April 6, 2010 – The Xbox LIVE Arcade is great, really but a little tame for our tastes. That’s why we’re looking forward to Shank. Because when you get right down to it, you can play Geometry Wars until your ears bleed, but there’s nothing quite like the visceral feeling of joy you get from tearing your enemies limb from limb in a game like Shank.
The first game from rookie studio Klei Entertainment, Shank is aimed to be an homage to old 2D side-scrolling beat-’em-ups like Double Dragon. That said, the team at Klei is clearly determined to keep those influences at arm’s length because as many of us know, those games haven’t aged very well at all. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than spending even a few minutes with Shank.
Shank takes everything that was terrible about those old classics and uses modern technology to turn them into something awesome. So, you didn’t like the janky animations and difficult controls of Double Dragon? Shank delivers in spades. This game controls just about as fluidly as any other game we’ve ever played in 2D.
Aside from the normal animations that look wonderful, Shank can also transition from using his knives, chainsaw, or gun immediately. In essence, the combo system is entirely left up to the player to destroy their enemies as they see fit. Each weapon is mapped to one of the face buttons, so creating your own unique method of destruction comes naturally. Though, of course, if that gets boring, there’s still many other ways to take out your foes. In the level we played, for instance, there were many giant meat grinders littered throughout, and we took no small amount of joy in picking up our enemies and tossing them into the giant swirling mass of blades.
If environmental kills aren’t your thing, then you can always spice up your repertoire with a high-flying assassination. Tap the right bumper on the Xbox 360 controller and Shank leaps into the air towards his nearest opponent, slamming his blades into their chest and dragging them to the ground. It’s gruesome as all get-out, but it’s extremely satisfying in a cathartic sort of way.
All of this is what we expected out of Shank, and it delivered in a big way. However, what surprised us was the fluid and fun platforming action. In between battles, our demo level saw us wall-running, sliding, and flipping our way through a complex meat factory. Everything about it was spot-on too. There was never a moment, even in this early build, where we felt like things were imprecise or difficult to use.
Shank is looking to shake up console and PC arcade platforms, and everything we’ve seen so far gives us faith that gamers are going to fall in love with this vicious outlaw when he finally gets his knives into the PSN, XBLA, and PC.