December 8th, 2010 | By Mike Gnade
Shank is a 2D side-scrolling beatemup for PSN, XBLA and PC. It has fantastic art and is chock full of violent animations. This isn’t Double Dragon, Shank is a scorned ex-criminal who wants the boss’s head on a platter…preferably ripped off with a chainsaw.
Shank’s main story is pretty compelling and slowly evolves as you progress through the game. The story is one of the game’s strong suits and is reminiscent of “Kill Bill” (only Shank’s a dude). The gist is that Shank chose his girlfriend over the gang of sociopaths he worked with. That doesn’t sit well with Cesar and the gang, so these psychopaths decide to rape Shank’s girlfriend, kill her, kill Shank, and burn his house down. The problem is that Shank lives, and comes back years later for revenge. It’s not the most original story, but the cut scenes are slick, the violence is raw, and the Mexican drug cartel setting and style shine.
The gameplay in Shank is inspired by classic 2D brawlers such as Final Fight, Streets of Rage, and Double Dragon. Shank throws in over the top violence and guns for good measure. The great thing about Shank is that it is instantly fun and benefits from some excellent art direction and animations. You start with a good variety of moves and weapons and the Boss Fights showcase some excellent custom animations. Some of the Boss Fights can be a little cheap, but once you figure out their patterns and weakness, you shouldn’t have too much trouble beating them down. One of the biggest frustrations in Shank is that when you die, it doesn’t really feel like your fault. Most deaths come at the hands of some bad luck and cheap enemies rather than a poorly timed jump or miscalculated combo.
My only gripe with the core brawler gameplay is that it doesn’t really evolve as you play through the game. Sure you acquire some new weapons and moves, but none of the upgrades feel that different or really seem to help progress through the campaign. Shank would have benefited immensely from some slight RPG elements and upgrade options between levels. Earning points that could upgrade Shank’s weapons, health and combos would have reduced frustrations and added some replay ability. I can only imagine how badass and fun a fully powered up Shank could have been.
The presentation of Shank is fantastic. Shank’s visual style grabs your attention and leaves a great lasting impression. The large hand drawn characters and backgrounds seem to be inspired by top-notch comics/anime mixed with gritty Tex-Mex visuals found in movies like Desperado. The vibrant sun scorched locales lack some variety but they fit the game’s story and atmosphere so well that it’s not a big deal. Shank is drop dead gorgeous. It’s the best looking 2D game that I’ve seen on Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.
Shank has a single player campaign and a co-op campaign. I loved that the Co-Op campaign wasn’t just a 2 player version of the main game. Instead, Co-Op and Single Player are completely different stories with different levels. The co-op missions definitely add to the value, but ultimately co-op feels tacked on and showcases some of the game’s blemishes to be major faults. Shank’s story will drive you to keep playing through the campaign (and Co-Op if you can find a friend to suffer through it with you), but some of the later levels and enemies become cheap and tiresome.
Shank’s over the top violence and compelling story are immensely entertaining. The game’s production values are top-notch and complemented by some excellent voice acting and cut scenes, but the game falls just shy of beatemup bliss. Some cheap enemies and the lack of an upgrade system make Shank a fun ride, but not one that you’ll be coming back to again and again. Nonetheless, Shank’s story and graphics make it well worth the price of admission for action fanatics. As long as you’re not opposed to some bloody violence, rev up the chainsaw and get ready for some gruesome revenge.