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Gunstringer. You are the Sheriff. Or at least you were. Now, you are a skeleton. You are on a mission to avenge your own death. You're also a marionette.
If I try to overlay this review with an Odyssey, it's going to be a dog's breakfast. So I'm just going to cut to the chase and say that in the Land of Fiction, this Story would be absolute, unashamed, glorious pulp. In the Land of Games, it's just another day at the Grand Central Station of genre and media mash-ups.
@libby_ol: #Gunstringer A big soup of cultural signifiers. @GeekDadGamer: Well-seasoned with functional gameplay? @libby_ol: If you don't mind a spot of revenge-driven murder. Hmm. It doesn't sound so tasty when I put it like that.
I'll start by saying that if you haven't at least once in your life stood in front of the mirror and said, "You lookin' at me?" you might not get the fun in this game. There is a certain theatre to it, as you square off with the TV screen, using your right hand to shoot and your left to change direction.
Indeed, Gunstringer starts as though you are in a theatre, where you rise as a marionette from your grave with the drawl of the narrator whippin' out the cliches about revenge and dastardly deeds. You are introduced to your posse -- the ones who plotted your demise -- and you are egged on by cutaways of a real theatre audience, who applaud your progress.
If there's a reliance on the theatre of gaming, there is also a certain reliance on an appreciation of genre, like the Old West and the South of the Border gunslinger stories. As the player -- and the story-builder -- you are very much charged with the responsibility of bringing your acquired knowledge about various genres to the game.
But that's not a requirement. As I often think, many players (kids especially) will play games without any awareness of the cultural signifiers in the games. And if the game's any good, it won't matter.
But this is not an Odyssey for kids. You can play it sitting down, as I discovered when I had the flu and was too sick (er, lazy) to stand up while playing, which means that I guess it's OK for wheel-chair-bound folk.
It's rated PEGI 12+, and it's all about shooting, stereotypes, and revenge. The effects are all-consuming as you lurch from shooting spree to shooting spree, the true horror of the story just out of reach through the existence of an animated interface.
"These characters don't look like real people," I tell myself. "Women don't really have breasts like basketballs. Nah, I'm not really endorsing revenge-killing. It's all just a game."
As a female player, though -- just as I am a female viewer of Westerns and theatre -- there's not a great deal of space to identify with the protagonist, nor any character (especially not old Basketball Breasts over there).
But I suspect this game isn't about that. It's not trying to engage players in an emotional story other than the story of revenge, which is older than the Odysseus character himself. No, Gunstringer is just employing a spot of stereotyping within genre to create an experience. And it's probably kind of fun if you're willing to view it through those goggles.
An afterthought: I didn't have any difficulty with the actual gaming, such as controlling my character's actions, although being a lazy (er, seated) player seemed to confuse Kinect at times. Perhaps I wasn't sitting close enough, but that would have involved me actually getting off the sofa to move it forwards. Not going to happen.
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