Downloadable games are becoming a viable business unto their own on PCs and home consoles alike. While full-size games are still in early stages of being bought online and played without a disc on consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, smaller "All Killer, No Filler," as described by Jeff Agala, games now stand as a business-within-the-business.
Agala, Creative Director from Klei Entertainment, the company behind Shank premiering this week on Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network, loves the downloadable model."We can keep it nice and tight" using a downloadable game, said Agala. Jamie Cheng, Founder and CEO of Klei agreed in a conference call, noting "Shank would never have happened if we made it a retail game. We funded most of it before we even found a publisher. It allows us to be all-out creative."
That creativity has a strange background of inspiration. The pair cited everything from "pulp movies of the 70s" to "Johnny Quest" and the art of comic book legend Jack Kirby.
"We wanted the violence and playfulness" from the movies that directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez make and are inspired by, said Agala. He said he wanted "Graphic Novel artwork that's animate; a little more mature, detailed, and gritty than other games using a cartoon aesthetic."
This cinematic feel to the game allowed for "stand-out cool moments," he continued. For example, there's a section of the game featuring a fight on a bridge done entirely in Silhouette.Cheng noted, "from a gameplay perspective, the way they animated it was about the posing, and you could still see the characters really clearly. The visuals enhance the gameplay."
As for that gameplay itself? Expect lots of violence, with weapons like chainsaws, and lot of cartoon-infused gore. There are multiple environments, each with its own set of enemies and bosses, but don't expect the number of types of enemies to be too high, as it gets "a little bit counterintuitive," Cheng said. The game is in 2D, and a big part of that was the "simplicity of control," said Agala. "There's a lot of games out there where it's easy to get lost; controls aren't as intuitive or easily learnable." They team really wanted this game to be able to be played by anyone who sat down with the controller the first time.
If you want to play with a friend, the game does offer co-op in this 2D world, but at no point will co-op be necessary to finish the game.
"There's no predicting when someone will have co-op play or not," said Cheng explaining while Shank was built with co-op in mind, they didn't want that to be limiting.
Will the game turn out to be "killer" or "filler?" You can find out for yourself, downloading Shank on PSN August 24 or Xbox Live August 25.