I’ve always liked the idea of playing a 2D game with the kind of combat seen in the premiere 3D combat action titles of recent years like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry. The original Shank was the first game I really played that felt like it was going for this. It was a game I really enjoyed, so when they announced a sequel to it last year, I was excited to see what they would do with it. Now that I have had the chance to put some time into Shank 2, I am here with some impressions.
Shank 2 doesn’t feel all that much different than its predecessor. There aren’t a ton of huge changes to the original’s formula, but rather tiny improvements here and there. The game is still very much based around a deep combat system. As the titular Shank, you have your basic weak attack which are your shanks, a strong attack with a heavy weapon like a chainsaw, and your ranged attacks with guns. You also have explosive weapons like grenades to throw and a grab/counter maneuver. These can all be strung together to create combos like any action game. You will have to work in a dodge roll to stay alive as well as a pounce move which can be used to quickly close the distance between you and an enemy. Not a lot new here compared to the first game, but it all just feels better and more responsive. There are a few new weapons in your arsenal as well. The sledgehammer, a new heavy weapon, is slow to get going, but once it does can do some serious damage and is quite fun to wield. Mines add a strategic alternative to grenades and throwing knives give you another option for ranged weapons. And there are some environmental hazards which can be activated to help you deal with the myriad of enemies that the game throws your way.
One of the highlights of the first Shank was its boss fights. That is still true in the sequel. On the one hand, I am not sure any of these bosses are as good as the best ones in the original, but there aren’t any as bad as the worst (there were two in the first game I really didn’t care for).
One thing I loved about Shank 2 is the addition of a new playable character. For one chapter in the campaign, you will play as Corina. The game plays similarly to when using Shank, but a different set of weapons makes for a nice change of pace. What really makes Corina fun to use for me is her scythe. I really fell in love with it and its ability to juggle enemies. As a result she has become my go-to character in the co-op modes.
The co-op is actually where Shank 2 differentiates itself the most from its predecessor. The first game featured a separate co-op campaign that acted as a prequel to the singleplayer. This game does away with that in favor of a wave-based co-op survival mode. When I first heard about this change, I was a bit bummed out. I had a blast playing through the co-op campaign in Shank 1. But now that I have played Shank 2’s co-op, I don’t really mind the change. For one, this mode seems to have a bit more longevity. I could see myself coming back to it for a while. You and your partner get set in a small map where you have to defend various ammo caches from being blown up. Each wave brings various enemies to take out along with bombers you will have to keep away from your caches. There is a nice variety of enemies in this mode. You’ll see zombies, bosses and other surprises as you attempt to clear all 30 waves. There are items to purchase along the way too like health, turrets and even wild boars to help you fend off your foes. Another touch I like is that there are a bunch of skins to unlock for each character. They each come with different attributes which can be utilized to employ different strategies. And to unlock them you have to do certain in-game goals like get so many grenade kills or make it to a certain wave which act as extra objectives to strive for as you play. Overall, I really enjoyed this mode. I do wish there were more maps (there are only three). And it would have been nice to still have a co-op campaign or even be able to tackle the singleplayer with two people, but I am still pretty happy with the survival mode.
There isn’t a whole lot to the story, but the action that occurs in the cutscenes is entertaining. The most memorable moments occur in the gruesome ways in which Shank finishes off bosses, but the artstyle goes a long way in making everything look great. It is sort of an adult-themed cartoon look with great animation and as a whole the graphics look fantastic.
There are a few other things worth mentioning. Some platforming segments are placed between the various combat encounters, but they seem there mainly to break up the action and are rather simple. There are some collectibles to find throughout the adventure as well as some prisoners to free along the way. These and the survival mode (which can be played singleplayer as well) add a bit extra to do when you have finished playing the short campaign.
I really enjoyed Shank 2. It seems like a slight improvement over the original game and at a $10 price point as opposed to the first’s $15, it is a better value too. I think fans of the action or beat ‘em up genre will get a kick out of it. I’m not sure Shank 2 has the depth to meet my dream of playing the 2D equivalent of modern Ninja Gaiden or Devil May Cry, but it is definitely a very enjoyable game in that style.
Shank 2 is available now as a downloadable title on PSN, XBLA and PC.