Game Review: Shank

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Gamers who grew up in the 90’s have probably played a side-scrolling beat ’em up in some stage of their lives. Games on the NES like Double Dragon and Battletoads only prepared us for arcade classics like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Aliens Vs. Predators and the like. There was a certain charm to these games, and the cathartic effects of laying the beatdown on multiple enemies never failed to put a smile on my face. Sadly games like these are too few and far in between nowadays, all the more reason why I’m expressing my undying love to the newly released game by Klei Entertainment – Shank.

Shank is a side scrolling beat-em up in the same vein as the games I mentioned before. You play Shank, a former member of an elite assassination squad that’s out for revenge after his former teammates killed his lover and left him for dead. While the cheesy plot sounds a lot like Kill Bill, it just gives the player an excuse to beat, shoot, stab and chainsaw anyone foolish enough to get in his way.

The visual style of Shank is unique, to say the least. The animation and character design looks like a cross between a well done flash clip and an ultra violent Saturday morning cartoon. Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack was the first thing that flashed through my mind as I played the game for the first time. There’s also some nice graphic novel-esque elements in the game, which isn’t surprising since most of the staff that worked on it were traditional animators and artists.

The controls are fluid and straddles the line of being complex enough to enable players to enact mind numbing combos, but simple enough that the learning curve is almost nonexistent. Shank has a variety of attacks – a light where he uses his knife, a heavy and a gun. You start off with just a knife, a chainsaw and two pistols but you’ll also come across different weapons like machetes, chains, shotgun, MAC 11 and a katana. Each weapon has its own strength and weaknesses, and you can switch them up even in mid combo to deliver the most damage.

Aside from the attacks mentioned above, Shank can also pounce and grapple enemies. When pouncing, Shank jumps high in the air allowing him to escape thrown grenades and projectiles and gives him enough time to permanently disembowel any enemy unlucky enough to get caught. Shank can also throw a grenade at enemies to take out high priority targets and bunched up enemies. The game also encourages players to experiment on combos and attacks – for example, you shove a grenade up an opponent’s mouth when you grapple him. Moments like that can’t be matched by any game.

The only issue I have is that the game isn’t very keyboard friendly, and you’ll really require a nice gamepad to get the most out of it. Other than that, there’s not much to complain about this stellar beat em up.

You can grab Shank from here, at the Steam store for a measly $9.