Reviewed for: Playstation 3 (via Playstation Network) and Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)
Also available for: Windows PC
From: Klei Entertainment/EA
ESRB Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes)
The original "Shank" took a handful of good ingredients from different genres and combined them into one surprisingly focused action game. "Shank 2" doesn't mess with that approach, providing a second helping of all the first game did right and making adjustments to the few places where it went wrong.
For the uninitiated, "Shank 2" is a violent but cartoony sidescroller in the "Metal Slug" vein, outfitting players with guns and explosives but placing special emphasis on close-quarters combat and providing an abundance of weapons (from knives to shovels to chainsaws to wieldable fish) with which to deal damage. The melee combat is, despite the 2D presentation, somewhat in the "Devil May Cry" vein. A when-all-else-fails pounce attack come straight out of Wolverine's playbook. And the running and jumping occasionally feels like a classic "Prince of Persia" game when Shank is in chase and chaining moves together without hesitation.
Beyond telling a new story, "Shank 2" tempers the first game's occasionally cheap difficulty, fixes a few unfortunate button-mapping choices, and adds some new moves - most notably, a very convenient evasive roll and a terrific counterattack mechanic - that allow players to better fight defensively. A new arcade-style Survival mode (two players, online or offline) also complements the story and allows players to unlock and play as new characters. That feature comes at the expense of the first game's collection of co-op-only missions, but it's a better fit that's built to endure longer than those missions did.