Shank is a 2D side-scrolling brawler and platformer which reminds me of the 2D incarnations of:
all jumbled up together in a very awesome way.
The story is quite cliche: you are a mercenary, Shank, who has lost everything and you want to set things right. How do you do that? You go on a rampage to kill the person who has caused you all this trouble. Unfortunately this means killing everyone who tries to stop you on your path.
The game focuses almost exclusively on the killing-everyone-who-tries-to-stop-you part. Shank has three weapons active at any point in the game. His most basic weapon is his knife or shank which is his trademark weapon of choice. He can use it to make quick attacks. Next he has a melee weapon and finally a ranged one. Various assortments of these latter weapon types are collected along the way. You can swap between them as you play. The melee weapons are slower than the knife but do more damage. Range weapons do various amounts of damage but are more useful to keep enemies off you.
Shank can perform other basic attacks which are blocking, dodging, jumping, leaping onto an enemy, throwing grenades and well, shanking (a form of grip). Chaining a number of these moves and attacks allows you to perform some wicked combos. This enables you to clear your enemies in style and quickly. To this day I still don’t know if I know how to perform all the combos but they are insanely fun to find and execute.
Speaking of enemies. Enemies come in four main forms which basically are: thug, huge thug, hound and boss. The first two come in various variants wielding different weapons. The hounds are really annoying (because they can break your combos) but easy to dispatch. Bosses are huge (they usually take half the screen when the game camera is zoomed-in). Killing them in a conventional manner is often tedious. I won’t go into how you can dispatch them but the game does help you figure it out via hints.
Bosses are key components of the story-line and facing them/killing them entails watching a cut-scene. The cut-scenes themselves are well-made and prevent the game from being just a key-basher. They tie the levels with the story seamlessly and give your character depth. You are not killing people mindlessly, your motivation is revenge. Like the cut-scenes the level and character art are well executed and fit well with the game mechanics.
Sound is also well implemented within the game. Nothing beats pulling off a combo with a chainsaw and hearing it roar as it tears through your enemy (yes yes a bit graphic but remember this guy has nothing left to lose). Voice acting is also decent. All in all sound is mediocre but verging on the good side. Not as good as say Bastion but good enough for a game like this one.
All in all I think this game is solidly made and good for mindless de-stressing. I played it two hours straight last night trying to win a hard-mode level. Ah about difficulty. Normal is nice and easy. Hard is merciless. If you get killed you start from the beginning of a level again. That tingled my stubbornness to no end. Hence the two hours.
There is coop mode which apparently is also nice to play and worth a visit. Haven’t done so myself but will give it a shot with people on my Steam list at some point. Finally, the only negative feedback I have for the game is two-fold. One is from me: I discovered some minor bugs while playing. The other one is from a friend who has played it. He finds it too repetitive.
These things aside I would say this is a definite yes for me. I will definitely play Shank 2 and Mark of the Ninja from Klei Entertainment. 9/10