EA and Klei Entertainment have pulled out all the stops in their hand drawn side scroller to deliver a package not seen for many a year!
What can we say about this title? Where to start? How to begin? To be fair to it, we should start in the very beginning, as Julie Andrews says, “It’s a very good place to start!” and she is right.
Shank is a 2D side-scroller Beat’Em Up that hark’s back to your childhood, (well, for those of us gamers out there who are out of childhood), and sends you on a journey back to the days of short trousers, jumpers for goalposts and collecting jam jars to get into the local cinema during The Blitz. Well, maybe not quite that far back, but you get the general idea? In an industry that looks to 2009 as ancient history and the 90’s as positive mythology, it is a testament to the quality of a title, that in this day and age of 3D wonder technology and controller-less gaming experiences that Klei and EA have managed to take you full circle and make a success out of a genre that most believed had died out with the Sega Mega Drive II.
The storyline is the familiar and well trodden path of revenge as you play the title role of the muscle-bound hero, Shank. A man who has to take on the seedier side of the underworld as he beats, stabs, club’s and shoots his way through strip joint’s, dimly lit backstreet hang outs and arena’s while he searches for his love who has been kidnapped by the games bad guy. Considering that this title was written by the award-winning writer Marianne Krawczyk, she of God of War fame, it is no wonder then that the writing is superb and the story, though familiar to all who have ever picked up a controller, never feels staid or sedentary. The action comes at you thick and fast as you battle through a succession of enemies, steadily increasing in size, speed and ability before coming to the end of level boss, who is naturally built like the proverbial terraced out-house, and then ultimately onto the ‘Big Boss’ himself. Will Shank get there in time to rescue his girl, will he survive the final fight to death with the mysterious Mr Big behind the kidnapping of his sweetheart? Or will he suffer the fate of countless 2D-scrollers before him and veer off at the last-minute into gaming obscurity?
Frankly…No! Shank is an absolute Tour De Force of a 2D Beat Em Up. With hand painted graphics offering gamers what are probably some of the finest examples of artwork to be found on Steam, Xbox Live or the Playstation Network, this is one of those rare titles that looks as good as it plays, something that seems to be in with a real chance of being put on the Endangered Species list as far as gaming is concerned.
Though obviously taking its inspiration from an absolute plethora of gaming titles past, a nice touch with Shank is that instead of attempting to pass off these attributes as innovative creations developed by the Klei team, they have paid homage to the originators of the genre some 20 years past, and the game feels and looks all the better for it. The only real difference from a side scroller from way back when being the co-operative campaign ,that we have said, Shank pulls off with ease and distinction.
The gameplay is, as we have already stated, side scrolling Utopia for those of you who remember such quality action from yester year. With the characters ability to string together long and damaging chains of combo attacks together with precision, as opposed to just mashing the button for a few minutes. Attacks are offered up in the standard dietary fare of the genre, as light attack and heavy attack, with the fine inclusion of some breakers thrown into the mix for good measure as you single out a vulnerable target and serve him up a can of ‘Whoopass Stew’ just like Momma used to make. There are also an impressive collection of weapons on display for Shank to utilise to his advantage, with some being able to be carried about his person, whilst others can be picked up and used to dispatch enemies and then casually discarded before he carries on along his merry way of blood-letting carnage. The minigun is a perfect example of this.
Health is not regenerative, (thank the Lord), and has to be replenished via bottles of suspicious looking brew that are left at convenient locations around the playing zones. Shank is not immortal and nor is he invulnerable, so if a bottle is close at hand then rather than thinking that you may come back for it later, just drink the thing and carry on your mission for fear of being unable to backtrack, such is the way of things in sidescrollers.
If you are familiar with the genre then you will all know by now that at the end of these titles there is always some huge Boss that you have to defeat, and its a credit to EA and Klei that Shank is no different. The end fight is going to be one o the hardest battles that you will have had to endure in a long time. For those gamers out there who are on speaking terms with the Playstation 3 , and know all about tough gaming via Demons Souls, you will know what I am talking about here. For Xbox360 owners think Mile High Club on veteran level on Call of Duty 4.
The Co-oP side of Shank is, whilst being only local Co-oP and not online, still a great way for you and a loved one or friend to spend an evening beating the living snot out of your victims. No doubt there are to be the moans and whines out there that the game suffers because of its lack of online C0-oP, but to tell you the truth if you don’t have one single person out there to game with then you need more help than online Co-oP can deliver.
So pull on your best boots and stock up on ammunition as its going to be a long and painful night. Shank is in town, and he isn’t going to let anything stand in the way of reaching his girl. Want some? Do Ya?
Graphics: Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. The fact that this is a hand painted game should give you a new-found respect for the title, as you gaze in awe and wonderment for what it is: The best looking game on any of the networks. Be it PSN, XBL or Steam 9
Gameplay: Fantastic stuff! Being that we are from older gaming stock we can remember the days of Double Dragon et al, and as we look back through Shank’s eyes at the Sands of Time with a nostalgic tear in our eye, we can genuinely tell you here and now that if you long for a return to good old-fashioned gaming action then Shank is the title for you! 8
RePlay Value: Considering that there are many gamers out there who still slip a cartridge into one or other of their Retro Games Consoles every now and then just to get a feel of how god the 2D Beat Em Up’s used to be, we think that they will instead be reaching for a new classic, and his name is Shank. 8
Presentation: Does exactly what is says on the tin! Shank is a fantastic game, make no mistake about it. A beautifully crafted blend of seemless combat built around the best graphical content to be found anywhere on any format for the arcade style title. A future classic of its genre, of that we have no doubt. 9