The story - which is told through a sequence of flash-backs - is merely justification for the violence; but this is a revenge tale. It's an angry, messy game set to the visual style of a children's cartoon, and it manages to toe the line between being delightfully childish and remarkably adult.
Shank is available now from the PlayStation Store. The game's roughly 3-4 hours in length, with an additional co-operative mode available for those seeking multiplayer action.
Shank has the violence of a Tarantino movie set to the visual style of a Saturday morning cartoon. Naturally, it looks fairly unique. It's brilliant too, the animation is silky smooth and the visuals are extremely well drawn. The art is Shank's biggest strength; it's just disappointing there aren't more varied environments through the game's campaign.
Shank's chief gameplay mechanic is the ability to shift between three different weapon types. The default options are the Shank, Chainsaw and Pistols. As you play through the campaign you unlock different weapons which are useful in different situations. Each weapon is assigned to a different face button, allowing you to cycle through different attack combinations with ease. Sadly, the gameplay boils down to little more than button-bashing, but it sure as hell looks and feels good.
Shank's not a particularly intuitive game to play. While much of the action boils down to lashings of button-bashing, the controls can feel counter-productive when you want to perform specific actions. Dodging - which requires a simple tap of the right-stick in three-dimensional character action titles - is awkward, requiring a directional press alongside the block button. Likewise, grapple and dive moves (both mapped to R1 and R2) feel like two commands too many. It's not a comfortable set-up.
Shank's gameplay boils down to corridors of enemies and some unsatisfying platforming. As such, it gets old fairly quickly. While the game's campaign is notably short, it feels drawn out due to the repetition of actions and settings. You'll be ready for the end of Shank when it comes, even though it's mere hours into the campaign.
Some of the boss-fights in Shank are frustratingly difficult. Most have a unique action that you must complete in order to do optimal damage to the opponent. Most of the time though, it feels like your success depends on luck. One particular boss fight early on has you lobbing grenades at a moving car. It's difficult to gauge the length of Shank's throw, and seeing as grenades are in limited supply, it requires an enormous amount of patience to proceed. There's little incentive to keep playing with the challenge so high, we had to walk-away from Shank on numerous occasions during the review. Rage-quitting will occur.
Sometimes Shank's controls just don't work. You'll press the jump button and Shank won't jump. You'll subsequently land into a cheap death-pit and be tasked with starting again. Some of the frustration is taken away with Shank's numerous checkpoints, but at times it feels like tight mechanics have been replaced by Shank's animation. It's certainly pretty to look at, but it gets mighty frustrating to play in places.
Shank combines the super-satisfying juggle driven combat of Devil May Cry with slick cartoon-like visuals. Sadly, the game is severely let-down by some sharp difficulty spikes and clunky controls.