Michael Gray, a familiar name in New Zealand games writing takes a turn on the Cottage and takes a stab at Shank2.
While I didn’t manage to check out the first Shank, Shank 2 on its own has a commendable fighting system, smooth controls, and a very pleasing graphic art style. Not to mention blood — lots and lots of blood.
The game is broken up into stages, each one with its own unique environment. Now they do look pretty, but the exploration is limited to taking a left turn and picking up a collectable. I understand it’s a 2D game, but the level design is very straightforward and uneventful. Apart from the odd slippery slope and environment switch there’s just not much going on. At least the focus is on the combat.
Part beat-em-up, part shoot-em-up, at the start of each stage Shank 2 gives you the choice of a melee weapon, a projectile, and an explosive. Shank starts off with his trusty machetes and throwing knives, but eventually you can use a chainsaw and shotgun to blow your foes away.
Using the left analog stick you can aim your projectile weapon in a 360 degree radius which is rather helpful when taking out guys above you. Your heavy weapon can effectively shred folks down to size, while your normal attack can be used to start combos and hit guys into the air.
If it tickles your fancy you can throw enemies around and counter-attack using the same button. You can achieve some prettty nassty deaths using these counter attacks. This game ain’t for the kiddies. Also there’s a neat move which launches Shank into the air. The screen blurs as Shank takes his epic landing, pinning an enemy to the ground.
Your projectile weapon is accessible at all times which means you can be a badass and shoot in the air. This helps Shank defy gravity for as long as you can fire bullets. It looks crazy to see Shank float to the ground but it does help clear yourself out of harm’s way. The slicing and dicing is fluid from one foe to the next and often you’ll be switching between all three weapons in under a second.
The enemies aren’t too varied, just guys and gals of different builds and sizes. The bosses throughout are mostly huge muscly dudes. But they do put up quite the fight. Playing on Normal I died repeatedly until I nailed the pattern or just got lucky. I now know it’s dangerous to drink and game. I almost felt compelled to throw my controller across the room. Folks, pick your drinking games wisely.
Survival mode is in addition to the main campaign. Playing on one screen with a buddy — if you can find one — you must defeat all invading waves while defusing the ticking time bombs. The ideal situation is you catching the terrorists before they plant a bomb. Trying to disarm a bomb with enemies in a flurry all around you – not easy. Each level has one environmental hazard which you can use to your advantage.
As mentioned the game is gorgeous, comprising of environments and characters straight out of a graphic novel. Some screens will come right out and say ‘Hey, look at me, see how pretty I am’. It’s usually the game’s artists taking to black and white silhouettes. As for the cut-scenes, they’re okay looking, but the dialogue is just terrible. Thankfully they don’t go on for too long.
Shank 2 is a very decent brawler. However you might be done with it rather soon. There’s not much reason to go back to the campaign unless you have a thing for character skins. And the Survival mode whilst entertaining probably won’t keep you either.
On the positive, it looks bloody good, and the combat is incredibly fluid. It has enough challenge to kill you, but never frustrates to the point of you hanging up your carving tools and calling it a day.
Released 8 February 2012. Available on PSN for $18.90.