PLATFORM: Playstation Network (reviewed), Xbox Live Arcade
PRICE: 1200 Points ($15)
DEVELOPER: Klei Entertainment
Dying for a new sidescroller but find Scott Pilgrim to be too cutesy and repetitive? Want something more violent and deep? Look no further than Shank.
Shank is a former member of a group of mercs, ruthless killers who turned on our unfortunately-named hero after he refused to kill a woman he loved. Brutalized and left for dead, he returns with a lust for vengeance, killing hundreds of their henchmen on the way. It’s got the feel of a revenge flick with a definite Tarantino/Rodriguez Southwestern flavor to it.
It’s a sidescroller, so you go from left to right killing anyone in your way. The game actually feels a bit like a more advanced version of Metal Slug. Like that series, you carry a pistol (two, actually) as a main weapon, pack a knife for close encounters, and can sling grenades to take out groups of enemies or armored foes. Unlike Metal Slug, Shank has a chainsaw for heavy melee attacks, a grab move and a block, and all of them can be easily chained together to truly make you feel like a whirling dervish of destruction. The game really encourages experimentation and changing up your attacks, especially considering how fluid it all is. For instance you can pounce on a guy, fire a pistol at someone advancing on the left, stab the guy underneath you, pick him up and throw him at someone on the right, shoot them both into an air combo and finish it up with a grenade. All of this in one seamless flow! People who like to simply button-mash can get through the game just doing little combos but it’s nice to have the option to go nuts if you like. Plus it just looks awesome.
When buttons appear on the bosses hit them quick for major damage.
The characters have a flash-animation look and are animated nicely, coming packed with gallons and gallons of blood which are yours for the spilling. Entire oceans of blood will flow by the end of your quest… this game certainly earns its M rating.
The gameplay and level design is exactly what you’d expect- chop and shoot your way through dozens of henchmen on your way to a boss who is three times their size, who has patterns you need to learn in order to take down easily. It’s old school and solid, but the game also has numerous setbacks. While the game is quite lenient with the checkpoints (at least in the Normal mode- hard mode makes you restart the level if you die) the experience does become overly repetitious. There’s really no variety to enemies and while the bosses are fun, two of them are carbon-copies.
If you squint it looks like a new boss!
The art is great but it’s the smooth animation that seals the deal. While you play the game comic book-style panels will pop up and advance the plot, allowing you to see how angry you’re making the main baddies. It’s a nice touch and allows you to become more immersed in the game’s story. Cutscenes can only take you so far, after all.
The soundtrack has a nice twangy southern feel to it, which goes well with the Rodriguez feel. But don’t take my word for it- the whole thing is available for free online here.
Here’s the rub- the game’s short as hell… three hours and you’re done. It’s quite fun and you’ll doubtlessly want to play through with friends but only the masochists among you will want to play through again on hard. There are unlockable outfits and such for getting a few in-game achievements (certain number of kills with each weapon, for instance) but they add nothing to the gameplay.
CHUDTIP – He no nuts, he’s crazy!
A longer campaign and more variety could have made this a classic, but it has to settle for just being a really enjoyable experience.