Published on March 20th, 2013 | by Mick Brennan0
PS3 REVIEW: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
Go Get It!
Summary: Developer: Sanzaru Platforms: PlayStation 3 and Vita (reviewed across both) Released: February 5th Type of game: Single-player heist caper starring anthropomorphic animals; an interactive Looney Tune.
The last time we’ve seen Sly Cooper and his lovable crew of eccentric thieves they were putting their criminal days behind them. Nearly eight years later, the gang is back for another round of hijinks and deception with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, a new adventure that taps into the nostalgia of the series from the PS2 era.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the first entry in the series to be developed by a team other than Sucker Punch. With Sanzaru Games proving their passion and respect for the lore when handling the HD collection, they scored a chance from Sony to pick up where the last entry left off. A new villain has appeared named Le Paradox, a thieving skunk who has targeted specific items throughout history. Causing a ‘butterfly effect’, his actions are causing the pages from the Thievius Raccoonus — the legacy of Sly’s thief family-line, to vanish. Sly and his team catch wind of this, and with the help of Bentley’s new time machine, must travel back in time to eras based on the Ice Age, Medieval England and Arabia, Feudal Japan and the Old West. The story and settings doesn’t alter the dynamics of the genre, but each character is superbly voiced and the cheesy writing will remind you of a Saturday morning cartoon.
For those unfamiliar with the Sly Cooper formula, Thieves in Time present a very easy to ingest, explore an assortment of lavish, detailed sandbox hubs while completing various jobs tied into progressing the story. Within each hub is the Hideout, a place where all the characters congregate and you are presented with a range of options to choose from like playing ping pong, browsing through treasures, change a character, and purchasing upgrades from Thief-Net. Outside the Hideout are various jobs that range greatly depending on the character that you are currently controlling. The jobs associated with Sly are easily the most fun as they focus on stealth; infiltrating buildings, stealing keys, pickpocketing, etc. Bentley’s jobs usually involve hacking into computer systems and using his tech to get him into places. While most focus around fun mini-games, the ones that require motion control are dull. Finally, Murray’s jobs are my least favorite because they are based on beating up bad guys or destroying equipment, but Sanzaru makes up for this simpler gameplay by placing him in outlandish situations.
As Sly travels back in time, he will come across his ancestors that occupy each era. Each has their own special ability like Sly’s Japanese ancestor Rioichi Cooper, can bound across distances with a grace of a ninja or the outlaw Tennessee Cooper can transform the family’s signature cane into a pistol. Sly will eventually be able to equip these costumes, each one providing him with different abilities to interact with his environment and solve various challenges along the way. These new costumes provide you with satisfaction of approaching enemies from different angles, as well as the option of revisiting time periods to access previously unobtainable areas. Thankfully getting each location is a breeze, as the controls are extremely smooth and accessible to newcomers, while fans of the series will feel right at home.
Each aspect of Thieves in Time’s presentation has been polished to take advantage of the PS3 with the inclusion of massive draw distances and greatly improved facial animations. The cel-shaded graphics are great, and you still got the same cartoon styling, just with a lot more color depth and minor touches like Sly’s fur looking fuzzy. All of the songs are perfectly fitting with the levels and the sneaking sound effect/music mix that plays when you’re moving is still a joy to hear. On the other hand, it’s also not entirely stable in the performance department. There are moments of slight lagging in the framerate, and excessively long load times. Every time you start a mission, finish a mission, load a save or enter a new space, you’re hit with a loading screen that runs closely to a full minute in length. Though they’re not a crippling hindrance, just more of an annoyance, the constant break does take some of the shine off the presentation.
In addition to completing jobs, there is a plethora of collectibles to keep you busy. Bottles litter each region, and collecting all of them in a chapter unlocks a safe with a special prize. The game does a nice job of opening up and letting you explore past areas to collect all the items. But if it’s a challenge you’re looking for, you’ll only find it here in small doses. Checkpoints are frequent and forgiving, and a handful of the mini-games actually surpass the core combat in terms of sheer difficulty. What challenge there is usually occurs in the boss fights, which tend to demand perfectly timed uses of Sly’s costumes. Figuring out the pattern of attack/defense can result in defeating each boss and you’ll need your platforming prowess now and then to be victorious.
In the end, fans of Sly Cooper will enjoy Thieves in Time, but it feels like it could have existed on the PlayStation 2. Sanzaru should be commended for providing fans with a enjoyable Sly Cooper game, but after waiting so long to step back into the cunning raccoon’s shoes, this entry feels like a missed opportunity to expand the franchise. A very enjoyable game though, that Sly fans will Really Enjoy!