Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Short But Sweet Interactive Cartoon... The Shank (PSN) Review

There are games that are all style with no substance, but there are some that are both and Shank fits that description. When you first see Shank in action, you feel like you're playing a cartoon straight up from Cartoon Network's glory days. The obvious comparison Shank draws from is Samurai Jack, but with knives and guns which is not that bad considering both Shank and Samurai Jack are badass warriors in their craft. This indie darling that got positive buzz from past gaming conventions is finally out and it does indeed live up those expectations despite some setbacks. Considering the price tag and the amount of content this game offers, Shank is still worth your time if you love short and sweet beat-em-ups.

Shank's storyline is your simple revenge tale as he has to avenge his significant other by killing those that took her away. In other words, its like the male version of Kill Bill as you slaughter one boss after another until you reach the one that is behind it all. Other than his shanks, dual pistols, and chainsaw, Shank gets more weapons the further you go along to complete your quest from machetes, a shotgun, grenades, and more. The controls are what you expect out of a modern brawler even though this game plays like a 2D side scroller. It is pretty simple stuff on paper, but there is some depth out of the combat to come up with stylish combos like Devil May Cry. If you're not into trying to use the combat system to its full potential, then the core combat is mashy, but you have to play with some urgency especially in the second half of the game where enemies will defend and attack at will. Other than cutting dudes up, there is some platforming Shank has to deal with, but it holds your hand for the most part meaning its easy to perform a sequence such as climbing a pole to wall running a billboard and then grabbing to a skull. Even with such simple platforming elements, the trickier sequences do get frustrating which can result in pointless deaths, but good thing there is a checkpoint system to try things again. Speaking of checkpoints, there are none on hard difficulty, which does make those segments more frustrating if a simple misjump can result in starting over a level again.

The main campaign in Shank can be completed in four hours, which is really short, but if it was longer, the repetition would of kicked in as the game is paced well in those four hours going from setting to setting taking out the opposition. The boss battles are well thought out as well as nearly all of them require different tactics to kill them, but sometimes you don't expect to exploit their weakness in the first try as if it is some trial and error approach because the hint system does tell you what to do to kill a boss quicker after you die. Despite the short campaign, there is some replay value into the game with a harder difficulty, unlockable outfits by killing a certain number of enemies with certain weapons, and concept art. There is also a cooperative campaign, which is more of the same, but a slightly different take on the storyline since there are two characters. Other than that, Shank is pretty light with content considering the fifteen dollar price tag, so the purchase may feel questionable if you don't feel like you got enough longevity out of the game.

The most striking feature in Shank other than the brutal combat is the cartoony visual style. Remember what I said comparing Shank to Samurai Jack? The visual style is what makes them familiar from the awesome cutscenes with little to no dialogue even though it still sets up what's next, how they handle blood and gore, and so on. Also pretty impressive with Shank's graphics are the animations specifically with Shank himself. He moves like a true cartoon character with slicing and shooting enemies at will with no remorse. His facial expressions when in action are outstanding as well even though the combat may not feel as fluid people hoped. Sound-wise, Shank's soundtrack fits the theme, but you're probably busy tearing people apart. As mentioned earlier, there is little to no dialogue between Shank and the main bosses as his actions would rather do the talking.

All in all, Shank feels like a short and sweet interactive cartoon with style. The visual style makes you wish it is an actual cartoon on television, but it is probably best it stays as a game. The combat is simple yet deep like some of the more known modern brawlers like Devil May Cry and God of War. It does take your imagination though to exploit the game's combo system to come up with stylish combos as mashing away does not guarantee you success. The lack of content along with it being a four hour game hurts the overall package considering its fifteen dollars on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Despite that issue, I still had a fun time with Shank as it is a good four hours that is worth your time if you love stylish beat-em-ups.

Score = 8/10

  • Amazing visual style from the overall graphics to the animations that reminds you of Samurai Jack
  • Core combat is simple yet has some depth if you want to mess around coming up with stylish combos
  • Short and sweet campaign
  • Cutscenes that also go along with the visual style keeps the game moving
  • The main campaign is four hours long, perhaps too short to satisfy the $15 dollar price
  • Combat may not feel as fluid as some hoped
  • Other than a hard difficulty and a co-op campaign, the game is light on content
  • Platforming elements can be frustrating at times especially later on in the game.

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