The Gunstringer has no name other than being identified as the pivotal “Gunstringer”. He is a skeleton marionette of a dead, betrayed cowboy–and he’s out for revenge against his old posse who shot him dead and left him buried in the desert. The Gunstringer faces off against any number of wildly imagined “Old West” cliches as seen from the perspective of a puppet-focused stage play, complete with a live-action audience (made up of the Twisted Pixel development team, and some of their special guests). The Gunstringer must face and defeat a brothel madam, “Big Oil” tycoons, evil lumberjacks, a wavy balloon man, frontier soldiers, frontier Indians, and transplanted samurais.
Game characters run the gamut of each and every kind of puppet imaginable: Marionettes, “Muppet”-style puppets, simple paper people, and action figures. Stages and levels are all built and designed around a cardboard-and-paper aesthetic–paper towel tubes for trees, cardboard boxes for buildings, and various other craft or office supplies (like wall tacks) find a number of uses.
Ample “Classic Old West” movie-style narration runs through the game adding an element of “old tyme/Old West” storytelling to the entire package.
The basic gameplay runs along the lines of a rail shooter with the exception that, like an earlier Twisted Pixel title, Comic Jumper, The Gunstringer regularly mixes up the gameplay in a variety of ways. Players typically play holding their left hand to physically move their marionette left and right across the game screen dodging, jumping, and moving through various stage obstacles, and the right hand is used to “swipe” over enemies to target them, then a flick of the wrist fires up to six bullets at up to six highlighted targets.
Gameplay often switches to straight platforming, punching segments, traditional rail shooting segments (without moving the Gunstringer himself), side-scrolling segments–all of which are mixed with vehicle-based segments including a riverboat, a rocket, a stagecoach, and the Gunstringer’s trusty steed.
The Gunstringer features a large number of unlockables, bonuses and extras. Players can unlock developer commentaries for the levels, alternate costumes, Hardcore mode, No Fail mode, and other gameplay-modifying tweaks. Beyond this, there are unlockable music tracks, and unlockable videos both showing behind-the-scenes making-of footage as well as humorous “interviews” with other developers in the industry, such as Epic’s Cliff Bleszinski. Modern industry-standard unlockables such as concept art are also available, along with “hidden” Achievements that can be purchased.