It was a dark and stormy night. As I sat in front of my TV wearing my one piece pyjamas, with built in feet and butt flap of course, I decided I would play a game and began browsing through the titles I had available. After a few minutes I decided to try out Shank direct from the PSN Store. So, if everyone is sitting comfortably, let’s take a little look and see how it plays.
The story of Shank is a very simple tale of revenge, and a violent, bloody tale it is at that. It’s very much like Kill Bill story wise, only if the bride had died and her man had fought for revenge. The player takes control of the games hero and namesake Shank. I don’t know if Shank is his real name or a nickname earned due to his preferred choice of weapon – a small handheld blade created from bone or stone generally referred to as, yes you guessed it, a shank.
The gameplay comes in the form of a pretty basic side scrolling platform game with a huge slice of the button bashing combat style about it. When I say button bashing however, what I mean is that you can, on normal mode, work your way through the games story spamming you default light attack. If you plan on playing the game again, or for the first time, on hard difficulty, you need to explore the wider selection of combat moves. Moving through the levels is kept old school basic in that you move from right to the left and use a handful of other moves that help you negotiate obstacles such as jump of course, wall climb and wall run. These controls are easily mastered and the areas where you need them are few and far between and will occasionally trip you up. The game focuses more on the fighting side of things. As I said before, you can spam the light attack and move through the game, but there is more to it than that. When it comes to fighting Shank has three attacks; a light, heavy and ranged attack, and for each attack there is a weapon. Your light attack remains your default shank throughout the game, but as you progress new ranged and heavy weapons are unlocked, starting with default chainsaw and dual pistols. These are later updated to the likes of machetes, swords, shotguns and Uzi, not to forget grenades when you can find them.
These moves are combined with a few others such as block, which used cleverly can protect you from most enemy melee attacks. It’s no use against charges, huge attacks or gunfire, but smart use of block can keep you alive a lot longer than normal. Other moves include grapple and pounce, which are similar in that hitting them allows you to grab or pounce on top of an enemy. This can then be followed up by hitting any of your attacks, inflicting huge damage. Smart use of these moves can see you through most fights taking a minimum of damage, which you definitely need to do if you are playing through on hard difficulty. The fights in the game usually involve one to six bad guys, in some cases a lot more, walking onto the screen throughout the levels, which you must then deal with. There is a wide variety of bad guys, ranging from easy to deal with melee fighters to ranged combatants with pistols and automatic weapons, giant bad guys almost twice as big as shank himself and even guard dogs. When they are attacking their energy bars are shown on screen, letting you know how much more punishment you need to dish out to finish them and then continue on to the next fight.
Spaced out through the game, there are boss fights. The first of these is a huge masked wrestler who you have to fight within a cage and then, a little later on, you fight an armoured jeep from the front of a moving train, as it fires grenades and rockets at you, and a sword wielding madam. Winning these fights is a case of understanding the enemy attack pattern and working around it. This fighting action is what the game involves from start to finish basically and, although it is fun, whether you enjoy the game or not depends a lot on whether or not you can enjoy this repetitive nature of play. The game can present a good challenge, especially if playing through on the hardest difficulty setting which removes mid level checkpoints meaning you need to play through the levels without dying. If you do perish, then you need to start the level again from the beginning.
The game itself has an interesting look. Each stage has a single predominant colour and then is defined with different shades of that colour, along with background and foreground items in solid black. It’s a strange, yet interesting and original, idea and works well for the game. When it comes to the characters, both Shank himself and all the bad guys have a lot more colour to them and are drawn in a cel shaded way, giving the game an almost comic book look and that goes for the violence also. Although the blood is comic book bright red, that’s not to say the game is aimed at the younger gamers. Some of the suggested violence is pretty extreme in places, as you would expect with weapons on offer. The music and sound effects are spot on, but the music can at times be a little annoyingly repetitive. It is easy to turn down though and it does a good job changing pace with the action scenes and boss fights. The sound effects areÂ as equally violent as the games looks, with gunfire and blades of all shapes and sizes striking bodies with a satisfying crunch, thump or splat.
Shank overall is a fun game, but it does have a slightly repetitive nature. Fight guys, move on, fight more guys, move on. But personally I found that the longer I played it, the more I grew to enjoy it. The game is definitely a challenge, especially if you play through on hard because it is that, very hard. Another thing enticing the player back for further playthroughs is that there is a selection of unlockable outfits for Shank to earn by completing certain secret challenges within the game. There is also a local two player mode with a separate story which precedes the single player tale. This gives the game a little more life, but would have been far more fun if they had included a online option for this mode.
Shank is ideal for players looking for a fun, side-scrolling, button-mashing, beat ‘em up because that is definitely what you get here. Now if you will excuse me, I am off to sharpen my katana and ensure my chainsaw has plenty of fuel, as I hear a few more bad guys are waiting for me.