in the same room as him, my curiosity toward this bizarre product I've lent my name to got the best of me.

If you're unaware of the game's premise, here's the quick and dirty version. The game is a puppet show. Almost literally. All the game's action takes place on a "stage," complete with a live action video audience that the game will periodically cut away to for reaction shots and applause/boos. Your character, the titular Gunstringer, is a skeletal cowboy on a mission for revenge. All the action is built into Microsoft's Kinect sensor, with your left hand controlling the "strings" of the Gunstringer, and the right controlling the gun. Movements are generally simple, requiring you to direct your left hand left, or right to move the Gunstringer, and up to make him jump. To shoot, you simply point your right hand at the screen, and cock it back to fire.

The entire game is on rails, so all you need to worry about is dodging, jumping, and shooting. One section of the game I saw being played by someone else did involve some side-scrolling gameplay, with a good deal of jumping and obstacle dodging, though still while on rails.

The question with any Kinect game at this point in the technology's lifespan generally tends to be, "Do the controls work?" Good news: yes. I've heard from some that previous builds of the game played a little loose, with more latency between your movements and the in-game reactions than you'd tend to want. I experienced nothing of the sort in the latest E3 build. The controls felt appropriately sensitive, and the Gunstringer would react to my movements with appropriate levels of sensitivity to my admittedly violent gesticulations. It feels good, and best of all? You can play sitting down.

I can't tell you how badly I've wanted to put a whole mess of bullets into one of these things.
I can't tell you how badly I've wanted to put a whole mess of bullets into one of these things.

The game will, of course, feature Twisted Pixel's trademark brand of absurdist, borderline sociopathic humor. You'll be fighting everything from murderous wobbly arms puppets to unholy cross-breedings between lumberjacks and alligators. Apparently there's a pretty good, too-long sex scene between a lumberjack and an alligator somewhere in the game, so that's super hot.

Take these opinions with as many grains of salt as you please. My closeness to the game obviously prevents me from ever reviewing the final product, but I was honestly just curious to get my hands on the thing after all these months of emails filled with abject cursing and ludicrous legal threats between myself and Mr. Teasdale. And I honestly came away digging it. Today's news that The Gunstringer would move from the realm of Xbox Live Arcade to a final retail product is an interesting one, though Teasdale did say to me that they are planning on fleshing the game out with more content in anticipation of the retail release. At least, that's what I inferred from the series of the dismissive wanking motions he kept making every time I'd ask a question.

We'll bring you more on The Gunstringer as it gets closer to release. Though I probably won't. Not until Teasdale makes good on that favor, at least. Any suggestions on what kind of horrible thing I can make him do? I'm thinking some kind of secret murder on my behalf.

Alex Navarro on Google+

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alex

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Edited By alex  Staff • 

Let's just push this bit of business out of the way right up front: my name appears in The Gunstringer. Twisted Pixel's lead designer on the project, a surly, vaguely unattractive Australian by the name of Dan Teasdale, is someone I've worked alongside in my sordid past. Part of the game's grading system involves "review quotes" from various "critics." According to Teasdale's site blog on the subject, he apparently wanted a "likable jerk" to help provide quotes. Evidently, he first thought of me, which I guess is sweet. Sort of.

The only thing more terrifying than skeletons with guns is Dan Teasdale's haircut.
The only thing more terrifying than skeletons with guns is Dan Teasdale's haircut.

Anyway, I sent him a bunch of fake review quotes to use in the game. I did this entirely gratis, as it'd probably be something of a conflict of interest to be paid for such work. Plus, I like dangling favors like this over people's heads, calling in return favors at the most inopportune and uncomfortable times. And, I get to say I contributed to a game alongside a personal hero of mine in Troma Films founder Lloyd Kaufman, who also submitted some alarmingly bizarre quotes. Seemed worth potentially tarnishing my good name.

Now that you know all of this information, you may now marvel as I attempt to actually make objective judgments about The Gunstringer, based on my first attempt at playing it at this year's E3. The unpleasant Australian man himself is at the Microsoft booth demoing the game, and despite my general reluctance toward being in the same room as him, my curiosity toward this bizarre product I've lent my name to got the best of me.

If you're unaware of the game's premise, here's the quick and dirty version. The game is a puppet show. Almost literally. All the game's action takes place on a "stage," complete with a live action video audience that the game will periodically cut away to for reaction shots and applause/boos. Your character, the titular Gunstringer, is a skeletal cowboy on a mission for revenge. All the action is built into Microsoft's Kinect sensor, with your left hand controlling the "strings" of the Gunstringer, and the right controlling the gun. Movements are generally simple, requiring you to direct your left hand left, or right to move the Gunstringer, and up to make him jump. To shoot, you simply point your right hand at the screen, and cock it back to fire.

The entire game is on rails, so all you need to worry about is dodging, jumping, and shooting. One section of the game I saw being played by someone else did involve some side-scrolling gameplay, with a good deal of jumping and obstacle dodging, though still while on rails.

The question with any Kinect game at this point in the technology's lifespan generally tends to be, "Do the controls work?" Good news: yes. I've heard from some that previous builds of the game played a little loose, with more latency between your movements and the in-game reactions than you'd tend to want. I experienced nothing of the sort in the latest E3 build. The controls felt appropriately sensitive, and the Gunstringer would react to my movements with appropriate levels of sensitivity to my admittedly violent gesticulations. It feels good, and best of all? You can play sitting down.

I can't tell you how badly I've wanted to put a whole mess of bullets into one of these things.
I can't tell you how badly I've wanted to put a whole mess of bullets into one of these things.

The game will, of course, feature Twisted Pixel's trademark brand of absurdist, borderline sociopathic humor. You'll be fighting everything from murderous wobbly arms puppets to unholy cross-breedings between lumberjacks and alligators. Apparently there's a pretty good, too-long sex scene between a lumberjack and an alligator somewhere in the game, so that's super hot.

Take these opinions with as many grains of salt as you please. My closeness to the game obviously prevents me from ever reviewing the final product, but I was honestly just curious to get my hands on the thing after all these months of emails filled with abject cursing and ludicrous legal threats between myself and Mr. Teasdale. And I honestly came away digging it. Today's news that The Gunstringer would move from the realm of Xbox Live Arcade to a final retail product is an interesting one, though Teasdale did say to me that they are planning on fleshing the game out with more content in anticipation of the retail release. At least, that's what I inferred from the series of the dismissive wanking motions he kept making every time I'd ask a question.

We'll bring you more on The Gunstringer as it gets closer to release. Though I probably won't. Not until Teasdale makes good on that favor, at least. Any suggestions on what kind of horrible thing I can make him do? I'm thinking some kind of secret murder on my behalf.

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Choffy

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Edited By Choffy • 

Looks interesting. Reminds me of Strangers Wrath for some reason (it's really not even close though).

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neoepoch

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Edited By neoepoch • 

Twisted Pixel with a retail release, wouldn't that be a...well.

@Choffy:Damn it.

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Thoseposers

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Edited By Thoseposers • 

Go twisted pixel! You guys are awesome :D

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SamFo

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Edited By SamFo • 

oh jeez... for anything more than 1600 ms pts im not so sure...

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Absolute_Zero

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Edited By Absolute_Zero • 

Don't worry Alex, I trust your opinion. :)

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Shabs

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Edited By Shabs • 

Making this a full retail release is disappointing.

I was looking to this for a fun toy to use my Kinect with. If we're talking about a full-priced product, it's now competing for my dollars with non-Kinect titles so it's a hard sell. 1200 - 1600 MS points would have been a no-brainer.

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m0rdr3d

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Edited By m0rdr3d • 

Alex has been twerkin his sh** overtime!  While I respect his opinions and appreciate the read, I need to go hands-on with this one to make the ol giblets up.
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teh_destroyer

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Edited By teh_destroyer • 

Alex has quotes in a video game, will buy it just for that :).

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MisterMouse

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Edited By MisterMouse • 

not to much actually writing about how the game is exactly, but a good write up nonetheless.

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billyhoush

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Edited By billyhoush • 

I want a video game made by PFFR now.

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JoshyLee

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Edited By JoshyLee • 

Yo, Alex. I think you mean "Troma."

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Deusoma

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Edited By Deusoma • 
@Choffy said:

Looks interesting. Reminds me of Strangers Wrath for some reason (it's really not even close though).

It's the appearance of the main character that's doing it.
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234r2we232

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Edited By 234r2we232 • 

Fool me once, Twisted Pixel, shame on you. 
 
Fool me twice... shame on me. 

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Xpgamer7

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Edited By Xpgamer7 • 

I hated Comic Jumper, but I'm looking forward to this.

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radioactivez0r

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Edited By radioactivez0r • 

Hard to say what the intent was, but this read a little too much like "I'm Alex, and people know me.  Also, Gunstringer is retail now."

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ProfessorEss

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Edited By ProfessorEss • 

I'm expecting this to be fun, but I'm also expecting it to be fairly short and shallow. This is going to have to have a lot more going on in it than I was expecting to warrant the new price tag. 

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WinterSnowblind

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Edited By WinterSnowblind • 

Twisted Pixel are amazing, even if Comic Jumper was slightly underwhelming.. But I just don't know how interested I am for anything that's on-rails.

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Edited By buft • 

fuck that! i wouldnt pay $60 for a kinect title ever again!

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ProfessorEss

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Edited By ProfessorEss • 

At the very least it'll be interesting to see if this really is a "retail" game - or if Microsoft's plan is to release Kinect "arcade" titles on discs. 
 
I'm not confident this is a smart move (I'll probably be wrong as usual). Short of some big surprise Gunstringer has moved from from "day one" to "day I find it in a bargain bin".

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Edited By winsord • 

I actually had always thought this was a retail game, so it's fine by me.

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Matt_

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Edited By Matt_ • 

I always appreciate when a journalist fully discloses his ties to something he is writing about. Respect.

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Edited By sammo21 • 

How much of this becoming a retail game do you think is in reference to the fact most of the user base who uses and is interested in Kinect probably doesn't care about Xbox Live or even knows you can download games?

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Edited By nkornek • 

I would gladly give Twisted Pixel more money and this game looks awesome

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Hailinel

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Edited By Hailinel • 

"Trauma" Films?

I believe that would be Troma.

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the_9th_wonder

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Have him cook and feed you his first born.
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Shabs

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Edited By Shabs • 

@sammo21 said:

How much of this becoming a retail game do you think is in reference to the fact most of the user base who uses and is interested in Kinect probably doesn't care about Xbox Live or even knows you can download games?

Perhaps that's true but a lot of the pitch to get the Xbox in to a family household has to do with Xbox Live-related functionality.

They just need a less intimidating UI, and from what I understand we're getting that in the fall.

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Edited By Lobster_Monster • 

I was interested in this as an XBLA title, but frankly this doesn't look like it's worth full price, especially with all of the other games coming out this holiday season. Twisted Pixel had my $15.00, now they get nothing.

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christ0phe

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Edited By christ0phe • 

Doesn't seem like Alex really contributed much to the game...don't know what he's worried about

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Edited By dvorak • 

There's no way I will pay for this as a boxed title. Besides, I've ended up purchasing all of and not really liking any of the Twisted Pixel games.

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wsowen02

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Edited By wsowen02 • 

Really enjoying Alex's contributions to GB

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Edited By MeatSim • 

I kinda wanna play the game just see what kind of quotes Alex made but I am not getting a Kinect.

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Edited By FreakAche • 

I love Twisted Pixel. Maybe I should just get a Kinect already.

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Edited By Bumbuliuz • 

I liked the game as a Xbla game. But as a higher priced retail game, I'm not so sure any more.

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Edited By jozzy • 

 

Twisted Pixel's lead designer on the project, a surly, vaguely unattractive Australian by the name of Dan Teasdale, is someone I've worked alongside in my sordid past. 

Alex, I really like your work in general but I hope this is a joke I don't get. I don't think how someone looks is relevant at all and insulting someone in this fashion reflects poorly on you. 
 
I might be looking at the wrong E3 footage, because apparently I've been missing all the super hunky game developers and press that someones looks are worthy of a mention.
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Edited By admanb • 
@jozzy
 

Twisted Pixel's lead designer on the project, a surly, vaguely unattractive Australian by the name of Dan Teasdale, is someone I've worked alongside in my sordid past. 

Alex, I really like your work in general but I hope this is a joke I don't get. I don't think how someone looks is relevant at all and insulting someone in this fashion reflects poorly on you. 
 
I might be looking at the wrong E3 footage, because apparently I've been missing all the super hunky game developers and press that someones looks are worthy of a mention.
Dude... he is "insulting" someone he knows in real life. They are probably friends.
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rmanthorp

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Edited By rmanthorp  Moderator • 

PEW PEW

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TheCheese33

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Edited By TheCheese33 • 

@buft said:

fuck that! i wouldnt pay $60 for a kinect title ever again!

You never did pay $60, because they all go for $50.

Looking forward to this!

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Edited By Shin • 

If it means more content, sure I'm on board.

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icanswim

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Edited By icanswim • 

looking forward to the FMV, not sure this is enough to convince me to get a kinect though...