Shank

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Shank Game Poster Image
Artistic but exceptionally violent, bloody 2-D beat-'em-up.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Glorifies bloody violence, suggests deadly revenge is the best means of satisfying grief. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Shank is a hit man who turns on his former employer in a righteous quest for justice. His extraordinarily violent methods make him no better than the people he kills. 

Ease of Play

Fairly challenging. Bosses require thought and strategy. Players need effective weapon-combination tactics. Button mashing won't cut it.

Violence

Cartoonish, intense combat. Wide range of guns, explosives, bladed weapons. Blood gushes from wounds, heads are severed, bodies are blown to bits. Slo-mo calls attention to glamorized gore. 

Sex

Strippers appear with scant attire revealing deep, bouncing cleavage. A villain threatens to rape one of them.

Language

"F--k," "s--t," other strong language used frequently.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Shank is a downloadable 2-D side-scrolling beat-'em-up action game with extreme violence. Its cartoon-like aesthetic may make it seem like a game for kids, but combat depicts the graphic killing of hundreds of characters by guns, grenades, chain saws, and knives, with blood and gore splashing the screen. It also has plenty of strong language, including"f--k," as well as scenes with strippers in scant clothing with large, jiggling breasts. The story about a hit man exacting revenge on his former employers for the murder of his girlfriend is decidedly adult-oriented with no positive role models or redeeming messages.

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What's it about?

SHANK is the story of a hit man on a quest for vengeance after his gang murders his girlfriend. Set in cartoonish side-scrolling 2-D environments, separate narratives play out in the single and local co-op campaigns. The latter sets up the story of the former by depicting events leading up to the gang's betrayal of Shank. Levels are generally composed of a series of minions followed by a more challenging final boss. Shank (and in co-op, a fellow hit-man) employs a massive arsenal of weapons as well as acrobatic hand-to-hand combat moves in potent combination attacks. Special pounce moves allow Shank to take to the air, coming down on enemies in powerful, creative strikes. Co-op play encourages players to work together, combining attacks and moves to take down more powerful foes.   

Is it any good?

Shank is bloody, outrageous, and thoroughly unbelievable. It also can be a lot of fun for mature players, especially if they have a friend with whom to play the separate local co-op campaign. The art is excellent. Animations are so smooth that it's almost like controlling a cartoon character, and the occasionally interactive environments (streets, rooftops, cellars, clubs) are a treat. Twilight sequences wherein the player's character appears and fights as a silhouette are particularly memorable.

The action isn't particularly innovative, but combat is fun, fluid, and often spectacular. Just remember it's pretty grisly, too, and frustratingly tough in a few spots. Shank has much of the polish and visual sparkle of a boxed game but comes at the affordable price of an indie downloadable, making it an easy recommendation for older gamers interested in over-the-top cartoon combat.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in media. Do you think the impact of bloody, deadly violence is the same or lessened when it's presented with an artistic vision? Do you think stylized violence in popular culture can affect the way people behave in the real world?  

  • Discuss justice and how our culture leaves judgments and sentencing up to people deemed impartial to the specific offense. Do you agree with this, or should there be a place in the justice system for victims of crime and their relatives to have their say in what happens to criminals?

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