Shank is a bad-ass beat-'em-up that aims to be awesome by allowing you to stab bad guys in the spleen in a gnarly manner with a fantastic cartoon art style as fluid as butter. There you have it, my preview of Shank. Sure, it's short and simple, but I think it exemplifies pretty much exactly what Shank is. If there was ever a side-scrolling Tarantino game, I think this would be it.
Shank (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC)
Yeah, we can all see that Shank is a violent take on side-scrolling beat-'em-ups, one that aims to help revive the genre from the dead. Which makes sense, actually. As fighting games have made a full and empowered comeback, it is certainly reasonable that their sister genre would come back. The re-release of Final Fight, as well as newer games like Castle Crashers or The Dishwasher, indicate this shift back. Shank is just the latest in a series of recent beat-'em-ups, and one with this level of polish and sheen is a nice return to form.
Now, all this is grand and fun, but the best element of the game is the art direction. Whoo boy, Shank is one smartly animated game, with some of the most fluid cartoon animations I have seen in a game. It really does look like a cartoon come to life, and is clearly the biggest selling point of the game. See any of the trailers of the game, and it's obvious that Shank is designed to look even better than it plays. Small details, like portions of a stage where a dusky sunset in the background reduce the characters to shadows, and only gun shots will brighten the fight, really make Shank one of the most best looking games I have seen in a while. Both Klei and EA promise that the game is going to keep looking better in time for the summer release.
The art direction can be mostly thanked to Jeff Agala, who was director of the show Atomic Betty. He had also done work with Disney, Penguin Books, and more. With ten years in animation, Agala is apparently working hard to apply his skills to games.
Shank is a lot of fun. For the hands-on time I was shown of it, Shank does what it does well. Obviously, the animation is really impressive, and the beat-'em-up mechanics are solid. If Klei can incorporate enough to keep the game from going stale, and maybe some multiplayer or extra modes, Shank could easily be one of the most interesting downloadable titles to come this summer.