Shank Preview (Xbox360)

As a journalist, I have the unfortunate business of going beyond the hype to see exactly how good a game is or isn’t. Most of the time, the hype is greater than the game. It’s very rare that you get a game with no hype, only to come off as one of the most sought out games on the show floor. Shank is that game.

A 2D sidescroller, Shank looks like an Xbox Live Arcade title, highly stylized and cartoonish in form, which seeks to render players in a sort of wild frenzy of intriguing combat and extremely simple gameplay. Using that stylized artwork, Shank, our main character, uses a knife (Shank, get it?), one or multiple guns, and a third weapon, all of which are interchangeable with weapons that can be found through the course of the title.

The story remains unclear to us, but Shank must fight through hundreds of enemies and plenty of bosses, gaining all these collectible weapons. Also a mystery is the console developer Klei Entertainment, known for titles such as N+, Eets and Sugar Rush, plans to release on. “It could be on XBLA, PSN, PC, or even on the Dreamcast,” Klei President Jamie Cheng stated during my demo. As expected, the Dreamcast is the most sought-out system for it to release on. I did, however, play it on an Xbox 360 controller.

Shank has several intriguing features. The art style blends in tremendously well with most gamers, as I heard before my demo and when I walked by the kiosk earlier in the show. Running at 60 frames per second, playing is like watching a cartoon in action, albeit a gory, stabby one with plenty of shanking, chainsawing, shooting, and hopefully many more methods of destruction.

Then there’s the combat system. Every weapon in the game is controlled by one button, an excellent setup to instigate instant combinations with any and all weapons. In fact, every weapon does just that, regardless of what you use. Knife to chainsaw back to knife, around to guns…I made at least a dozen different combinations in standard combat using just three buttons, each more satisfying than the last.

Beyond that, a pounce and tackle attack gives Shank the ability to quickly strike a foe at a distance, without the need to run at them. Shank can then apply yet another dose of pain in combination form, freeflowing just the same. Because the game is still in development, I was asked for my feedback. I found the game extremely amusing and satisfying, and would only add a dodge function, something to drop a foot back or forward.

As a title which has had almost zero advertising, marketing, and any showing before PAX, I can safely say that it was one of those games that I’ll be anticipating until its release. The unique 2D freeflow combat, the simple and clean cut art direction and controls, and ridiculously satisfying gameplay put it at the top of my “want” list. Whatever you’re doing Klei, keep doing it. With a dodge function.


By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Sep 14, 2009
Another Indie game to make a grab-for-cash before the big mainstream titles hit. I'd save my cash for what's to come, unless you are a dedicate Indie gamer. If you have Trine (gag), then I'd stop right there.