What's it about?
Shank is a side-scrolling brawler by Klei Entertainment, who also brought you such titles as Don't Starve and Mark of the Ninja. Playing as the titular protagonist, you make your way through several levels, slaughtering dozens of thugs and hired goons along the way on a one-man quest for revenge.How does it play?
The undeniable strength of Shank is its combat. Within the first few minutes of the game, you'll be stringing together devastating combos utilising the weapons at your disposal. You have a light attack, a heavy attack and a firearm attack, and your heavy weapon and firearm can be swapped on the fly with weapons you pick up throughout the game. The fighting has a wonderful feeling of weight and impact to it, and hacking down the beautifully animated enemies is an absolute delight. The bosses are unusual and enjoyable to fight, though most can be beaten in more or less the same way. There is some rudimentary platforming involved in traversing the levels, which doesn't get in the way of the action too much.
Because the game was designed for console, it is highly recommended that you use a controller to play it. Trying to play with the keyboard will turn out to be an altogether fiddly and unenjoyable experience, since the buttons you need will be all over the place. Shank uses almost every button and directional input on the controller, and that amounts to 16 keys on the keyboard. Another bugbear is that levels often involve hazards and enemy placements that can lead to unfair deaths and frustration; the church level in particular, with its falling missiles, can be a nightmare to get through. There is also an odd glitch with the chainsaw's jumping attack in which you and your target can become stuck if you try to jump before the attack animation is finished, forcing you to reload the last checkpoint. It is also not a very long game; I finished it in less than three hours, so take that into consideration before purchasing.How does it look?
In a word, gorgeous. Keli have a knack for nailing their art styles, and Shank is no exception. The character sprites are beautifully designed and animated, and serve to make the already great combat look and feel even better. The environments are equally gorgeous, though there are points at which elements in the foreground appear onscreen and obscure parts of the stage. This often happens in areas with enemies, which can prove annoying when you are fighting or being attacked in a place you can't see. Despite this little problem, the graphics are delightful to look at, and the resolution options mean you shouldn't have a problem getting it to run on your system.How does it sound?
Perhaps less impressive out of all of this is the sound design. The music mostly consists of loops of Mexican standoff-style tunes that fit the game very well, but can get a little repetitive after a while. The enemy shouts and grunts also get very samey (and for some reason, Shank's death rattle sounds almost identical to the Heavy from TF2). The various slashing and shooting sounds are well done, and the chainsaw in particular sounds like the industrial death machine it should. The voice acting in the cutscenes could have been better, but then again, the story is not what's important here.Long story short
Shank is a brutal, bloody and highly entertaining beat-'em-up from a highly talented indie studio. The combat is some of the best I've experienced in a 2D game, and the art style is both beautiful to look at and serves to add to the combat experience. A few problems here and there, but Shank is a game that is definitely worth your time and money.Good Points
- Outstanding combat system
- Gorgeous visuals
- Interesting environments and bosses
- The occasional game-breaking glitch
- Sound design could have been better
- Some questionable decisions in level and art design
- May be too short for some
RedWolf Rating: 6/10 - Good