Shank : Bloody retribution in waves of bloody repetition

This little summer bloodfest made a small blip on the radar and then disappeared. Other sites gave it decent reviews so where did this fantastically stylized side scroller go wrong? Let’s look at it, shall we.

Shank is a hell bent dude, avenging the murder of his girlfriend, well you assume a murder. Along the way you meet the Kill Bill rejects in typical boss fashion, all the way up to the final boss. You have the muscle testosterone guys, the chick with a sword, wanna be crime lords, etc., none of them stand out as a true nemesis. Each boss has a pattern. Once learned it is fairly easy to beat. Hit detection gets a little woppy but doesn’t deter from the gameplay.

The entire time I played, I thought that there were chunks of the story missing. Little flashbacks for cut scenes made me think that there was a deeper history between the characters. None of it is really developed. But you really are not playing this game for the story line anyway. You are playing because it looks cool. REALLY COOL!

The animation is fresh and up to speed with all movements, weapons, and kills. So smooth it feels like silk. The controls, on the other hand, are more like flannel. You will experience “I was aiming that way!” moments and frustration will build. Frustration in ways that will have you remembering classic Double Dragon or Bad Dudes games. You will play through the frustration, just like you did with those games. It turns into a “I have beaten this before and it will never get the best of me” attitude.

The great thing is that you can play with a frustrated friend in Shank’s co-op. Same idea of the game, just a little off story.

Keep in mind that the level design and basic gameplay screams NES/SNES. Move a little bit, fight a swarm of people, move a little bit more, more waves of baddies, now enter bigger dudes with battering rams, move a little bit, more waves of the same characters, cutscene, and boss fight. It is this repetition that killed the game for me. I got bored way too fast for such a visually awesome game. I guess that is why I wasn’t upset when I realized that 4 hours later it was over.

I chalked it up to eating an awesome $14 burger with a beer. The first initial bite is wonderful, but by the last bite you are so full of that burger you just want it to be over.

The Future is Me : Return to Earth Again

Seeing bands grow, especially when you personally know the band, is great to witness. In the case with Raleigh, NC’s,  The Future is Me, I have known members of this band for several years. I have shared the stage with them in various projects and bands. Their debut self released EP, Return to Earth Again, is a great blend of modern alternative rock and (I hate this term) screamo.

Return to Earth starts with a great builder called The Calm. TFIM throws out the typical song structure and gets right to the meat that leaves you pumped into the next straight forward Heresy in the Age of Reason. I hear remnants of The Bled, Thursday, Minus the Bear, and Glassjaw. TFIM touches on them but quickly breaks loose into their own style and feel.

Paul Kelley throws the lyrical hooks out and always catches the ear. He is one of the best vocalists in the Southeast rock scene. He pushes emotion in every line and you feel where he stands. The muscianship of Kelley, Mike O’Donnell, John Tomasevich, and Matt Szalecki is top notch.  Nothing seems forced or out of place. Fluidity of songs keep you wanting more.

I have not seen TFIM live yet. I plan to. Playing live is the true testimony of how a band stands. They have never failed in past projects and I expect only the absolute best from them now. The Future is Me could quickly sail the flagship of North Carolina rock. Please listen to them at www.myspace.com/thefutureismemusic You can also find them on itunes.

Heavy Rain : It will get in your head!

I knew that Heavy Rain had already received good reviews. Mainly due to the unique gameplay and mature story line. Everything you read about the game is true. It is that good!

Mind you, if you are a person that has a hard time making split second choices, you might have a very short game. Your characters will die and the killer gets free, simple as that.

The story revolves around a city with an unique serial killer known as The Origami Killer. The killer only strikes during the rainy season and only targets 10 year old boys. The main character that you play is Ethan. His son was kidnapped and he is desperately trying to save him. His own past is haunting him, which only makes things tougher. Along the way he meets Madison who helps him in her own way. The two other characters are Shelby (Private Eye with torrid past) and Jayson (FBI Agent trying to do good).

If you are expecting running around like Laura Croft or Modern Warfare, forget it. You are playing the lives of these four characters. If you choose a wrong move or do not press the right buttons, they die . . . forever. You will not know how their story plays out. At least not until you decide to play through the game again and again. I played through 4 times and received 4 different endings ranging from very sad to moderately happy.

The beginning is slow, but needed to understand parts later in the game. It introduces the controls and basic gameplay. Getting you use to the button configurations and timing aspects that are needed through out the game.

I give Heavy Rain 10 Stars of Awesomeness. It broke the basic routine of playing a video game, introduces fresh ideas of story telling and gameplay. I would rent it and see if it is your thing and then buy after it sucks you in.