The FormalitiesGunvalkyrie follows the disappearance of a scientist named Dr. Hebble Gate. Dr. Hebble is responsible for opening up a new realm of scientific discovery for the human race and has received tremendous praise for his helpful research. However, four years ago, he disappeared while attempting to genetically enhance colonists on the planet Tir na Nog. Shortly after the doctor’s disappearance, a new species emerged on the planet and all traces of the colonists were lost. The organization GUNVALKYRIE (GV) is looking into the matter with two of its finest operatives: Kelly and Saburouta. These two warriors are highly trained in battle and will be using their special gearskin suits to uncover this mystery.The ControlsSome of the controls should be fairly intuitive, such as the left thumbstick causing your character to walk and run, the right thumbstick allowing you to looking around, and the right trigger firing your current weapon. Selecting a weapon can be done by pressing the X, Y, and B buttons, which are displayed on the game’s interface just as the buttons are laid out on the controller.The newer part of the controls is that the left trigger is used for jumping and using the jetpack (when held down). Also, while in the air, you can press the left thumbstick in and move it in a direction to have your jets boost you in that direction. If you do a forward boost and then pull back on the left thumbstick without pressing it in, you’ll do a hover move, where you descend to the ground very slowly.You can still use the right thumbstick to looking around when doing any of these boost moves. You can also press the right thumbstick in and move it in a direction to have your character turn and face that direction quickly. So, if you press the right thumbstick in and move it down, you’ll turn around 180 degrees. You can perform these turning maneuvers on the ground or in the air. You can also combine them with the different boost maneuvers.The key to the controls is being able to stay in the air for extended periods of time and to be able to combine all the features of turning, boosting, aiming, and firing all at once. Needless to say, the task is quite daunting. However, with practice, you’ll find the control scheme to be very effective and you’ll soon be able to boost left, fire at an enemy, boost right, boost forward, turn 180 degrees, fire at an enemy above you, boost left, fire at an enemy below you, and so on without ever touching the ground.The ActionFor each level in the game you are allowed to select which fighter you want to use: Kelly or Saburouta. Some levels only allow you to use Kelly, who is more agile and can fire her weapon more quickly. Saburouta has a slower-firing weapon, but it does more damage. He’s also a little harder to use for boost combos. The game recommends that only advanced players use him, but you can unlock a mode where you can use him on any level.Despite which soldier I was using, I really enjoyed the gameplay here. It never got dull to me because of all the freedom you have with the jetpack and the infinite ways you can use it in battle. The levels were also short enough in length that I kept wanting to play just one more, yet long enough that they were still challenging. The environments and the creatures were challenging as well. You’ll face off against arachnid-type creatures that try to surround you in swarms, aerial creatures that fly by and drop deadly spores, a creature that can shift its own material in and out, and a few other deadlies, plus a handful of large bosses that will put all your skills to the test.On top of dealing with these creatures, you’ll also have to avoid falling into acidic pools, making a lot of tough jumps that are aided with good boosting/hovering abilities, being lifted into the air by wind tunnels, navigating through narrow caves, and crossing huge chasms. Each level has a single objective to accomplish, which is either destroying all the enemies in the area or finding a certain item. Some levels will add time limits on top of these objectives to make things more difficult. Luckily the time limits are pretty generous and I only remember one level where I ran out of time on multiple occasions.After each successful mission, you are graded on your performance. The factors that play a role are your completion time, technique, how much damage you received, how many enemies you destroyed, and whether you found the hidden item. There is one hidden item in each level: the halley’s core. You’ll earn points based on how well you do and you can then use those points to upgrade your weapons and armor in-between missions at a Power Up menu.The TechnicalThe Xbox is shining once again with graphics that definitely set it apart from all other consoles. Gunvalkyrie shows off some amazing graphical effects at very smooth frame rates. Your metal suit shines and reflects different light as you run around, the air is refracted behind you because of the heat coming out of your jetpack, and the particle system make for some great battle effects. One of my favorite effects was in a level with a poisonous liquid covering the entire ground. The heat of the poison was refracting the air throughout the entire level and it looked superb.Although I’m not as big a fan of audio as video, there was one level where you had to make your way up these small platforms to get inside this large sphere, where an unfriendly boss awaited you. During the level, you could hear a recording of Dr. Hebble’s voice repeating a dreary message over and over again while this really creepy music played in the background. Something about it just stood out to me and set a really uncomfortable mood that worked well for that area of the game.The ComplaintsLess of a gripe and more of a suggestion, I think the inclusion of a tutorial level would have helped gamers familiarize themselves with the advanced control scheme. I didn’t feel fully comfortable with the controls until I was at least half way through the actual story mode. A test level with lots of open area to practice jump boosts would have been very helpful. The pacing of the levels is very good though and you’ll start off rather easily, but as you progress, each new mission will require a little more skill than the last.The actual gripes I have with the game are that it’s very short and the story is very fragmented. I beat all 15 levels in the story mode in under 10 hours in only a few days. The order of the levels you visit feels very sporadic too and it becomes difficult to see how the story and the missions relate. Overall, the story-telling just doesn’t feel very cohesive.The Bottom-lineDespite these flaws, Gunvalkyrie takes me back to older games that weren’t as involving story-wise, but possessed a gameplay mechanic that was incredibly addictive. This is just one of those games where the lack of solid story-telling really doesn’t affect the fun of the gameplay. I wouldn’t suggest this game to everyone out there who owns an Xbox, but it should appeal to gamers who like the challenge of learning and mastering a complicated control scheme that yields a very unique gameplay experience. But, because it’s so short, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buying it for $50. This is a title that could be finished in a rental period fairly easily. If you do want to purchase it though, try and find it for $40 or less.