Written by Chris Price
06 Monday 06th September 2010

The premise of Shank is simple – a bandana sporting Johnny-Bravo-gone-bad embarks on a revenge epic against maraudering banditos, scrolling from left to right across a beleaguered Mexican backdrop, dispatching swathes of baddies, running at him waggling their penises in a threatening manner (or not). It’s from some very unoriginal stock (as we’re about to see). But Shank is a game of nice touches, and has obviously been crafted with love.

Nice is possibly the most depressing adjective you could attribute to anything. But nice is pleasant, inoffensive and polite. Nice provides those water cooler moments. And enough nice becomes memorable. There was a hole in Double Dragon, where booting opponents delivered instant death. In Final Fight, boxer Cody had a leaping knee drop, which would stun opponents enough to deliver a follow up combination. Small touches, but memorable aspects – and Shank has plenty of these
It’s visually a fantastic little trip down memory lane; immediate, fun, violent and frantic. Certainly it’s an homage to the Robert Rodriguez Mariachi trilogy (3 films that surprisingly never made a direct transition to gaming formats) – right down to the faux Danny Trejo bad guys, Cheech Marin bartender and the Santana-inspired score. Possibly even thow in a touch of Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness and Bruce Campbell’s chiselled ice-white comic book grin.
Shank is about spotting your opponent, attacking and chaining attacks to rack up points bonuses. Weapons available include the obligatory twin pistols, knives and his trusty chainsaw – all can be employed mid-brawl to produce some innovative villain juggling. Grabs and throws add to Shank’s arsenal in close quarters, plus a rather smart ‘pounce’ can drag opponents into close proximity. It’s nasty, with plenty of blood letting, but never too gratuitous. Little touches like the in-game story updates, finishing moves and silhouetted rooftop battles all add to a consistent comic book feel.
It’s an homage to a forgotten age that is seeing a resurgence via mobile and download platforms. A charismatic, sharp extended mini-game it won’t entertain you forever, but by the time you get bored, there will be something new and unfamiliar to sink your teeth into. It can get chaotic, especially in two player co-op mode (mainly due to a muted colour palette and the visual similarity of characters battling on the same planes) but its voracity and its passionate belief in its simplicity is enough to charm you until the end.
Shank is currently available on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.


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