Thursday, 12 April 2012


Gory-Gorgeous platformer fighter that has an awesome, tight retro control system... if you can stomach the shanking.

This square-jawed brute is our hero - Shank - who just loves to..... er..... chop vegetables?
What's It All About Then?
This is Shank 2, a 2D side-scrolling brawler where you play the part of "Shank" - a guy who loves to use knives (do you see what they did there?). This is the sequel to the extremely popular 2010 original - which impressed players with it's beautiful graphics and brutal combat.

In this outing, Shank is somewhere in South America, and there's this evil dictator who is obviously up to no good. Shank is a tough hitman, out to help nobody, but the violent struggle going on around him draws him back into action.

Grab the brute, break his arm, jump over and slash that guy with the gun....
it's all in a day's work for our boy Shank.
So Is It Any Good?
+++ Retro-Perfect Controls +++
The big draw for me to this game was the controls - they are wonderfully tight and well-designed. You use square for your knives, triangle to use heavy weapons (ranging from chainsaws to sledgehammers) and circle to use ranged weapons (throwing knives and guns). The combat rockets on at an intense pace - with enemies spawning left-right-and-centre to cut up into little pieces. 

There's some extra moves that help to get you out of tight spots (launching jumps and grab/throw moves) and these allow the combat to get very tough without feeling impossible. Add to that the wide range of environmental helpers that you can use - such as explosive canisters around the place and spike pits to smash enemies into.

Basically you're never short of ways to violently kill anyone in your path - and the game keeps things tense by having quite a high difficulty level (especially on the boss fights).

If you found the combat a bit too easy then there's a Hard Mode to try as well, with less health pick-ups and more soft squishy baddies to put your namesake to. Special mention goes to the "Survival mode", which puts Shank into a small combat arena where he must take on wave after wave of increasingly powerful enemies. There's a shop system here too, where you buy bonus items to make the action slightly more bearable - but if you are still in the mood for a challenge after the main story then there's another hour or so of play here.
You can even gross-out a friend in Co-op Survival Mode!
+++ Gorgeous Graphics... ish +++

Each of the nasty ways you can dispatch baddies is animated with bright, bloody, cartoon graphics - looking truly awesome in high-def... if a little stomach-turning. Shoot grunts with a shotgun to see them splat into pieces. Throw them into rotating blades to see them splat into pieces. Run at them with a chainsaw to see them... you get the idea.

The cutscenes are just as comic-book beautiful - but the game seems to feel the need to be brutal and offensive as much as possible - so be prepared for some guts being spilled, heads being lopped off, and limbs flying everywhere.

The story that links these all up is good enough - even though one level you traipse through a swamp filled with cannibals for no good reason other than it allowed the developers to throw in some humans chomping on human bowels. It's not really about the story though, is it? It's about being a tough-as-nails hitman who slashes people to shreds in the same way you might viciously tear up a copy of the Daily Mail.
It's not just DmC's Dante who can juggle baddies with his guns.

--- Short and Brutal ---

The only bad things I can say about Shank 2 are that the game is just a little too short to be a stellar success. The main story - even if some fights take a few tries - will be over in under 3 hours. Hard Mode is there if you want it, but there's little difference in the actual gameplay. The Survival Mode again adds an hour or so, but still isn't quite meaty enough to keep me hooked for very long.

The second negative point is that with so much video violence, it all feels just a little bit cheap. Graphic nasties are thrown in for shock value alone - but when the entire game is about carving people into grillable lumps then it comes across as a little pointless. 

Basically, there's violence because it's necessary (such as taking down an evil dictator) and then there's violence because it'll make people go "Eeeeeewwww!". I found myself feeling slightly queasy at several points in the game, and it didn't really add to the experience for me.

The gameplay and graphics in Shank 2 are spot on - really tight and fun to play.

The difficulty level is set just right too - so you're constantly having to make the most out of the control system without it ever feeling too hard.

There is still room for improvement though - taking out some of the "filler" violence and just sticking with a longer, more-focused campaign mode and this would be a big hit.

Feel free to post comments or contributions to improve the experience!
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