The game is made up of four plays with five acts each, plus a prologue and epilogue. The boss fights that cap these off are almost as creative as the stages themselves. The Prologue’s Wavy Tube Man is the only one you’ll fight in the regular gameplay style – most of the others switch to a single screen, 2D viewpoint. Here the antihero puppet must fly all over the screen, avoiding his former gang members’ attacks and firing when they expose their weak points ala a classic shoot-em-up. Did I mention the Space Harrier-like flying battle against a giant Asian dragon? It’s another highlight, though the hitbox on the ‘Stringer is way too big, making it harder to dodge the boss’s attacks than it should be.
Completing The Gunstringer for the first time should take five hours or so, plus a sore elbow from all the shootin’ thangs. But you’ll likely spend much more time with the game than that. Money earned from beating acts can be spent in the game’s Bonus Store. Here you’ll find tons of unlockables, from production photos, level commentaries from Rooster Teeth Productions and others, cover art concepts (so many different designs), videos, the game’s stellar soundtrack, and more. It’ll take quite a few replays to get the money to buy the shop out. Replaying levels and taking little or no damage also earns Gold medals, which of course leads to a couple of Achievements. Speaking of which, the game even hands out an Achievement for enabling Lefty Mode, but only after ruthlessly teasing people who suffer from left-handedness.
Other bonus content includes a free download code for Fruit Ninja Kinect included with every copy of the game and the downloadable side game, “The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles.” True, every self-respecting Kinect owner has Fruit Ninja already, but surely you can gift, trade, or sell your extra code to someone in need.
“The Wavy Tube Man Chronicles,” on the other hand, is a free download that I wouldn’t trade for all the Whiskey in Texas (my home state). Inspired by 1990 arcade game Mad Dog McCree, the bonus game is a tongue-in-cheek, bizarre live-action shooter. The production design and acting are horribly cheesy, which is perfectly in fitting with the source material. Still, I’d like to smack Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman around for like 15 minutes if I ever had the chance. He’s like a poor man’s Mel Brooks only without all the class, and that’s saying something. Putting aside my enmity for the dirty old sleezebag, it actually feels great to play an FMV game again after all these years. I doubt “Wavy Tube Man” will see much replay after completion, but it’s a fun 30 minute experience on top of The Gunstringer itself.
Speaking of live-action content, let’s touch on The Gunstringer’s theater sequences. They are mostly awesome, especially when the camera pans around and the audience becomes the background to the gameplay. We also see them in numerous reaction shots throughout the game’s story. I may be alone on this, but the reactions shots got old really quickly. They often show people laughing uproariously at things that are only kind of funny, and sometimes when there hasn’t been a joke at all.
The worst reaction shot is also tied to the game’s single worst joke: the lumberjack/alligator mating sequence that was featured in the game’s demo. The in-game sequence goes on foolishly long; making what should be a two-second joke last for what feels like two excruciatingly unfunny minutes. Perhaps the bit was tacked on to firmly demonstrate the game’s Teen rating, but it simply does not work. Thankfully that is the story’s only real misstep.