Shank shanks-out his shanks and shanks a shank-wielding shanker.
I just saw The Expendables, a movie as brainless as it was violent. There's a scene where a pair of the mercenaries have just finished scouting an island they've been hired to take by force before their cover is blown. A mad dash for the getaway plane ensues and the leading action hero Stallone barely makes the leap onto the moving plane.
Escaping with their lives isn't enough, though. The duo turns the plane around and sets the plane's nose-mounted miniguns toward the dock filled with enemy soldiers… Then as they fly over the bullet ridden corpses, they dust the dock with gasoline and shoot the cloud of fumes with a flare gun, setting anyone left with a pulse on fire and blowing up the entire dock. Shank 2 is exactly like that.
Why stab your opponents if you can slash them up into the air, juggle them with your blades, shoot them with dual pistols, and catch them with the business end of a chainsaw on their way down? Klei Entertainment's side-scrolling beat-'em-up laughably pits thousands of enemies against the player, knowing full well that their violent gory death awaits them, all in the name of good meat-headed fun. If you didn't play the first game, it'll hardly make a dent in your experience here.
Apparently, you play as an ex-mob hitman (named Shank, of all things) bent on the… something, something, something. See? It doesn't matter. You just kill a ton of dudes, move forward, and kill more dudes. Unlike the classic beat-'em-ups you've come to know and love, Shank doesn't need side-stepping or even any depth at all. You can juggle opponents into the air, pounce on them from above, throw them into their comrades, and counter their attacks.
Why would you ever need to dodge?
Some of these head-on combos are cool to pull off, but generally your hacking and slashing will be interrupted by another enemy shooting at you or a bad guy whose attack animation isn't stopped by your attacks. Sure, those combo attacks are hard to initiate and maintain on a battlefield with some depth, but it would have been a nice change of pace from going left… or right… and then left again… wait, more right. Boring…
Then comes multiplayer. While single-player can feel like hitting your head with a 2×4 repeatedly (Note to self: Game Idea: Plank, with cameo by Shank), multiplayer livens things up a great deal.
Shank 2 offers your buddy a chance to hop into the action and deal damage to an onslaught of baddies. The multi-level stages in multiplayer combat are much more fun to navigate. Areans have multiple tiers and tossing baddies from one platform to the next so your partner can slice them will forever be fun.
Why throw your enemy up into the air and shoot him yourself when you can turn opponents into blood-sport skeet-shooting? During one online session, I threw a baddie towards my co-op partner where he proceeded to pump him full of hot lead.
Bullets keep your opponent in the air, meaning you can juggle from afar. My co-op partner kept an enemy solier aloft just long enough so that I could jump up, stab him, and then proceed to throw him back into the dirt where I landed on him and stabbed him some more. Not boring.
The trouble with Shank 2 is that this co-op multiplayer only lasts for a little while. Eventually your couch co-op partner has to go home, or you stop finding people to play with online. Then it's back to single player… stab… go right… stab some more… go right… jump over the flames… stab… latter, rinse, repeat.
If you live with a gamer buddy or find yourself frequently in need of some quick, mindless, violent action, Shank 2 is definitely for you. Try the demo if you're unsure. Maybe you're more capable of turning off your brain than you ever knew.