Shank’s revenge story might be a tale as old as time, but that is where the comparisons to a Disney film end. Instead it provides a gruesome blood bath of 2D side-scrolling violence that would do Quentin Tarantino proud in many ways.
The player will take control of the title character, wielding an array of weapons to slice, shoot, and blow up goon after muscular goon that protect those who have made it onto Shank’s kill list, a la the bride’s in Kill Bill. And just like her, Shank has no hesitation in leaving unburied mass graves in his wake. The controls of the game are familiar to most gamers with the simple options of jumping, light and heavy attacks, blocking, etc., with the different weapons picked up throughout the gameplay providing a nice variety to the action. Whether you choose to button mash your way out of a corner or add a little thought to the mindless violence by figuring out the best way to take down the different opponents, Shank will look great massacring whoever is stupid enough to come up against him.
In the beginning everything about this game is exciting and promising. The art style of the B movie inspired cutscenes looks like a motion comic come to life, with 2D animations sequences that provide enough of a glimpse at why Shank is on this one track path of vengeance without overstaying their welcome, providing smaller windows in the upper corners of the screen from time to time to further the story without taking the player out of the momentum of their gameplay. The look of the levels blends in perfectly with the animation style, sticking to a warmer color scheme that at times looks like it has been soaking in blood for the last few hours. The design provides plenty of open areas for the mayhem to occur, as well as walls to climb and hurdles to jump past to vary up the constant beat-’em-up action.
However, as they say, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” and eventually the excitement and promise felt in the early moments of the game begins to cool. The levels start to look the same, providing a boring landscape for the action that becomes second nature in the worst way and repetitive. Signature moves become the go to in order to take down the masses of thugs in each level, making it a task to vary up the stale plan of attack in order to add some variety to the gameplay. On top of that, other than the final boss battle, those that come before provide no complexity and less challenge than the sometimes overwhelming amounts of lesser baddies passed through on the way to the end of each level, making each achievement/trophy for taking down the opponent about as earned as those tossed out for starting a game.
Like many of the other recent downloadable releases, one recommended way to make the game more fun is to play through with a friend who can protect your back when things get rough. You can divide the goons between the two of you, take them on with cooperative takedowns, revive your fallen comrade, etc., and Shank gets bonus points for providing a different storyline for this instead of just throwing a second player into the main story. Unfortunately a lot of people will not get to experience this prequel to the single player campaign because once again the co-op option is limited to local gameplay and no online option.
The art and animation of Shank provides a great look to the familiar revenge story, and there is never a lack of mindless butchering in this game. This may be enough to substantiate a great action game for many, but for those expecting more the repetition of Shank will lead to a slightly disappointing experience.
Final Grade: 6.5/10 (In all fairness it could have gotten a 7 had I gotten to play through the whole co-op portion of the game, but my mom is far from the ideal buddy to play this with. I really need more gamer friends that don’t live states away…)