Shank Hands-On

It's not often that we get to shank, chainsaw, and shoot people so gracefully and stylishly.



The fact that Shank doesn't have an announced platform or a release date didn't stop Klei Entertainment from showing it off at the 2009 Penny Arcade Expo. Shank is a 2D side-scrolling action game that stands out with its graphic novel art style, bloody animations and it's incredibly fun to play. We met with CEO Jamie Cheng, who told us a bit about the game, and we got a chance to sit down and slash through this short demo.

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Who's Making This Game: Klei Entertainment is developing and self-publishing this game. The key members of the team include creative director Jeffrey Agala, who has also directed the cartoon series Atomic Betty, and CEO Jamie Cheng, previously an AI programmer for Relic Entertainment.

What The Game Looks Like: The level we were shown was set in a dusty slum, where criminals and gangsters run amok on rooftops, accompanied by the forlorn sound of a lone guitar in the background. Jamie told us that they were inspired by older games like Double Dragon and wanted a nice blend of cinematography and solid gameplay. The art style is very much like a graphic novel, with earthy tones and sharp lines. As we came to a wooden platform, with the golden sun setting in the background, the lighting changed so that all the characters became dark silhouettes. It was easy to distinguish our hero Shank, however, with his red bandana and arsenal of deadly weapons.

What There Is To Do: Shank is a stylish 2D button masher, and our goal was to disembowel anyone who got in our way. We were armed with shanks, pistols, grenades, and, of course, a chainsaw.

How The Game Is Played: On the Xbox 360 controller, the A button is for jumping, the X button is for shanking, the Y button is for the chainsaw, and the B button brings out your dual pistols so you can gun down enemies John Woo-style. There is some light platforming, but it's designed to be easy, so if you happen to miss the jump, you can run up walls to get to where you need to go. A decorated post with a skull on top indicates that you can use it to swing to another platform. You can also grapple people with the right trigger and toss grenades in their mouths by pressing the right bumper. The fun part was being able to seamlessly string any of our moves together and watch how our hero Shank took down foes with cinematic grace.

The action was quick, but it wasn't overwhelming. Enemies of all shapes and sizes came at us, and all acted a bit differently from one another, so you're not just mindlessly hacking through drones. Some of the larger opponents are a bit tough, so if you try to grapple them, they'll pick you up and toss you around. But you can toss and slam people around too, before knifing them in the back.

What They Say: Shank offers a fresh spin on classic 2D side-scrolling action and cranks it up a few notches.

What We Say: We were very impressed with the short demo of Shank because of how smooth the controls felt and how stylish everything looked. It's really easy to chain cool-looking combos together, such as shanking your opponent and then bringing a chainsaw down on his face. The boss at the end was named Toro. He was a large brute whom we dodged as though he were a bull until he ran into a wall and we were able to jump onto his back and chainsaw his neck. The grenade in the mouth must be Shank's signature move, because when we finally took Toro down, a cutscene showed our hero as he stuffed a grenade into the giant's mouth and deftly jumped away, but not before firing two bullets to set off the explosive.

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No release date or platform has been announced, but we can kind of guess where this title will be heading. We'll be sure to keep a close eye on this one and update you with more information as soon as it becomes available.

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