Shank, one of my favorite words. It truly is thanks to a special girl. You ever play that game where you turn regular movie titles to inappropriate movie titles? Well, her and I went ahead and just converted them to have Shank in them. My personal favorite? Shanks. You figure out what title I used there. Regardless, because of this I had a vested interest when I saw Klei’s Shank 2 came out. It is a bloody, sidescrolling action game. I played the demo for the first game, never picked it up. The second one came out, and I tried out the demo. I was convinced it was worth the $10. Was it worth it? Let’s find out.
Shank 2 has a very simple premise. You are a trained combatant, who goes back to where he came from. The people closest to you are in danger, so you are forced to take action. You have a good variety of hand guns, explosives, and of course, sharp weapons to take on the opposition. It is a bloody game that doesn’t hold back. The graphics are cartoony, but still look great. Shank looks like a badass, but his opposition looks just as tough, if not tougher. There is a ton of blood, and gratuitous violence. Yeah, I’m right at home.
The combat in Shank 2 is what takes center stage. You carry three types of weapons. Your heavy blade, which can be machetes, a chainsaw, or a sledgehammer. Your ranged weapons, which can be knives, guns, or a shotgun. To finish it off, you have explosives like grenades, and of course, your trusty pair of shanks. There are also other weapons you pick up along the way, ranging from flaming clubs to the kitchen sink(no joke). You use all of these in tandem, and can switch between them at will mid-combo. You can pop someone up with your shanks, jump and dive at then with your machetes, then shoot them with your guns while they’re on the ground.
The more you switch things around during combos, the higher the score the game gives you for that combo. It is this dynamic that keeps the game fresh. It is an absolute joy to mutilate your opposition, and you are encouraged to think of more creative ways of doing this. You need to do this to survive. Rely on just one weapon for too long and you will die. You always feel like a badass, but you have to be creative to survive, and I love this. The controls are well thought out, and switching between weapons is easy and fun. No encounter is too easy, but none is frustrating. If you die, you will know its your own fault.
The game doesn’t take itself too seriously. The story is told through campy cut scenes that give a nod to the action heroes of old. How many action heroes will leap headfirst towards a helicopter, to decapitate the pilot and escape right before it explodes? Shank does. The story leads Shank through many different locales, from villages, to a jungle, to a luxury resort. The campaign is roughly about 12 missions long, and it took me about 3 hours to complete. The story is an interesting mix of martial law, oppression, and civil unrest. Unfortunately the game doesn’t take it very far, but it falls in line with the way the game is presented.
On top of the campaign mode, Shank 2 adds a cooperative Survival Mode to the mix. The objective is not just to survive, but to protect the three piles of supplies you have from bombers. You start off with basic equipment, but gain money as you progress through waves of enemies. You can use this money to buy better weapons, heal yourself, set bombs, etc. You can play this game locally or online. It is very hectic and tons of fun. If you and your partner coordinate well, you can experience some awesome combos, and can get a lot of mileage out of this mode.
Shank 2 is a fantastic side scrolling game that feels fresh throughout the whole experience. While I don’t see much incentive to replaying the campaign, I can see myself going back to Survival Mode quite a few times. The game also has challenges throughout, that once completed, will unlock skins to use during the game and in Survival Mode. I didn’t play the first one all the way through, but I can safely say that Shank 2 stands on its own as one of the most entertaining action games in recent memory. If you fancy action games, you owe it to yourself to give it a look. If you don’t, I will give you a ton of baby shankings…stab stab stab. Go forth and be creative with your kills! I’ll see you on the leaderboard.