To be honest, 2D side scrollers aren’t usually my thing. I mean don’t get me wrong I loved games like Double Dragon and Contra as much as anybody but for the most part personally I like classics to stay just that. But there was something about Shank that intrigued me and after playing the demo I decided that it was worth the $14.99 and I think for the most part it absolutely is.
You are Shank, a man who was betrayed and left for dead by people he thought he could trust. As it stands the rumors of your demise was overly exaggerated and that’s going to mean trouble as you leave tons of bodies in your wake on your quest for revenge. You will travel across multiple levels dispatching anyone who would dare stand between you and the people you are looking for. One of Shank’s greatest assets is that its a simple game to learn and master. In Shank there are only three attack buttons and they are used for attacking with a multitude of weapons including knives, a chainsaw and some seriously vicious guns, which can each be combined to pull off some pretty nasty combos. You are also able to throw grenades, grapple, and pounce onto your enemies to inflict massive amounts of damage.
The game is download only so its not amazingly long, but it is long enough to warrant the price tag. The story is simple and pretty believable and they do an excellent job of giving the player more and more of the story as you progress, though there were a few things that weren’t completely explained. The voice work in this game is impeccable and a real treat, though I gotta admit I didn’t expect Shanks’s voice to come out of that body, when you play it you will know what I mean. For the most part combat is actually pretty easy since you have an unlimited amount of ammo, though you need to pick up grenades. The only problem during regular combat is that most of the time you will be extremely outnumbered so you have to learn how to divide and conquer your enemies but its something you will be pick up fast or just continue to die.
The games features an array of bosses who while much more powerful than Shank each have a “weakness” that you can exploit to deal large amounts of damage to them and eventually take them down, all of them except for the final boss that is, he my friends is another story. Coincidentally, this is really my only major gripe with Shank. As I said, each of the previous bosses you will face have a trick to beating them that you can easily leverage to defeat them if you pay attention, but not the last boss. He has no “weakness” and instead the player is instructed to counter and then look for an opening, the problem is that there isn’t one, at least not until you make them. The method to the madness will require a combination of strategies that you probably used very little throughout the rest of the game. The final boss is fast, methodical, and extremely strong and as hard as you will try very few people will be able to beat him without a little “help”. I consider myself a fairly decent gamer and this last boss battle had me about to throw my controller across the room.
When I tweeted to Klei about this, they responded that lots of people had been complaining that the final boss was hard to beat and pointed me to a guide that someone wrote that was supposed to help and it did. By following the video tutorial, I saw what I needed to do to beat him and after that it only took about 4 more tries to get it right and finally beat the game. My problem with the whole thing is that fact that without the guide I probably wouldn’t have figured it out and without it lots of you won’t either though maybe you guys are smarter than me and will. Up until that point the game had stayed with a pretty consistent formula and then all of the sudden for the last fight you have to employ a completely new strategy.
The final boss battle aside though, Klei did some excellent work on Shank and I really enjoyed it. I am all for the big budget Triple A titles that we all know and love but this was a really good change up from them, something simple and viscerally satisfying in the spirit of Afro Samurai. I know lots of you are skeptical about download only titles fearing that they will be of a lesser quality but that is just not true anymore and Shank just further proves that. Shank is a nice change of pace and an all around well balanced game and that’s why ZoKnowsGaming gives Shank by Klei 8 out of 10.
Note: Now I am not that cruel to mention the guide and not give you the link, but I had to get you to read the whole review didn’t I :). Anyway, just follow the instructions in this video tutorial and you will be feeling the sweet thrill of victory in no time. The complete boss battle guide for Shank can be found here.