Kinect Comes of Age with The Gunstringer

Geek Culture

A problem of having three gesture control systems (Kinect, Move and MotionPlus) is the temptation for developers to deliver a one-size-fits-all approach to their games. I have talked at length previously about how Virtua Tennis 4 suffers from this syndrome — motion controls become defined by the lowest common denominator and inevitably end up as a bolt-on rather than central way to play.

There is, of course a clear antidote to this: games that utilize interactions that are only possible on one of the three systems. Boom Blox on the Wii and Tumble on PS3 Move fills this remit perfectly — each playing to the strengths of the controller it is designed for.

For me, The Gunstringer is Kinect’s coming of age game. It creates an experience that is simply not possible on the other gesture controlled platform:

It instantly feels different to any Wii or Move game, with only a glance at the more muted style of Carnival Games (Wii) and The Shoot (PS3). It’s different because of the genuine sense of theater it creates.

In fact the game opens with a full motion video (as we used to call them on the CDi and CD32) that takes you from a waiting taxi into a theater and starts the show. But more than these clever cinematics, The Gunslinger embraces theatrical interactions, commentary and audience participation throughout. Wii-Sports and the other first party titles from Nintendo suddenly seem rather staid and corporate next to the hijinks and hoopla on stage here.

The game is essentially and on rails shooter. But unlike other games of this ilk you control your character (a Skeletor styled marionette for those that remember He-Man) in third-person with one hand while you use the other hand for shooting. It’s a conceit that works because it closely mimics the real world actions of animating a puppet.

Standing there with your arms out feels a little odd at first, but is soon forgotten as disbelief is happily suspended. Also, because Kinect can cope with varied stances and you are not holding anything heavy the arm ache often associated with other gesture shooting games is avoided. The connection is surprisingly strong to the on-screen action — I found myself instinctively holding two fingers out on my shooting hand even though there was no actual need to do this.

With more Kinect games on the way — my kids are particularly excited about Disneyland Adventures and Star Wars — I’m hoping to see much more made of the controllers’ theatrical leanings.

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