Amidst a rush of big name titles, a Sony-exclusive game has made its way stealthily onto store shelves, and it just happens to be a stealth-platformer. Spooky!
It has been a while since Sly Cooper’s last outing. As one of Sony’s lovable mascots from the previous generation, and given the fading away of other mascots, it is no real surprise. The original developers, Sucker Punch, have moved on to bigger things, leaving Sanzaru with the job of bringing Sly Cooper to an audience who are perhaps not as interested in the “family friendly” adventures of a master thief and his anthropomorphic gang.
Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time brings the gang back together with style. Our dapper-dressing hero returns with all of the stealth skills and leaping action that you would expect, alongside Bentley the tech-wiz turtle, and Murray the hippopotamus who brings the muscle (and comic relief in equal measure). Finally, there is Sly’s inappropriate love interest, Carmelita Fox.
The story goes that pages from the Thievius Raccoonus, the Cooper family manual to being an awesome thief, have started erasing themselves. This triggers Bentley to create a time travel device and take the team back through to different periods in time to meet up with Sly’s ancestors and discover what, or who, is responsible for messing with the Cooper family history. Sounds perfectly plausible to me…
So each of the time periods that Sly and the gang visit, from feudal Japan to the Wild West, act as an independent hub world for the gang to launch their adventures from. Whilst each area is different in looks and setting, the core missions within these areas are pretty much the same from one to the next. The player will arrive and investigate the open world area, before having to meet up with their resident ancestor and then take on a boss. It may not offer much by way of surprise, but the variety in settings is pleasant and thankfully there is plenty to do within each of these areas to keep the player busy beyond just following the story.
Gameplay differs depending on which character you are using. Sly, as the main character, concentrates on the stealth and 3D platforming mechanics, and he does it well. Whilst he is more than capable in a fight, his ability to leap gracefully from surface to surface, staying out of the sight of any enemies or escaping quickly if spotted, is enjoyable to use. There are plenty of buildings and other surfaces within each of the areas for Sly to make use of, making him easily the most capable character of the bunch and the one that most players will use for the majority of the game.
But the other characters have their uses too. Bentley’s techy wheelchair allows him to hover over large gaps, Murray does the tank thing and simply bulldozes through enemies, and Carmelita is quick with her gun. They each have a purpose within the game, but are just not as fun as using Sly.
As you may have guessed, players will also have the chance to play as each of the Cooper ancestors, each with their own special abilities, and obtain their costume. Again, these different skill sets have their purpose, but fail to take the spotlight away from our stealthy, leaping hero.
It feels as though everything else is a distraction from playing as Sly Cooper in his standard form. Sanzaru seem to have thrown in every concept they could think of to make Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time a more rounded game. The inclusion of multiple mini-games is further evidence. From Bentley’s hacking to Carmelita’s belly dancing, the mini-games are nothing more than a distraction. In an attempt to make something that pleases everyone, Sanzaru have watered down what is a highly enjoyable core game.
Besides the decent sized hub worlds to explore, players will be encouraged to go off the beaten path for the games’ large number of collectibles. Hidden throughout each of the different worlds, with some only reachable by certain characters, things such as scroll bottles or artefacts can be gathered to unlock new skins or even arcade machines.
The cel-shaded visuals of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time are bright and colourful, but also feel rather dated now. I am sure this is partly in keeping with the games’ aging genre, as it all looks appropriate, but it still gives the game a more “retro” feeling. That being said, there is nothing really to complain about here. There is plenty of variety in the settings, and the human-formed animal characters all look good.
Surprisingly, the game is not really ideal for the younger gamer. The difficulty is fairly easy, and the subject matter is very much Saturday morning cartoons, but there seems to be a certain maturity to the game which suggests that maybe the game is aimed more at younger teens than the pre-teen market. Well, those and the veteran gamer of course.
A very good reason to pick up Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time on the PS3 is to grab the Vita version that is included free. I am loving this “two games for one” thing that Sony are running at the moment, as the PS3 versions tend to be only a couple of pounds more expensive than the Vita version, although it must be playing hell with the Vita software sales. CrossPlay is fully integrated, so you can easily continue your Sly Cooper adventure on the move or on the big screen.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a bit of a mishmash game. The core of the game is highly entertaining, even if it does hark back to a bygone age in gaming. But the inclusion of multiple mini-games and other characters simply dilutes the fun. In this case, less would be more. Overall, this is good, inoffensive, family fun, that doesn’t break the mould.