One beat ’em up stands out while other disappoints

Allistair Pinsof

Shank [PC, Xbox 360, PS3]

Modern beat ’em ups seem to serve no purpose other than to milk our nostalgia and remind us how repetitive games once were. “Shank,” however, is something new, something special. It rewrites the history of the genre by adding the advanced combos and visceral action of modern 3-D action games like “God of War” and “Devil May Cry” to a more traditional presentation and design — that of the 2-D brawler. Like any other game in the genre, you fight from one side of the stage to the other, reach the boss and venture on to the next stage. Thanks to a fighting system that offers flexibility, speed and a great variety of stages and enemies, “Shank’s” brief but very challenging campaign is one of the highlights of this year. The presentation complements the game perfectly, taking the visual style of “Samurai Jack” and pairing it with the desolate, violent Mexico found in Robert Rodriguez’s films; one could possibly mistake it for being a spin-off of his upcoming “Machete.” The game also contains a two-player campaign that works as a prologue to the main single-player.
nfortunately, the two-player campaign is a bit shorter and a bit too hectic for its own good. Nevertheless, for $15, this is the best time you’ll have with a chainsaw, hunting knife and shotgun all at once. Just don’t be afraid to use all eight buttons. It’s 2010 and “Shank” is making the most of it.

Grade: A

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game [Xbox 360, PS3]

As a film, “Scott Pilgrim” is pretty damn brilliant. It brought the hyperreality of the comic-book source material to life, and turned overwrought fight scenes into
unreal, color-corrected spectacles. With such a linear, video game-referencing plot, one can imagine it would translate smoothly into the realm of interaction. It’s to a fault, then, that the game relies so heavily on its quirkiness and production values. Even worse, the producers seem intent on delivering it all in a sub-par beat ’em up. Up to four players beat up enemies on a scrolling path until they reach the end. “Scott Pilgrim” doesn’t introduce much of anything new to the format. Instead, it borrows from older entries within its genre — “River City Ransom” specifically: Shops offer new items, moves unlock over time and there will be a lot of coins to collect. The levels, rendered by Paul Robertson (the man behind cult Internet video “Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006”) are full of detail unlike any other entry in its genre, but that doesn’t make the pace any less glacial. It all adds up to being a brilliant spectacle, not unlike the film, but spectacle isn’t enough in this medium.

Grade: C