Gameplay 6
Graphics 8
Sound 7

Players must take control of an ex-hitman and go on a blood-fueled rampage against the people who ruined his life. Shank feels like a Robert Rodriguez movie captured in comic book form, but while the violence is impressive, the game can become repetitive. There’s a decent amount of levels and enemies, but boss battles are a let down once their weaknesses become apparent. Fans of hack-and-slash games will enjoy Shank, but it is not quite as memorable as other titles in the genre.

Gameplay: Defeat waves of enemies using melee and ranged attacks while also doing some light platforming on the way to bosses.

Graphics: The comic book art style is eye-catching, and the animations in Shank are really good.

Sound: The music is fitting for the style of the game, and the voice acting is passable

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Developer: Klei Entertainment | Publisher: Klei Entertainment | Release Date: 2010 | Genre: Action / Side Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Shank continues the long tradition of a hero seemingly back from the dead to exact revenge on those who wronged him. However, in this case, Shank is more of an anti-hero, as his targets are his former employees and co-workers. Apparently, Shank was a hitman who was happy with his job until the day he was instructed to kill the love of his life because she was becoming a distraction. Unwilling to comply, Shank’s former friends killed his girlfriend before leaving him for dead. The single-player mode opens a few years later with a heavily armed Shank returning with vengeance on his mind.

Shank is a 2D side-scrolling hack-and-slash game featuring melee and ranged combat. Players take control of the ex-hitman as he cuts a bloody swathe through the scores of underlings standing between him and his primary targets. Initially, Shank is armed only with his knives, chainsaw, and pistol, but can acquire new weaponry like chains, katanas, uzis, and shotguns as the game progresses. However, the gameplay remains the same, with Shank slaying waves of enemies while walking from left to right.

Combat takes up the bulk of the game, but occasionally, Shank also has to engage in some parkouring. These involve climbing up walls and poles, swinging from posts, and wallrunning across billboards. The platforming is quite easy for the most part, but later levels up the ante by having it rain missiles or grenades down on Shank throughout these sections. Apart from the platforming sections, Shank is a pretty basic game in terms of brawling. Players have access to light, heavy, and ranged attacks that must be strung together for combos. There are no experience points and no stats that can be leveled up or new moves to unlock. Enemies can be juggled, and Shank can also pounce on his foes, grapple them, or dodge attacks. The combat is fast and frantic, but even on the “Normal” difficulty, it is not uncommon to take cheap hits. Enemies are fond of ganging up on Shank, and beating up one group only to be shot in the back or thrown with a grenade can be annoying. In addition, enemies can soak up a lot of damage, but at least their health bars are visible, so players can know which ones to prioritize. 

At first, Shank only has to deal with regular goons, but the difficulty quickly ramps up. Not only do bigger enemies begin showing up, but their weapons and armor also improve. Towards the end, we had to battle our way through armed forces and goons wielding miniguns as well as flamethrowers. It is easy to get stun-locked by certain foes, and the spacing of the checkpoints also increases. At least Shank can pick up some of these weapons and use them for a limited time, which is neat, as mowing down enemies with a minigun is always fun. Even regular enemies can be a menace in large groups, with the dogs in particular standing out as a pain to deal with. 

On the other hand, while the bosses look mean and imposing for the most part, they are actually very easy to deal with. Each boss has a specific weakness that can be exploited to take them down with ease. All players have to do is observe their attack patterns and figure out when to strike. For example, one of the bosses is a massive butcher wielding a giant meathook. The butcher tries to use this hook to reel in players, but shooting the meat hanging from the ceiling causes the hook to get caught on them instead. Players can then pounce on the boss and do some major damage before dodging away and repeating the process. Of course, players can ignore these weaknesses, too and just try and chip away at enemies with regular attacks, but doing so takes forever.    

Visually, Shank is a good-looking game with a comic-book art style. The game is also very violent, with plenty of blood splattering everywhere, giving it a grindhouse look too. The backgrounds are all hand-drawn, and Shank’s revenge mission will take him through a bar, across a moving train, through a meat factory and strip club as well as a church and villa. The focus is very much on the foreground, though, as the backgrounds are, by and large, very static. The fighting animations are pretty smooth, and as mentioned before, most of the attacks are very violent. The scenes that are backlit, with only the silhouettes of the characters visible in the foreground, are also quite stylish. Shank features a few cut-scenes as the protagonist confronts his adversaries, but strangely, a few of these have been censored since the original release. According to the developers, this was done not because they were forced to but because they felt like they did not handle some sensitive topics appropriately. Fortunately, players who want to stick to the original experience can do so by opting into the “classic” branch of the game from Steam.     

The Shank soundtrack is filled with guitars wailing, bells tolling, and the screams of your enemies as you introduce them to your chainsaw. The sound effects are decent, and the voice acting during the cut scenes is also passable. As with most side-scrolling hack-and-slash titles, the game plays best with a controller where the face buttons are mapped to the different attacks, and the shoulder buttons handle things like dodging, pouncing, and grappling. We had no issues with the controls apart from a few times where enemies were able to get in cheap hits while Shank was locked into certain animations. 

Overall, Shank is a decent entry in the genre, but people who are not already fans of hack-and-slash titles might find it repetitive. Replay value is also rather limited as the main story can only be played in single-player, and there are only two difficulty settings. Players can unlock a few new costumes for Shank, but these are mainly tied to achieving a certain number of kills or combos. The game does feature a co-op mode, which takes the form of a prequel story. Unfortunately, players who are not able to rope in a friend to join them will miss out on this story completely, as it cannot be played with a CPU partner. Revenge stories in the vein of Kill Bill are nothing new, but the over-the-top violence fits the comic book aesthetic of Shank. We did, however, find that while Shank is quite a short game, it was too repetitive for long playing sessions. The game is fun while it lasts and challenging enough to prevent players from breezing right through it, but there are better titles available in the genre.  

System Requirements

  • OS *:Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7
  • Processor:Intel Pentium 4 running at 1.7 GHz or Greater; Athlon 64 running at 1.7GHz or greater with support for SSE2 instructions
  • Memory:1 GB of ram, 1.5 GB (Vista and Windows 7) GB RAM
  • Graphics:ATI Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB and the Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB cards
  • DirectX®:9.0
  • Hard Drive:2 GB HD space
  • OS:OS X 10.6.6 or later
  • Hard Drive:1.5 GB HD space
  • Processor: Intel Pentium 4 running at 1.7 GHz or Greater; Athlon 64 running at 1.7GHz or greater with support for SSE2 instructions
  • Memory: 1.5 GB or more
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon X1800 GTO 256MB and the Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB cards, or better
  • Hard Drive: 2 GB HD space

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