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A Bloody Good Time- Shank Review

In the mid-nineties, few films were able to encapsulate my entrenched passions as well as 1995’s Desperado. Skillfully blending John Woo-inspired gunplay, a searing Santana-infused soundtrack, with a unhealthy infatuation of Salma Hayek, it seemed like every frame of the movie was culled from my unconscious. I recall leaving the opening night screening, yearning to replay the on-screen action in interactive form. Sadly, that craving was only partially fulfilled by Total Overdose: A Gunslingers Tale in Mexico, over ten years later. A full decade was spent wondering why someone didn’t contextualize  Robert Rodriguez’s tequila-drenched vision into a visceral 2D hack-and-slash. Now, five years later, my wish has been unexpectedly fulfilled by the developer of Eets: Chowdown.

While the game’s eponymous protagonist may evoke more of a venomous Machete vibe, rather than Antonio Banderas’s imperturbable cool, the decision is undoubtedly for the better. Shank is a character of minimal words, preferring to let his arsenal of guns, grenades, and a chainsaw handle any conflict resolution. From the moment the character descends upon the game’s shadowy bar until he exacts his retribution on the final boss, this anti-hero is a hell-bent beast of butchery, darting wildly like a 2D Dante or Bayonetta.

To permit Shank to exact his revenge, nearly every button on the controller in utilized. Typically, the protagonist’s barrage of agony is deliberately fluid, allowing Shank to fire off a barrage of ballistics in one direction, while pummeling a foe in another. If the character can grab hold of a enemy a new range of options exist, allowing the player to throw the antagonist to the ground in preparation of a point-blank shotgun blast or offer a mouthful of hand grenades. While many brawlers suffer from repetition, the repertoire of carnage offered by Shank, helps shake the genre’s inevitable tedium.

Sadly, a few minor blemishes weren’t exorcised by the title’s Q&A team. The same button used to strike is also utilized to pick up health-replenishing objects in the environment. Sporadically, my last-ditch recovery effort was frustratingly interpreted as a concluding strike. Likewise, I succumbed a few times when Shank didn’t sinuously dodge out of danger, or when he stubbornly didn’t want to change his firing direction quickly enough. While the game’s platforming bits feel nearly automated in the first few stages, soon enemy  fire will come cascading from the sky, often sending our hero plummeting to his death.

Unlike recent beat-em-ups which seem to expect another player  to share couch space and pugilistic responsibilities, Shank‘s multiplayer component is designed for two gamers. The co-operative mode cleverly offers the protagonist’s backstory, as well as delivers stages and bosses not found in the game’s single-player campaign. Interestingly, the title’s difficulty is augmented to accommodate an additional player. In execution, the challenge level probably didn’t need to be raised- keeping track of your character on a busier screen was taxing enough.

Despite a few niggling control issues, Shank represents one the best exemplars in the recent revival of 2D brawlers.  Along with a magnificently hand-drawn, lithely animated delivery, the title entices gamers with its 100+ hit combos, and brooding musical score. Those who find contentment within the confines of a visceral, comically violent side-scroller such as Castle Crashers or Alien Hominid should thoroughly enjoy Shank. Personally, I’m eager awaiting a second-playthrough after the Machete premiere; I can’t think of a diversion better suited as a companion piece.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

36 comments

  1. Why is the game so big? It took me forever to download the demo. I still haven’t finished.

  2. So worth the $15 dollars?

    I liked the demo, but I heard it gets really hard.

  3. I’m getting a metal slug vibe from the pics. Am I way off?

  4. As a fan of Alien Hominid, I’ll be trying this.

  5. Why are all these game not having online co-op? Please remind me why i’m paying $50 a year for shit I don’t use???

  6. dude, the guy in the top pic is totally Danny Trejo. You must be in heaven.

  7. it’s a shame Rodriguez hasn’t made a movie as good as El Mariachi/Desperado.

  8. You shoot dogs? How could you, Deagle?

  9. Load time are horrendous it should be stated. 1 minute per level.

  10. What about the cheevio problems? When will that be fixed?

  11. Wow, this really looks like Samurai Jack. which is the greatest kids series ever.

    And don’t even say Spongebob or I’ll hit you in the head.

  12. Wow, Deagle loved Desperado? +1 in my book!

  13. The demo was pretty cool. I’m thinking about getting this, but a $15 price tag always makes me think.

  14. play the PS3 version, guys.

  15. Yeah, I always expect the $15 hate brigade to come out for these games.

  16. check this out:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2010-08-27-shank-issues-not-the-360s-fault

    It address some of the problems with the 360 version.

  17. Leo the Lionhearted

    I really liked the demo, I caught the DMC vibe from the combat.

  18. I cued up the demo on Xbox.com. Too bad you can’t turn the system on, too.

  19. $15 is still a bit pricey for me, but I’m glad to hear about the co-op.

  20. To me the blood and violence feels forced. The game just doesn’t feel like it needs it.

  21. Good review. I thought of Machete too when I played it.

  22. I won’t be buying this until I hear it’s fixed.

  23. looks very Genndy Tartakovsky inspired.

  24. it is bug-free? Whats the native resolution compared to the 360 version?

  25. I cant wait for it. I heard the movie is pretty crazy, and many of really intense stuff will be saved for the video release.

  26. Because shooting dog is bad, but people is OK? Please explain.

  27. When did online co-op go out of style with brawlers? It was in vogue last year.

  28. Good review as always Deagle.

  29. I haven’t had any problems so far!

  30. yeah, the combat is pretty damn awesome. I need to buy this.

  31. I wasn’t so crazy about the demo. Fun, but not very original. Shank just feels like like a mix of other games to me.

  32. wow, it really looks like a cartoon. So awesome, I need to get/try this.

  33. Looks good but this $15 games are killing me. What happened to the $10/$5 prices?

  34. Thanks for the review. I’m debating on buying this.

  35. Loving the game so far, too bad about the skipping during the cinemas, poor programming or testing strikes again.

  36. I want this game

    AND MADDEN!!