Review - Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Sly Cooper, an icon of the instant-classic PlayStation 2 era, finally debuts on the PlayStation 3 after an eight year absence. This time Sanzaru Games takes the reins on their first original Sly game, as Sucker Punch Studios apparently abandoned their blue-capped raccoon. In fact, Sanzaru was so frustrated at the never-ending lack of Sly-ness, that they started Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time without any official consent or funding, and Sony liked it so much they gave them the green light! But after such a long hiatus, can this bold, new developer bring Sly back better than ever?
With an evil time-jumping mastermind tearing the Cooper family history to shreds, Sly and the gang eagerly leap out of retirement to sneak and steal through history with their convenient new time machine! Don't worry; if you're new to the Sly scene, Thieves does an excellent job setting things up for newbies. Right away, the cheesy wit familiar to the series takes the spotlight, setting the stage for what looks like a fun, light-hearted adventure!… once you get through the mountains of exposition. Considering how simple the story is, there is waaaay too much explaining. In fact, the first thing the game does is ask whether or not you even want to see the full story.
It's hard to complain, though, because Thieves is just so great to look at! The cel-shaded look is bright, colorful, and wonderfully cartoony, almost as if it were hand-drawn. The art of every character and location gushes with personality! In fact, I could the same thing to describe every single aspect of this game. Like the catchy music and sounds, which are very reminiscent of Sly's older games, right down to the Mickey Mousing cues as Sly tiptoes around foes.
The gameplay is top-notch. Platforming is intuitive, combat is satisfying and being a super sneaky coon thief is easy! In fact, it feels exactly like the previous Sly games. There are a few new moves and combos, but for the most part it's the same old Sly Cooper style. Sly's friends Bentley, Murray, and Carmelita Fox each have their own missions with unique playstyles and abilities, and so do the Cooper ancestors you meet along the way. One of the few new additions to the Sly series are disguises you find in each level. Each outfit has unique attributes and are used to bypass the dangers of their native worlds. For example, the samurai costume lets Sly resist fire and walk unnoticed past the guards in feudal Japan. Outfits can be used in other areas to reach secrets, but rarely become necessary outside their own levels.
Thieves has done little to "grow up" with its audience, and its difficulty shows. It is extremely forgiving. While enemies become somewhat trickier to sneak by as you get further into the game, there are health pickups and checkpoints around every corner. Even the boss fights have checkpoints! At no point will you feel frustrated. Also, despite focusing on stealth and featuring worlds far larger than previous Sly games, Thieves is quite linear. Obstacles are presented as simple puzzles to be solved rather than to be creatively worked around. This gets a little repetitive in the latter parts of the game. However, the tedium is broken up by a variety of mini games, including races, shoot-em-ups, and a dancing rhythm game with a fat hippopotamus dressed as a geisha. Yep.
When it comes down to it, Sly Copper: Thieves in Time is identical to its predecessors in many ways. It was not designed to revolutionize the series, but rather introduce Sly to a new generation. Better late than never, right? Now that this first one is out of the gate, I look forward to seeing what Sanzaru will do with Sly next! If you're looking for a fun, relaxing 3D platformer or a return to the unforgettable PS2 days, you can pick this up for $39.99.