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PSN Review – Shank

September 2, 2010 Written by Thomas Williams

Klei Entertainment’s Shank has been described in the past year building up to release as the lovechild of Quentin Tarantino’s films and 2D beat’em ups. Guess what? Klei wasn’t lying! Shank combines all the elements of Q.T.’s Kill Bill films with some of the most beautifully violent 2D graphics to date. But how does the gameplay hold up? Find out if Shank will hold your thirst for violence or if the gameplay will make you turn your violence acts to your controller and ultimately, your living room wall.

Shank’s storyline is a classic tale of revenge that Kratos and Quentin Tarantino would appreciate. Shank’s boss demands that he kill the love of his life, Ava, to show him where your true loyalty lies. When you ultimately refuse, he sends over a hit-squad to take you out Kill Bill style. After somehow surviving an epic butt-kicking, Shank is out for revenge. One by one you find the lowlives who did this to you. Shank is about as ruthless as our favorite Spartan, considering the fact that the co-creator of the God of War series, Marianne Krawczyk, wrote the script, it is only fitting that Shank and Kratos would be best friends forever if they ever ran across one-another. While the storyline isn’t exactly original, the game’s dialogue certainly rocked and delivers laughs from time to time. Wait until you hear what Angalo says to Shank later on in the game and hear Shank’s response. Pure gold.

Shank boasts some of the best production values around for a 2D game on the PSN. While the game’s graphics are reminiscent of flash games on the web, the team at Klei Entertainment hired some of the best animators around to bring life to characters in the game. Instead of poorly animated characters fighting about, Shank is full of 2D HD characters with animation pulled straight from a high-budget cartoon or better yet, an anime done by the masters at Gainax. There’s even some fantastic ‘ode to movie effects’ throughout the game. While fighting underneath a neon sign for the local ‘Gentleman’s establishment’, Shank and his enemies quickly turn into shadows as he disburse his revenge with black blood a flyin’. It’s a sweet effect that isn’t overused and adds to game’s overall film feel.

Gameplay consist of some classic beat’em up action with a dash of ‘Prince of Persia’ wall running and jumping thrown in for good measure. Thankfully the game gives you more than just your hands to beat your enemies senseless, as the first major heavy weapon the game gives you is a giant chainsaw. Your melee attack consist of a couple shanks and your guns are great for distant attacks. Thankfully, you acquire new weapons every couple of stages so they aren’t too rare. However, I still found the chainsaw and shotgun to be the best combo around. Gameplay is fun and addictive until you get closer to the end of the game. Beside the new weapons, no other type of gameplay mechanics are introduced and gameplay becomes a bit repetitive due to that fact that the gameplay offers very little variety, so don’t be surprised if you get bored eventually.

Another gameplay problem is that the game can be incredibly difficult. One mistake against a group of minor bad guys and a couple of ‘big daddy’ baddies could spell the end for Shank’s quest. Not to worry though, as the game offers unlimited lives, so that’s never a problem. The game could have really benefited from a level-up system, so that later in the game Shank could just destroy his enemies as the ultimate badass. On the flip side, the difficulty does make it more exciting when you manage to beat up a pack of enemies, but even with that said it still could have used a little tweaking.

Even though the gameplay can be difficult, the ‘pounce’ mechanic, which enables Shank to soar through the sky in slow motion with some speed blur for added effect and inflict a huge chunk of damage on whoever isn’t lucky enough to move out of the way is certainly a powerful addition. While this move is cool to see in action, it cheapens the gameplay because you can use it however many times you want, so abuse of the ability is often considered the ‘oh crud’ button. The ability definitely softens the game a bit, but you can choose to avoid using the ability at your leisure.

Co-op offers gamers a new story to play through which is the origin story of why Shank wants revenge. Instead of making players play the main story with a friend, Klei decided to give players an all-new arena to slaughter about and give various characters more depth and story. The pace of the action during co-op picks up a considerable amount but at times it was way too easy to lose sight of my character among the stampede of on-screen brutality. Often my partner in-crime would ask me often as to where his character disappeared to. Co-op introduces some tag-team moves which helps spice up the gameplay. Unfortunately, just like Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, Shank offers no type of online co-op mode. You would think that for $15 it would be in there somewhere but it’s not, so if you were planning on playing online with your buds, make sure you invite them over to your house, because there’s no online mode whatsoever, yet again.

Shank is a good but not great PSN title that features some fun, yet repetitive gameplay. The top notch 2D visuals help bring the game to life with movie-inspired characters and storyline. The lack of an online co-op mode holds Shank back from being a real enjoyable co-op title, and it really should have been included in the package. If you’re looking for a good time killer that you’ll ultimately forget, Shank is right up your alley.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

Beautifully violent visuals

Exciting but repetitive combat

Fun co-op, but no online option

7 out of 10