- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2012

WASHINGTON — A downloadable, side-scrolling brawler returns through a new blood-soaked adventure for the mature gamer looking for some interactive “Pulp Fiction.”

Anyone appreciating the brutality of Machete, the acrobatic attacks of Afro Samurai and dynamic style of Samurai Jack will love taking on our anti-hero Robert “Shank” Torres in Shank 2 (Electronic Arts and Klei Entertainment, reviewed for PlayStation 3, rated Mature, $9.99).

The former mob hit man is on a bender to save those he holds most dear in a Latin American locale controlled by a vicious militia and crazed natives.

His arsenal continues to be a beefy one. His tools of death include a chainsaw, dual pistols and shanks, as well as weapons he picks up from fallen enemies, including bats and meat cleavers.

Teamed with his vicious combination moves that mix light, heavy and ranged attacks, he often pounces on and practically guts opponents in moments.

Nuances to this outing give Shank an even more fluid range of motions, with countermoves that use an enemy’s weapons against him.

He, again, fights foes of all sizes that now include Amazons, wolves, neck-biting cannibals, voodoo behemoths, shirtless and armed luchadors, and bosses with names like the teleporting cult leader Roselle.

Some environmental obstacles also bring the Indiana Jones out in him as a player fights through a way-too-few eight levels of mayhem.

The 2-D cel-shaded animated style remains one of the paramount reasons to really enjoy the game. Its comic book mix reminded me of a J. Scott Campbell painting come to Venture Bros. life with direction from Robert Rodriguez.

Additionally, cut scenes that intermingle during vicious attacks and the clever use of the illusion of 3-D in a 2-D space  enemies jump into battle from off the front of the screen, a large boat pushes forward from the background to let bad guys off, environments go out of focus and swirl toward the player to highlight especially violent kills  add to the beauty.

A survival mode delivers the cooperative action both locally or online in 30 level waves through three locations. One or two players eventually can choose from among 16 characters, including Hobo Shank (a hobo with a shotgun), Boogie (Samuel L. Jackson in his prime) and the spry Corina (who actually is playable for a bit in the main campaign) to protect supply areas from waves of bombers and an assortment of villains.

Its clever teamwork design, complete with buying odd helpers such as wild boars, will go often underappreciated by the level of focused strategy and attacks required just to survive.

Overall, Shank 2 walks that fine line between gratuitous and gorgeous as it effectively places in players’ hands the control of a maniac with machismo they will not soon forget.

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