Developed by Other Ocean Interactive, The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running is a follow-up to Twisted Pixel’s popular Kinect title designed exclusively for Windows 8. Originally launched as a tablet-only title, the folly of that decision was soon recognised and The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running was updated to include mouse and keyboard compatibility, resulting in another Xbox LIVE enabled title for all Windows 8 devices.
The ties that bind The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running to the original Xbox 360 The Gunstringer are literally those of character and setting. There is no real story to speak of in The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running; you are a reanimated corpse chasing after a bad guy while yourself being chased by some evil magic. There’s little else to it, but there also doesn’t need to be. The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running is as simple in it’s plot delivery as it is immediate in it’s gameplay.
To most gamers The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running will be reminiscent of the original Crash Bandicoot videogames. Adopting the same semi-3D perspective as the once pioneering 2D axis of Crash Bandicoot but applying to it the much more modern endless runner mechanics, The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running sees our titular hero moving forward at a constant pace. The player must avoid obstacles ahead by either moving left or right, jumping or rolling. Complimented by shooting bonus treasure chests and enemy targets at the side of the road, The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running is a very simple design, but not necessarily and easy one.
Though The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running only features a few worlds each containing a handful of levels (in addition to the Endless mode) it’s unlikely that many players will find themselves making their way through the videogame without stumbling. Even the very first level becomes a challenge near its climax, through obstacle after obstacle at the player in quick succession. Some may suggest that it’s a design flaw in presenting fewer levels with lengthier challenges, while the more cynical gamers would say that it was a conscious decision to work with the respawn structure, and influence purchases from the in-game store.
As with many modern casual-orientated titles, The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running features two forms of currency: coins and diamonds. Coins are dolled out fairly regularly, collected on courses and gained from treasure chests. Diamonds on the other hand are very hard to come by. Only by luck in a random treasure chest or purchasing them with real sterling may you gain diamonds for your inventory. The respawn system mentioned above links into this by simply refusing to allow the player to continue mid-level unless they purchase a lives pack, which at the time of writing is only available through spending either a small amount of diamonds or an extortionate amount of coins. The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running stays true to that all-encompassing escape clause of allowing every purchase to be made with either currency, but the amount of coins required for even the smallest item is effectively nothing more than an effort in misdirection.
The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running uses all of the common conventions that encourage casual gamers to return, such as daily rewards increasing in value with consecutive days, but even this is not enough to compensate for the ludicrous pricing attached to some of the more beneficial items. The ability to challenge friends a-synchronously is a more welcome addition to the formula, resulting in an Endless mode that has far more appeal than the core experience.
While The Gunstringer: Dead Man Running suffers from some rather questionable delivery, it does innovate within the relatively youthful genre considerably. It’s chosen perspective and the use of familiar The Gunstringer mechanics does result in an enjoyable gameplay experience, and if only Microsoft Studios could see fit to lower the barrier for progression they could well have a hard-hitting casual title ready and waiting for Windows 8 newcomers.