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Handicapping the Holidays

We narrow the field for the gamer on your gift list

By James Renovitch, December 9, 2011, Screens

Dance Central 2

Xbox 360
Harmonix
$50

Gunstringer

Xbox 360
Twisted Pixel
$40

The Xbox's motion-sensing "controller" impresses most everyone that uses it, but few games have managed to utilize its innovative, future-is-now technology. The original Dance Central was already an embarrassment (literally) of party-starting moves as you mimicked the dancer onscreen and the Kinect made sure you were gyrating appropriately. DC2 uses the same formula, adds a simultaneous two-player mode (oh, it's on), and includes songs ranging from Banarama's "Venus" to Digital Underground's "The Humpty Dance" as well as a battery of modern hits. It makes the dance games for the Wii look downright primitive, managing to even discern whether your ankle is turned at the right angle. Local developers Twisted Pixel have Gunstringer vying for your holiday dollars as well. The game follows the titular marionette on his bullet-riddled journey of revenge. The controls involve using one hand to sweep across enemies before pulling back to fire, with the other hand relegated to left-right movement and jumping. Add a second player and double your firepower to a 12-shooter. The boss battles don't punctuate the levels quite as well as they should, but, as with all Twisted Pixel games, there are enough visual and audio gags to ease you past any slight missteps. What these two do better than other Kinect titles is reveal the strength of the technology rather than its limitations, which makes using your body as a controller all the more liberating.

The winner: How could we not give it to the home team? Not to mention that Gunstringer can be enjoyed in groups or alone, whereas playing Dance Central alone, like drinking, tends to be more depressing than invigorating.

Other contenders: Kinect Sports: Season Two, Forza Motorsport 4

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