Last year, Shank crept up on me as a wicked little downloadable title about a revenge fueled killer with a penchant for style. A year later, the understandable success of the original has spawned Shank 2, a delicious yet familiar romp around a lovely, stylized 2D world. Are there enough additions to set the sequel apart from the first?
When your name is Shank, I suppose trouble gravitates toward you. While our hero was originally in search of revenge, now he is embroiled in a bit of a revolution that becomes more personal as he presses on.
Frankly, not much has separated the sequel. The biggest difference is probably the 360-degree aiming, which allows Shank to target an awkwardly placed enemy no matter where they may be. Also added is the ability to grab weapons from the world around you, ranging from hammers to crutches, shovels to fresh fish. Yes, fresh fish. The wide variety of weapons contributes to the eye-pleasing combo-and-gore fest Shank established last year. The satisfaction of successfully reversing an enemy's attack - complete with close up and slow down - never gets old. Combos are harder to come by in 2012, whereas I was able to string together 50 hits with relative ease the first time around, I have a hard time pushing 30 now that I'm pushing 30. Klei has either increased the difficulty, lowered the grace period between successful hits, or perhaps I've lost a step in my old age. Never mind playing on hard mode, as I attempted to jump in and was handily thrown off my pedestal by an assortment of ass kickings. Needless to say after a level and a half I ran to Normal mode with my tail tucked between my legs.
Visually, Shank picks up where it left off, with art and animation more fitting of a syndicated Adult Swim series than a $10 game. Gameplay and cut scenes are rendered beautifully, with climactic pay-offs such as a murderous ballet of silhouettes in front of a sun-drenched back light, or a shadowy tango of knives with half naked vixens behind a curtain of hot tub steam. Gorgeous. All actions are smooth and deliberate, and constantly run at a silky 60 FPS, making it rather effortless to look like vintage Chow Yun Fat in action. Hard Boiled Killer shit, man. The world and characters that inhabit it still remind me of a Robert Rodriguez flick, as a mix of unabashed stylized Southwestern action should.
A single run through of the campaign will last you a solid 2-4 hours, however there's hardly any fun to be found in the one-off. Striving for achievements will reward you with new outfits for Shank and friend, which will make you look like a variety of things from Jim Kelly circa the Enter the Dragon years, to a SWAT member, to a Luchador. Still no Brock Samson though. You'd be doing yourself a disservice to not earn at least half of these extras, as they are designed so lovingly. And though there is no proper co-op mode, Shank 2's survival mode is a righteous blast. You work together with a partner (either online or off) to defend 3 supply stations from being bombed by enemies. Waves come at you, and peppered in are particular enemies who can plant bombs. They're rather easy to identify and eliminate, however as you trudge on, the screen becomes more and more flooded with foes, making it that much trickier to protect your supplies. You earn cash as you proceed, which can be used to buy health, power-ups, or turrets, in between waves or right smack in the middle of one. There are boss waves and even zombie waves, complete with token Grindhouse filter, to keep you and your friend entertained and on your toes.
Though I have no qualms with the action or art, I feel as if Shank 2 is missing some polish. These aren't serious complaints that ruin the game's immersion, but rather little nitpicks that I feel could have and should have been smoothed out. This mostly pertains to audio and video making hard cuts after cut scenes. Probably not a big deal to most, but that jerkiness leaves something to be desired from Klei. This most notably comes to a head at the end of the game, where the cut scene plays outs with some background music, and then a splash screen pops in in typical campy action movie fashion. A nice addition, except that this splash has it's own bit of music, that plays as the cut scene music continues. And to make matters worse, the splash music cuts out first, the cut scene music cuts out slightly later. And these are hard, mid track cuts as opposed to fades or the track ending. Very annoying. Long time readers will remember how much I raved about Shank's soundtrack, and while Shank 2 brings back much of that badass cowboy rock, it definitely does not hit the same beautiful tones the composers reached the first time around. Shank left some big boots to fill.
It feels like Shank 2 tries to attain the levels of Shank, but falls just short of reaching that. It's an entertaining, action-fueled ride, but doesn't set itself apart from the title that made it. While most would not nitpick at the level I have, I believe Shank spoiled me, and was expecting greater strides the second time around. If you have the $10 to burn and you want a nice looking action title to keep you entertained for a few hours, Shank 2 is a good bet. However if you're looking for something a little more fulfilling you may want to skip this one altogether.
The Score: 7 outta 10 Blasters!
Mostly getting my ass kicked on Hard difficulty