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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Gunstringer is a third-person shooter and platforming game with modest but frequent violence. It requires an Xbox 360 Kinect sensor to play. Players use their hands to aim at, shoot, and punch cartoonish enemy characters, which disappear in puffs of smoke when defeated. The violence is offset by the bizarreness of the game’s premise, which involves a live-action audience watching, cheering, and booing an action-packed puppet show that players control. Sometimes it almost has the atmosphere of a performance rather than a game. Parents should also be aware that this game requires much less movement than most Kinect titles, with players able to sit comfortably on a couch while moving their arms and hands.
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What's it about?
THE GUNSTRINGER begins with real, live people (many of whom are likely the game’s developers, one imagines) filing into a posh old theatre and sitting down to enjoy a marionette show. The titular hero is deposited on stage, covered in dirt alongside a tombstone. The curtain rises, at which point the stage and puppet are transformed into computer generated entities, and suddenly the player is in control of the show. We move along, using our left hand to guide the Gunstringer’s strings (for navigation) and our right to “paint” enemies before lifting up to fire hot lead from our hero’s six shooter. Players will occasionally catch glimpses of stage hands’ hands as they tap boulders to set them in motion, rip buildings from the environments, and, occasionally, come pounding down to flatten an enemy. Players move through a quintet of chapters, wittily narrated by an aging cowboy who tells the tale of our gunslinging protagonist’s quest for vengeance, with the audience cheering them on in the background. A co-operative mode allows two players to play together, and loads of unlockable extras -- including movies, photos, commentaries, and game-changing modes -- are available in the Bonus section of the main menu.
Is it any good?
In their short history, motion controlled games have earned a reputation among many traditional gamers as being without personality and designed for an unspecified lowest common denominator. The Gunstringer flies in the face of this perception, delivering a colorful, original, innovative experience filled with laughs, surprises, and a willingness to take chances. For evidence of this we need look no further than its decidedly unusual live-action-audience-attending-a-cowboy-themed-puppet-show-controlled-by-the-player premise. Beyond that, the game’s designers have done an excellent job keeping the Kinect-controlled action fresh, seamlessly switching between on-rails shooting sequences, platforming high jinks, and clever boss battles. The countless extras unlocked with the virtual cash you earn at the completion of each level merely sweeten the pot.
You may occasionally experience frustration when the Kinect sensor fails to properly interpret your actions (or perhaps it was you who, caught up in what was going on on-screen, failed to perform quite the right actions), but the learning curve is low, and the default level of difficulty forgiving. Teen and adult gamers starving for a more satisfying Kinect experience should be well served by this unique game.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about physical fitness and active games. Have you played any motion-controlled games that have left you drained, as though you just completed a workout? Do you think such games can help kids become more fit?
Families can also discuss art in games. Have you ever played a game that you think qualifies as a work of art? If so, what about it made you think it was artistic? Do you think most other people would consider it to be art?