If we could choose any developer to live in our hair, it'd be Twisted Pixel. Their games are inflated to bursting point with personality. Any opportunity for a song or a joke is seized, and every chance to slip their own faces into the game is grabbed. Everything they do carries the heavy stink of people who love their job and like each other. It could be a lie, but if it is, we don't want to know.
It's the same with The Gunstringer. The game opens with a movie of the team running around backstage, trying to get The Gunstringer show ready. There's an audience of real people in the background of the cartoon stage. There's a Bastion-esque narrator, who comments on your performance while the audience boo and cheer. And there's you, the puppeteer of the latest game that's trying to do something new with Kinect.
We're relieved, and mightily chuffed, to say that The Gunstringer works. For a reason so confoundingly simple that it's amazing it hasn't caught on. It plays to Kinect's strengths. You use your left hand to control his sideways movements, with a jerk upwards to jump. Trace your right hand over the enemies to lock onto six targets, then flick your forearm up to fire.
The two simple motions work together brilliantly, standing or sat down. The puppet strings mean it instantly makes sense. And when the action gets intense, you'll only occasionally feel limited by the imprecision of these large gestures.
Other controls mix it up - at times, you'll use both hands to fire, taking out two streams of enemies at once. At other times, you'll use your left hand to drag the hero in and out of cover. These are all clever and immediately comfortable - but there are times when it doesn't work so well. The times when you're restricted to just jumping are needlessly simple, and the fist-fights could have been a little less brain-dead than right-left-right-left-win. At these times, it's down to the game's raw charm to force you to forgive it. It pulls it off.
There's a worry that The Gunstringer's natural home is in the arcade, with Twisted Pixel's other titles. It's a short game, that's slightly prone to repetition, so £30 might be a big ask for a slim offering. Between them Twisted Pixel and Microsoft have made up the difference. It comes with Fruit Ninja - a great tech demo that only really makes sense as part of a bundle. And there's an outstanding 2Gb lump of free Day 1 DLC. It's different again to the game - it's a gobsmacking interactive movie with acting that'd make Hollyoaks look like a stage production.
On its own, The Gunstringer might have been tough to recommend. As part of this bundle, it's a unique, funny, flawed and downright loveable Kinect experience. Buy it before your soul turns sour.
A hold-up that's, erm, full of suspense
- Inspired controls
- Amazing personality
- Free, large DLC
- Fruit Ninja thrown in
- Sometimes over-simple