I have reasons to suspect that Twisted Pixel may be an uncommonly classy studio. Alongside the fact the team's quietly worked from the depths of contract development all the way up to making lovely original games like 'Splosion Man, it's also dealt rather elegantly with prickly issues such as hit-and-run iPhone clones released by major publishers. Now it's dealt rather elegantly with Kinect, too, creating a rough-housing arcade shooter that boasts – among many delightful features – the ability to play it sitting down. Go, Texas.
The Gunstringer seems so smart because it works with one eye on the weaknesses of Kinect as well as one on its strengths. In other words, alongside the childish delights of a shooting gallery you can operate by making a gun from your finger and miming the act of firing (something most of us mastered around the age of five, probably – I was slower and only got it in the second year of law school) the developer has opted for a slick paint-and-release targeting system that's reminiscent of Rez and Panzer Dragoon. It's the perfect control method for a peripheral that may have struggled with precision aiming.
The game takes care of forward momentum, too – a move that dials down the fuss factor as well as giving the whole adventure a likably deranged sense of the headlong pelt. Cast as the undead Gunstringer, a marionette cowboy skeleton who's been yanked from his grave to wreak revenge of some kind on a cast of objectionable misfits, your main objectives – besides blasting almost everything in sight with your right hand – involve steering your frail hombre back and forth with your left, and jumping him over the occasional boulder or cactus as he races further into the flimsy badlands of the pantomime western setting.
A sense of puppetry is central to the idea: not only are you essentially pulling the floppy-limbed Gunstringer around by the threads attached to his arms and legs, the game seems to top and tail each chapter within a charmingly ropy FMV set-up that has the Twisted Pixel gang performing the roles of a theatre's audience and backstage crew. And when each level gets going, there's a lovely sense of handicraft to proceedings: enemies jerk and flail as if being controlled by an uncoordinated community theatre volunteer troupe, rocks seem to be daubed with splotches of poster paint, and trees and distant boulders are flat panels pegged haphazardly into the ground. Your special attack sees you literally punching your fist down into the scenery – it's all pleasantly Monty Python-esque – while the whole set-up quietly places a cunning layer of separation and abstraction between you and your avatar, which helps to make the very occasional failings of the Kinect camera all the more forgivable.
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