Shank Review

Bloody, slutty comic-book vengeance — the beginning to any gamer’s balanced diet — permeates Shank in the best of ways. It’s a return to side-scrolling shooters and a nod to hack-and-slash, with a dash of Kill Bill liberally sprinkled in between. It comfortably takes its place among MadWorld and No More Heroes as a stylish, brutal bloodletting, but set apart by genre. If you or you and a friend are looking to get your hands dirty, grab a Shank on XBL or PSN now.

The story of Shank, mob muscle turned lover turned avenger, plays out in two story modes. The latter half is single-player, while the background story is 2-player co-op (one player as Shank and the other as Falcone, his mob muscle comrade). Both play out in high-contrast, Western-style 2D environments, accompanied by twang-heavy rock, classical, and country guitar riffs a la Fistful of Dollars remix. The whole package fits surprisingly well, even with extended stripper scenes and a boss battle with a leather-bound gimp. It sounds like a lot to swallow simultaneously, but Klei Entertainment manages to weave the outrageous with the subtle artfully (I’d call it "brutiful") so nothing feels out of place, just consistently ostentatious. Mix that with some silhouetted sunset brawls, crisp colors and graphics, and a touch of dark humor, and Shank emerges.


Combat consists mainly of light, heavy, and gun attacks and dodging, but it allows for ample variety within that simple framework. The light attacks are always with your shanks, and it’s always a quick answer to slower enemies. Heavy attacks are best used in combination with the other two, but the strategy also depends largely on which heavy weapon you choose. For example, the chains, which can choke enemies, are more suited for stealth or one-on-one kills, whereas the chainsaw is more of an all-purpose slow but powerful carving. Similarly, gun choice affects how the gun attack should be used, with the shotgun serving to create distance between enemies and the pistols better for long shots. There are also grabs and grenades, which require situational use to be effective, and can be combined with the other attacks to varying degrees of success. Easily my favorite and the most gruesome tactic is to grab an enemy and tap the grenade button (left trigger), then sit back while Shank rams a live grenade into the mouth of his enemy. Results do not vary.

For a game like Shank, with two 4-5 hour campaigns, I consider pacing extremely important. While the combat is frequently broken up by some light, linear platforming, the majority of time spent is in combat with units that follow repetitive patterns throughout (though there are a good many different character models, they all behave similarly). To be sure, if semi-skilled hack-and-slash combat doesn’t work for you, then Shank will frustrate you with its insistence upon this type of gameplay. But for those who like tearing it up in close quarters, or are even just willing to do it for fifteen or so minutes at a time, they’ll be rewarded with distinct, grotesque, and often difficult boss battles throughout. You may see Shank having to counter the boss’s attack quickly or maybe dodge an attack to initiate a one-button, quick-time throttling, but every boss is imaginatively conceived both in tactics and in character. Ultimately, these battles glue the game together and define the Shank experience. They provide the strategic breathers from the general action of the game and cause the player to think creatively about the battle, the boss, and the environment. If there’s one place Shank stands out, this is it.


There’s really nothing wrong with Shank, aside from a little repetition, but I wouldn’t put it in the highest echelon of downloadable gaming. Maybe games like Limbo and Flower have turned my tastes towards experiential gaming and away from, for lack of a better term, "gamey" games. Shank is no misfire. It’s a sharpened toothbrush right to the abdomen of 2D side-scrolling action games in the best and bloodiest of ways. Despite the stellar presentation, the engaging storytelling, and the hordes of bikers, gangsters, dancers, and mobsters that Shank blows away, however, I can’t help feeling mere satisfaction in response. Shank is absolutely worth the time, money, and effort, though perhaps it’s not the paragon of innovation I expected.

4 out of 5


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Myspace
  • Google Buzz
  • Reddit
  • Stumnleupon
  • Delicious
  • Digg
  • Technorati
Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

Leave A Response

You must be logged in to post a comment.