When last I left Shank, it was PAX West 2009. Six months later I got my hands on a whole new, platform-heavy level and word from Klei Entertainment's Jamie Cheng on quality versus quantity.
If you read my Shank preview from PAX 2009, you'll know that I was incredibly impressed by Klei's Spaghetti Western take on the old-school beat-em up. The controls are amazingly fluid, and the animation is easily on par with a Cartoon Network original series. None of this has changed. The style and grace is still in place, and I still long to get my hands on more Shank.
What has changed? Well, for one, Shank has a publisher in EA, and we know the game is coming to the PC, PlayStation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade.
The controls have been tweaked slightly as well. The game now sports a block button, which I completely ignored while playing through my second Shank demo, set in a meat grinder filled butcher shop.
While the first demo I played focused on going from left to right, beating up bad guys, this new level ramps up the platforming. I encountered slides that required me to jump off at the bottom, lest I become hamburger in the fierce jaws of meat grinders below. To satisfy my curiosity, I purposefully dropped into one, and poor Shank died a screaming, gurgling death.
And I did have to actively try. Like the game's combo system, which allows players to swap seamlessly between weapons, the platforming is just as fluid and intuitive. I needed no direction navigating the various pitfalls whatsoever.
The combat is still rich and satisfying, though a few tweaks have been implemented, most notable in the chainsaw. Previously you'd get a really quick attack if you hit the chainsaw button. Now it lingers a bit longer, grinding against the enemy with a meatier, more satisfying bite than the quick slash of the previous demo.
Either the demo was short, or I was just that good, but soon I found myself facing off against The Butcher, a giant, blood-splattered bad guy who seems to have a history with Shank, judging by a brief exchange between the two before the action starts.
Taking down The Butcher was a matter of shooting hanging meat, causing it to lower, so the enemy's chain hook gets caught, after which you jump onto his back and strangle him with his own chain. I'd love to tell you I figured this out on my own, but it wasn't until a flashing B icon showed up on the meat over my head that I figured out the tactic.
Three bouts of strangling, and The Butcher went down. Demo over. Again I found myself wanting more.
I prodded Jamie for more info on weapons, but he was tight-lipped. All he would confirm is that you won't be killing death and stealing his scythe, something I'm starting to unreasonably expect from all of my games.
Then I asked about length. How much Shank were we going to get when the game comes out in late summer?
"When we discuss the length of gameplay in the studio," Jamie explained, "we always discuss the quality of the experience for players rather than the number of hours it takes to complete. We judge success by asking: are players going to recommend this game to their friends by saying 'that was an amazing experience, and you've got to try it out!'"
And so, in conclusion, Shank is an amazing experience and you've got to try it out.