The platforming genre has strayed far from its high-difficulty, pixelated, left-to-right, simply-animated roots. Today, most platforming titles cater to the casual audience—eschewing challenge for charm and boss-battles for time-trials. Shank 2, the latest action-platformer on the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, follows no such trend.
The storyline of Shank 2 is almost non-existent, amounting to short cutscenes of the titular protagonist getting mad and drinking alcohol. Hostages need rescuing, too, but a concrete justification for the bloodshed was absent. However, Shank 2’s core mechanics are good enough to make the lacking narrative a minor issue.
Combat is easily the game’s best quality. Equipped with a variation of three weapons—usually two melee, one ranged—Shank quickly slices, shoots, throws, chainsaws, and melees his way through enemies. Lending itself to the combat, enemy A.I. consistently forces the player to alter their approach. The shotgun initially tore through opposition with ease, for example, but it wasn’t long until an enemy countering with high-damage, long-range attacks was introduced.
Alternatively, some encounters feel unfair. Many boss battles don’t force a rethought approach, instead requiring uberfast reactions and a patience for repeated failure. The boss battles that do work, however, work splendidly. The difference is seen in the ever-changing tactics of said bosses. After a string of attacks, the baddie will introduce new, deadly attacks after falling to a certain point of health. This continues, with success, Shank 2‘s effort in surprising the player and never allowing them to feel too comfortable with one schema.
The action is complimented by beautiful Samurai Jack-esque visuals and smooth animations. Unfortunately, though, visual bugs and texture pop-ins plague the experience throughout. Too much of my time was spent moving through a textureless heap of shapes, sometimes without the problem correcting itself. It wasn’t uncommon for the screen to go black, either, leaving my character to stumble into unseen walls and fall into open pits. My only option was to try again, die, reload, and hope it corrected itself. If it didn’t, well, try again.
After closing out the storyline, Survival mode awaits, featuring the wave-based action seen in many titles lately. The signature combat works well here, even including the clever traps seen in campaign. Overall, it was a fun, challenging way to earn new character skins and weapons, and the lack of playable maps (there are only three) is my only gripe.
Shank 2 differentiates itself from other platforming titles with it’s signature style and fast-paced action—a great development choice on Klei Entertainment’s part. While maintaining its uniqueness, its difficulty hearkens back to platforming’s 8 and 16 bit days, but rather than being unfair, it’s usually just smart. This all culminates in a game well-worth its price, but if more time was spent assuring its technical quality, it might be great, rather than just good.
Shank 2 is available now on PSN and PC for $9.99 USD, and on Xbox LIVE Arcade for 800 Microsoft Points. More info at the official website: http://www.shankgame.com
Lacking narrative makes violence seem senseless | Some unfair battles | Visual bugs
Brad is an 18-year-old college student, writer, and the newest addition to the Default Prime review team. Working a part-time job and going to school full-time doesn't allow for much free time, but he somehow finds time for video games—as he always has.
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