The world of Sly Cooper can be hard to describe to those who haven’t played any of the originals. At its heart it is a platformer, but Sly and the rest of the Cooper gang’s adventure through time manages to add elements from various genres including stealth games, rhythm games, and third-person shooters to name just a few. All of this varied gameplay is then combined with the same quirky sense of humor and beautiful animation style of the old trilogy that should appeal to both newcomers and long time fans of Sly Cooperalike. Add to this the fact that when you purchase the PlayStation 3 version you get the Vita version for free, then consider the ability to transfer your save back and forth to continue your game on the go and it quickly becomes apparent that Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time has a lot going for it. But in the 7 years since the release of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves in 2005 on the PlayStation 2, almost a whole console generation has passed and the medium has evolved. Lucky for us, the medium hasn’t left Sly behind.
Sly Cooper Is Back! And As Fun As Ever.
Some long time fans of the series were understandably worried about the fate of this game. The fact that it had been so long since the last game combined with the the fear that always comes when a new developer takes the reins of a series had some people worried.
I am happy to report that Sanzaru Games captured the feeling of the previous games brilliantly and shortly after hopping in it became apparent how much I missed that world. You’ll be putting your thieving skills to the test against a great, new kooky batch of villains that ranges from a armadillo sheriff who wants all the gold he can get to a rapping, painting black bear who just wants to figure skate. The villains were varied enough to keep the boss battles fun and dynamic while also being weirdly odd and charming. The oddball villains aside, the story is just plain old fun and the writing has perfectly captured the old Sly Cooper sense of humor.
On top of all of this, the game looks great too. It isn’t a Last Of Us realistic look by any means; that just wouldn’t fit the world of Sly. Instead, this has the same cartoon look as the original trilogy, but better looking. The graphical upgrade looks kind of similar to what I imagine Wind Waker HD will be.
Variety of Playable Characters Keeps Gameplay Interesting
All of Sly’s gang are playable once again, and that does eventually includes Carmelita Fox as well. Each of these characters plays different and this helps to keep the game feeling fresh. Sly is quick, agile and a great climber. So, most likely when playing as him, you’ll sneak around or over guards to get where you’re going. But at the same time, Murray is a big, strong hippo. So when you play as him, it isn’t a big deal to plow through every guard in your path if you want to. To mix it up even more Bentley can shoot darts at — or plant bombs on — unsuspecting guards to get around. Finally, playing as Carmelita basically turns the game into a third-person shooter. Even Bentley’s computer hacking this time around will be one of three different mini games. All this variety helps to keep the game feeling fresh from start to finish.
But it doesn’t stop with just the traditional Cooper Gang for playable characters. As you travel to different times and places in history, your merry party will be joined by many of Sly’s ancestors. On top of this, new costumes for Sly will change how he plays as well. For example, when you visit the old west you meet Tennessee Kid Cooper and unlock a jailbird costume for Sly. Tennessee is basically a cowboy (or cowraccoon, I guess) and the controls like a character in a platforming third-person shooter. Meanwhile, the jailbird costume allows Sly to use his ball and chain to either roll around quickly or break through weak walls.
More to Collect Than Ever Before
On top of the fun story there are more collectibles hidden now than ever before. The clue bottles from the early games that unlock safes are back and better hidden than in previous games. On top of the clue bottles there are also treasures hidden throughout the world that, once picked up, turn the game into a foot race to get treasure back to the hideout within the time limit and without taking damage. Lastly, there are masks hidden throughout the levels that will unlock different skins when you collect enough of them. The game also does a great job of making sure the worlds are big enough to explore and hide things well inside. But at the same time, the levels never seems too busy or overwhelming. The treasures are hidden well enough to not be frustrating, but they still give you a feeling of accomplishment when you find them.
Long Load Times
This might be my single biggest issue with the game. I don’t think I’ve seen loading times like these in a long time. It’s one thing to have a screen with a little info for you to look at for a few seconds, but I shouldn’t be able to check all my new Facebook updates while I wait for the next mission to load. Unless Sanzaru purposely did this knowing how ADD we are becoming as a people and this time is supposed to be used for a quick round of Angry Birds. And if that is the case, great job! Otherwise, terrible. Just terrible.
Cross Buy and Cross Save Are Cool, But Vita Version Noticeably Inferior
I played this game how I think it was intended: buying the PlayStation 3 version and getting the Vita version for free, then moving my save between the two platforms depending on where I would be playing. This feature is amazing and definitely has potential, but the experience on the Vita just feels different.
It is immediately apparent after playing the game on both systems that the Vita version just looks worse then its console counterpart. It still looks acceptable on the Vita and by no means looks bad. But it was still a letdown.
The controls on the Vita also don’t work as well. It was bad enough that both versions bring back some Sixaxis motion controls. The Vita version takes this sort of annoyance a step further by mapping some of the buttons to the touchscreens instead of the actual buttons. There were a couple times where fiddling with the touchscreen made me lose a boss battle that I would have won on my PS3. None of this ruined the experience, but it was just inferior to the console experience.
Overall, this is a good game. Although Sly Cooper: Thieves in Times doesn’t really do anything wrong, there wasn’t anything to propel it into greatness. The difficulty is in that perfect spot of beatable for kids while still being challenging for adults, so this is a wonderful game if you’re looking for a family game. It felt great to be back in the world of Sly Cooper and even if this didn’t do anything to revolutionize the series, I can’t wait for the secret ending to pan out so I have a reason to jump back in.
Review Platform: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita