I would love to love this game. It has a fantastic presentation with a Mexican desert flavor, great animation, big boss fights, a plethora of different looking enemies and it is a 2D beat em up published EA (but people think its indie). Its just not fun. In an era full of Metroidvanias beat em ups such as Guacamelee, you will find Shank is more of a basic left to right sidescroller with very few ups and downs. There are no secret areas or even breakable walls with meat in them. If the original Castlevania had secrets, why not Shank?
The game has great controls, a quick melee button, strong melee button, a gun attack, a pounce button, grapple button, grenade button, block button and even a jump. It has everything that you’d ever want in a 2D beat em up. With all of that being said, it feels so monotonous. Your attacks feel very weak and each enemy takes an exorbitant amount of hits. The enemies are pretty smart, they’ll block and roll through you to sandwich you between enemies. If they have enough distance, they’ll pull a gun out and shoot. While there are a lot of different looking enemies, they all pretty much fall into a few categories. Standard foot soldiers, big brawlers, weapon users and dogs.
The game is very forgiving on normal mode. There are no lives, you just respawn pretty close to where you died. It is a welcome decision to do so. Of course, there is a hard mode too.
The problem with the game is that it gets dull really quick especially when you have the same attacks from start to finish. You gain no new abilities to keep things fresh. There are a few extra guns and strong melee weapons that you can use, but nothing feels like an upgrade, just a sidegrade. The bosses boil down to finding a weakness to exploit, pouncing on them and stabbing them.
There are light traversals to break up combat for a mere two seconds, such as climbing a brief fall, briefly hanging from a pipe or jumping platform to platform, but it just needed more of a break from the monotony of combat. It is so odd that there can be so much diversity in combat, and yet you can still just button mash your way to victory. Also what does it say about Shank’s combat when the next game the creators made after Shank 2 was a stealth game? Another issue with the game is the blah music.
There is co-op to improve the experience, but having a friend around can improve any experience. I’m from an era of Nintendo and Super Nintendo beat em ups that have less combat options, but more enemy diversity. I just couldn’t get into Shank.
Finally, there will be plenty of sales if not game bundles with Shank 1 and 2. Just wait for the combo pack sales with $5 for both.