When I last checked in with Vancouver-based Klei Entertainment, they were feeding PC and Xbox Live Arcade users a delicious puzzler named Eets. Seeing how much I loved that adorable mind-bender, I was excited to see what was next for this independent upstart. After playing Shank I was shocked at not only how exciting the whole experience was, but also how gruesome it is. They traded in cute graphics for blood and guts comic book fun. Sounds like a good trade to me.
Shank is the PSN's newest 2D brawler, sort of a cross between God of War, Comix Zone and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series. It's an over-the-top action game where players slice and dice their way through hundreds of nameless goons and take revenge on the jerks that kidnapped (or worse?) Shank's lovely wife. Along the way he'll pick up new weapons and get to the bottom of this twisted conspiracy.
The game has a very specific 2D style that draws influence from all kinds of classic 8- and 16-bit brawlers from the past. The art is straight out of the comic books, offering hand-drawn animation that is dripping with tiny details (and gallons of blood). Although the action is pulling from classic games, the gameplay feels a lot like Sony's God of War franchise. Shank has two melee buttons, a regular attack using his iconic knives and a more powerful attack with one of the many alternate weapons -- sword, chainsaw, etc. He also packs a gun, which allows our hero to deal with enemies on the other side of the screen.
Like God of War, the combat is pulled together by an exciting combo system. Because he has three weapons at his disposal at the touch of a button, Shank can easily string together attacks and keep his combo meter high. Shank has a surprising amount of moves and weapons, keeping the action fresh as he kills everybody on the screen. It may not be some big-budget 3D action experience, but Shank definitely gets the chaos of the combat right.
The familiar (yet not derivative) gameplay shows up again every time player face one of the game's boss characters. Because these baddies are so big and strong, Shank will need to use the environment against them and wait for the right moment to chop off an arm or impale them with a sword. These bosses are massive undertakings, usually ending with Shank dying a few times before he sees the villain's weak spot.
Shank is easily one of the most stylish action games of the year, combining the gameplay of God of War with the gimmick of Comix Zone. Throw in some Kill Bill and you have one of the best action games of the year. It's not for everybody, but you won't regret spending $15 on this gruesome Xbox Live Arcade release!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!