Indie Review: Shank 2
Former mob hit man, Shank, is back and this time those closest to him are in danger. Is the brutal nature of Shank 2 enough to win over his loved ones and your wallets?
- Worth The Time?If you miss 2D beat em ups, then certainly
- Things LovedDrawn and painted aesthetic, brutal and (at times) challenging gameplay, a soundtrack that perfectly suits its look, survival mode makes for an interesting and enjoyable experience.
- Things HatedKeyboard and mouse control scheme, lack of cooperative campaign
- RecommendationShank 2 makes good on its promise to provide a brutal, stylised and enjoyable beat em up experience. It story may be somewhat lacking but its gameplay and cheap price do not.
- Name: Shank 2
- Genre: Beat 'em up, Side-scroller, Indie
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Survival Mode
- Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
- Developer: Klei Entertainment
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Price: $9.99 (around R70)
- Reviewed On: PC
The people closest to you are in danger and you’re their only real chance of rescue, so what do you do? Shank the fools of course; at least, that’s Shank’s idea of a rescue. Shank 2 is a continuation of the original’s 2D beat ‘em up brutality and takes the action to a new level. There are more weapons, more baddies, more violent ways of silencing your foe and it’s all rendered in an awesome drawn and painted style, giving it that Saturday morning (perhaps Samurai Jack) kind of feel; so, what’s not to love? If you’re a fan of 2D beat ‘em up action and a balanced as well as enjoyable challenge; Shank 2 is definitely for you.
- You’ll Be Able To Play (Expensive) PS2 Games On Your PS4 Now | 2 months ago
- Jessica Jones Disempowers Its Male Characters And The Effect Is Refreshing | 2 months ago
- Hell Is 30 000 Deathclaws Tearing Through Boston And It’s Glorious | 2 months ago
- Sony Santa Monica Is Teasing Something Truly Strange | 2 months ago
The original Shank took revenge plots to its gruesome and 2D extremes, Shank 2 shies away from that and instead gives Shank (the man, not the game) a much needed vacation somewhere in South America. Unfortunately, and as is the way with these sorts of things, a military regime, originally formed to remove the country of its many cartels, has risen to a more dictatorship sort of power. This leads to a revolution Shank couldn’t be bothered any less about; that is until an old friend is kidnapped. Shank then decides that the only way to save this friend is to slaughter everything that moves; what follows is a visually glorious and blood spattered romp. That’s about as far as the story goes and though you travel through areas like swamps, shanty villages and industrial harbours; it really makes no sense why you are in any of these places or why this has anything to do with the resistance and dictatorship.
That’s beside the point however; the plot is merely a tool, albeit a blood soaked shank, to take you from one enemy encrusted area to another. Fortunately, this slightly disconnected world gives plenty of reason for multiple enemy and boss types, giving a welcome comical edge and variety the original Shank lacked. Speaking of gameplay, and if you’re going to play Shank 2 on PC, I highly suggest you use or invest in a gamepad. The keyboard and mouse layout is hopelessly complicated and has the weirdest and most frustrating direction approach I have seen in a 2D game like this. What I mean is that in order to face an enemy you need to place your cursor at the end of the screen (or close to it) you intend on facing. If, like me, you have a habit of placing your cursor over the enemy you’re trying to mutilate on say the right of your character, but the cursor is still closer to the left of the screen, Shank will face left and flail his weapons in the complete wrong direction. This can be amended with a gamepad and takes almost all of the frustration out of the game; it is no longer a labour to play, it’s a treat and extremely enjoyable. The gamepad controls are smooth, responsive and suit the style perfectly, allowing you to pull of all the magnificently violent combos you wish.
The gameplay in Shank 2 is well refined and the pacing is just right. There’s only the briefest of moments between slaughtering your foes and that’s only to allow you to experience some rather decent platforming sections. That’s not Shank 2’s speciality however, what Shank 2 does best is 2D beat ‘em up violence. Animations are almost perfect and you can pull off all varieties of combo and counter on your overconfident enemies. Depending on the character you pick, did I mention you can play through the game as a variety of unlockable and unique characters, each with their own style of weaponry. You need to choose a heavy, ranged and munitions type weapon for each level and Shank for example: packs a shotgun, pistols and throwing knives as his ranged weapons of choice. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses and allows for a welcome bit of distinction to each players attempt. Best of all, Shank, bad ass though he may be, will have a tough time overcoming each level as they are quite challenging and depending on your intended difficulty give a well balanced test of your abilities. This is especially the case when confronted with one of the many bosses; all of who have their own weaknesses and formulaic attacks which I suggest you learn because if you’re defeated you’ll have to restart the battle with the boss’s health replenished to full. It’s a fair challenge and never overly taxes your ability, and even when it does, there are plenty of checkpoints to keep you right in the action.
Shank 2 is a fun game, but it’s even better to look at. If the many environmental hazards and traps don’t catch your eye, the scenery and art style will. Its comic book look is perfectly executed and throws so much detail at you, given its drawn and painted aesthetic, it’s hard to believe. To accommodate the look is an audio track littered with the kind of action intense songs you’d expect and others, fronted by some awesome guitar work, to go with the South American theme. I enjoyed the sound quite a bit, especially the Santa style guitargasms that appropriated many of the levels.
As awesome as this all sounds, it is only one of two modes, the campaign mode that plays out this way. The other mode, survival mode, is a unique twist on multiplayer support and one that I enjoyed:
Survival mode can be best described as a 2D fire fight (Halo) or horde mode (Gears of War) and involves protecting 3 cache supplies from wave after wave of enemy. As you’d expect, there are all variants of enemy, including large bosses; the enemy types that frequent the campaign; and the bombers whose job it is to take out your supply cache points. There is also the opportunity to buy unique powers and reinforcements for use against the many comical waves you’ll have to hold back. They’re quite fun and all have a purpose; I quite enjoy the boar which repeatedly runs up and down the tier (or level) you purchased it on, making sure to ram any enemies between it and the wall.
Survival mode seems to have replaced the original Shank’s cooperative campaign as its multiplayer and allows for another player to join in on the brutality. It’s certainly a lot easier with a friend, without which, you can’t revive yourself and its game over once you die even a single time. Even better is the opportunity to choose among multiple characters to play with; each with their own unique strengths, weaknesses and unique weapons to choose from. It actually allows for a bit of strategy, not that it matters much once the crazier waves start spawning in and it becomes a mad dash to defend as much as you possibly can. It’s a well thought out mode and I was surprised at how enjoyable and well executed it is; something to really make Shank 2 worth the purchase. It may not be as good as a cooperative campaign in some aspects but has a much higher replayability factor and remains fun for quite a while. This is even true when you’re stuck with a partner you don’t know (courtesy of online play) and you both have your own agendas in mind; that is until the levels get increasingly difficult and you start to work together. It’s simple but fun nonetheless.
Despite its lack of a cooperative campaign and somewhat lacklustre story, administering only occasional above average moments, for the price, Shank 2 goes above the call of duty. It’s an improvement and evolution of the original’s formula; take one beat ‘em up, add a bit of Tarantino, God of War and a graphical novel; and hot damn do they work well together. I’ve played quite a few rounds of survival mode and I’m yet to tire of it; though we’ll have to see what the soon to be released Mass Effect 3 has to say about that. All in all though, Shank 2 is a fun game, full of beat ‘em up cameos, a good challenge and even among some of the best current beat ‘em ups, there’s plenty of reason to buy it.