Columns & Blogs

‘Shank’ should be hit with nostalgic gamers

No matter how far video games have advanced, old-school style games still draw interest.

Because of that, developers have started making throwback games in the past few years to spark some nostalgia from longtime gamers.

Many of these retro 2D titles have hit the consoles as downloadable games, perhaps because the depth required to make a game on par with the old Nintendo and Sega games doesn’t require a full, standalone game. Some are sequels and remakes to established franchises like “Mega Man” and “Rush’n Attack,” and other new titles like “Shadow Complex.”

Electronic Arts has now taken a stab at the genre with the release of “Shank,” a cartoon-like, 2D action game that is available on Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network.

“Shank” is an old-fashioned, side-scrolling brawler that — like any classic action-adventure game — has you fighting left-to-right through a ton of enemies. You control the titular character and his arsenal of weapons as you battle through a landscape that resembles something out of a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez film.

Of course, the game doesn’t have the storytelling depth of “Kill Bill” or “Desperado,” but as I remember it, most of the best games from my youth had either the simplest of stories or no story at all.

That’s what makes it hard to compare games like “Shank” and “Shadow Complex” to “Double Dragon.” Those games don’t hold up over time. Technology has advanced too far, making it hard to argue that many of the Nintendo originals are still entertaining. “Contra” still holds a special place in my mind, but I don’t have any interest in playing it anymore.

“Shank” does bring back that nostalgic feel, but it plays much better than any of those old games.

“Shank” delivers fast-paced action that no Nintendo or Sega games could deliver because those systems were in the technology equivalent of the Stone Age. The graphics are light years ahead for “Shank,” particularly if you’re playing the colorful game in high definition.

But “Shank” doesn’t hold up great against today’s games. Sure it’s fun, but most of that fun comes at the very elemental level. Games and storytelling have advanced so much in the past 25 years that you expect a little more depth from current games, even ones that are downloadable.

So if you’re hoping for a game that harkens back to your youth, then you’ll probably be pleased with “Shank.” Just don’t expect much more than that.

It’s a game caught it the middle of generations: way too good for Nintendo and not good enough for the current generation of consoles.