Shank 2 is a side scrolling 2D game from Klei Entertainment. Being a sequel, players would normally expect some sort of knowledge of the first to be necessary, but not so here. This game is a straight beat-em-up that requires little to no attention paid to the basic storyline. The story is just an excuse to beat stuff until it's bloody and dead.
And beating things bloody and dead is what this game does best. Shank 2 has a very simplistic control scheme with just a few basic attacks that can be strung into combos. But because of this combo system and the way the moves flow into each other, each fight is a flurry of movement on the screen as Shank tosses, stabs and beats his enemies into a bloody pulp. He has a few moves that allow him to jump and leap around the screen as well, giving him some very good maneuverability and the capacity to avoid a lot of attacks. This becomes critical to gameplay, as health pickups (tequila!) are few and far between.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that the game does a very good job of being careful not to penalize the player too harshly for dying. Because of the fast past of the game, players may find themselves dying repeatedly as they try to figure out the most efficient way to get past a certain section in the game. And while your points counter resets itself to zero when you die, there are no set number of lives. You can die as often as you want, which encourages a certain amount of gleeful recklessness while playing. This only adds to the fun, as players can rush through without having to be too careful and cautious while playing. Your progress through the level is simply reset a short distance back from where you died, leaving you free to exact revenge on the thugs who killed you. When the level is over you're scored based on how well you did and there is a point penalty for each death, but who cares?! Simply replay and use your newfound knowledge to beat the crap out of everything that gets in your way.
Players are given new weapons as the story progresses, allowing them to change Shank's loadout and customize to their playing style. Don't want the machete? Fine, use the chainsaw. And do you have the urge to burn? Pick up the Molotov cocktails and use those instead of the grenades. During the game players can also pick up weapons enemies have dropped and can use those to smash their way through the levels. There's something very cathartic about beating someone with their own bat.
Beyond the new weapons there are additional skins for Shank that get unlocked as certain objectives are met. These can be a little tedious; for instance players will have to grind out baseball bat executions to open up one of the skins. And the picked up weapons do eventually break. Seeing as how this is the only real 'thing' to unlock in the game, it may not be a problem for some, but after a while it can get tedious trying to accumulate the right type of kills and moves to unlock skins.
Co-op offers a change in the scenery, with players being able to play on or offline in a survival mode where they protect supply caches from bomber enemies. Players collect money from killed enemies which they can then use to purchase increasingly unlocked survival aids, such as tequila or a rampaging boar that will knock enemies around. The huge issue with the co-op is that even though players are working together, only the person who actually picks up the money gets it. It is not shared between the two, meaning that each player has to purchase aids on their own, such as the healing tequila.
Granted, if one player drops tequila and doesn't use it then the other can pick it up, but these special aids have a cool down period before they can be repurchased again. And yes, players can revive each other when they fall, but when the inevitable happens and there's a swarm of enemies on the screen, reviving fallen comrades can become next to impossible. To add insult to injury, at the end of the survival mode the two players are scored, and a winner is declared. This seems odd considering that the players are supposed to be working together, not competing for points.
What makes this co-op mode even sadder is the fact that there is no campaign co-op mode. Just a survival mode. Meaning that if you don't like it then you're doomed to a solo game experience with Shank and Shank alone scything his way through hordes of enemies. Interestingly enough, the original Shank included a story cooperative mode that was a prelude to the main game. It would have been nice to see the developers at least include a similar mode in the sequel; for some reason it was completely excised.
The graphics for the game are actually well done, with the art style being very comic book like. Shank and the enemies move excellently on the screen and the blood splatters are nice and graphic. And wait until Shank performs his first counter/execution. Very brutal and very awesome. The sound effects simply add to the overall feel of the game, with more than enough grunts, explosions and things breaking to satisfy the most bloodthirsty player.
Shank 2 is an action packed game with lots of blood, gore and very satisfying death dealing. It's an excellent game to play solo and enjoy running through stage after stage obliterating enemies. It's not the most fun to play cooperative, however, as the co-op mode can get a little frustrating after a while and is nowhere near as much fun as the campaign. And with the campaign itself being fairly short, the lackluster co-op drags the game down quite a bit.