‘Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time’ review
Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation Vita
Developer: Sanzaru Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform Played On: Playstation 3
The Playstation family has many recognizable faces in the gaming community.
From Killzone’s Helghast army to Jak and Daxter to Ratchet and Clank, Sony has given gamers an assortment of memorable characters over the years.
One of these icons is Sly Cooper, a thieving raccoon alongside his two friends Bentley (an intelligent green turtle) and Murray (a big pink fighting hippo). Together, they form a team of master thieves who steal purely from criminals.
Sadly, a new entry to the Sly Cooper series was absent for nearly eight years until Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, the fourth title in the series, made a surprise appearance in June 2011, breathing new life into the Sony icon. However, rather than Sucker Punch (the same development team behind Playstation’s inFamous franchise) helming the long-awaited sequel to their “mischievous raccoonus” series, a small team named Sanzaru Games took over the project.
This team not only worked on the Sly Collection, but before they were officially hired to create Thieves in Time, they already began creating their own “Sly 4” because they are enthusiasts of the franchise. In short, Sony liked what they saw, which led to Thieves in Time evolving into a Sly Cooper game developed by fans, and it shines in Sly’s latest adventure.
Thieves in Time picks up after the events of Sly 3 where the gang is living their separate lives. Our charming hero Sly Cooper and feisty INTERPOL officer Carmelita Fox are still together, Bentley and his girlfriend Penelope remain a couple of geniuses (literally), and Murray is understandably a pro in the world of demolition derbies.
However, things become curvier than Sly’s cane when Penelope cryptically disappears along with slowly fading words from the Thievius Raccoonus – the book containing the secret thieving techniques of Sly’s ancestors. Using the time machine Bentley began constructing near the end of Sly 3, Sly and the gang travel back through time in order to unveil this strange occurrence.
Sanzaru does a fantastic job maintaining the signatures of the Sly Cooper series.
The soundtrack still retains the classic jazzy music of the series while adding variety depending on which time setting you are in. Even the original voice actors make a return for their lovable characters exempting Carmelita’s, but it is ritualistic for her voice actress to change with each iteration.
Animated cutscenes return to the series as well. Although the art style’s vibrancy and details are not as visually pleasing compared to Sucker Punch’s works, the cutscenes still look great and involve plenty more animation from characters. Once you have watched a particular cut scene, you may view them any time in the start menu. You can even recap Bentley’s elaborate plans, which are always a delight to watch.
Every character in the game has terrific designs except Carmelita. Not only is she “sexed up” with skimpier attire, but she has apparently not eaten a sandwich since Sly 3.
The series still garners its cartoon cel-shaded visuals all while running at a buttery 60 frames per second, which brings up the game’s biggest fault: load times.
The game’s visuals are charming with its comic book style, but it is by no stretch graphically demanding. The excessive load times are quite noticeable, especially since once a job is complete, you are automatically taken back to the hideout where the longest loading times come from exiting the hideout.
Seriously, I should not have time to skim through Twitter and Facebook for the latest news in the wonderful world of gaming while playing a single-player story.
Scattered throughout the five time zones you will venture through are various collectibles. These entail the series’ traditional clue bottles allowing you to eventually crack safes, treasures for extra coins and masks to unlock extras for use in the game. Once the roughly 12 hour story is complete, you may travel back to any location and finish acquiring any items missed during Sly’s stealthy endeavors.
However, finding these items is no picnic. Each of the five worlds are expansive enough to make finding the items a challenge and a half to obtain, adding some meaty replay value to the game.
If you have a Playstation Vita, Thieves in Time comes with the Vita version of the game for free, allowing you to use cross play and continue the game on the fly. If you purely wish to play on your Playstation 3, the Vita acts as an AR Server, a second screen displaying the locations of hidden treasures.
Assisting in exploration is a compass on the bottom of character’s feet and a radar revealing nearby enemies. Fortunately for Sly purists such as myself, you have the option to turn the radar off. It simply does not make the game as exciting when you know an enemy is just around the corner.
Even if you are practically in an enemy’s face, the A.I. does not seem to notice you. There were a number of occasions where I would pass a guard while sprinting from job to job thinking “How did he not see me?”
Many of the game’s extras are located in the gang’s hideouts. Here, you will use coins – which are earned in a number of methods – to purchase necessities from ThiefNet (which is somehow connected to the internet in B.C. times). These items consist of new moves, upgrades to character’s skill set, upgrades for gadgets and more.
Although Sly Cooper games are platformers at heart, they always contain variety in game play, and Thieves in Time is no exception. You will perform everything from hilarious rhythm games to controlling a race, mounting turrets and, of course, Bently’s hacking segments, which triumphantly return with three play styles.
The first is the traditional twin stick shooter that has been around since the inception of the series, but with new additions. There are now three different tanks to use, each with their own powers and specific roles to help get you through the end of a hack. Next play type is a side scroller where you play as a roided Bentley dressed uncannily like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles packing two guns. Believe it or not, the third type of hacking game actually uses the Six Axis controls where you guide an electric ball through obstacle courses. The tank and side scrolling segments are entertaining, but the Six Axis sections are frustrating and far less engaging.
Every character you play as throughout the game feels distinctive and balanced. Murray, for example, is tough as nails in strength and health, but not as acrobatic as Sly or gadget savvy as Bentley. It is a shame there are not as many jobs with Carmelita since she is fun to play as.
It is pretty awesome meeting and playing as Sly’s ancestors, especially the ones mentioned in the first Sly Cooper which felt like fantastic fan service. It is also hilarious seeing them interact with “future” technology and modern lingo, especially “Bob” Cooper. The ancestors of Sly have slight similarities in their movements to Sly himself, but hold different abilities to set themselves apart.
Sly uses a variety of costumes through the course of the game. You cannot use your normal moves while wearing them, but they each have unique abilities relevant to performing different tasks. However, some seemed to exist for the sake of having one for that specific level.
Bentley has a lot of cool gadgets in exchange for strong physical attacks, but with a plethora of gadgetry comes the nuisance of switching back and forth between power-ups. For example, if you choose explosives, both the darts and mines will have that trait. It should have been made to where you can set mines with one power-up and darts with another.
The game’s plot is enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining with likable villains accompanying it. Even as a veteran Sly fan, I found the boss fights quite challenging, but simultaneously creative and surprisingly varying in game play. Equally enjoyable is the gang’s banter back and forth during a job, even if the dialogue is sometimes hit-or-miss.
As a long time Sly fan, Thieves in Time felt like a love letter. The game was essentially made by fans and I could not help but feel this as I was playing the game. Sanzaru manages to retain the core values of Sly Cooper while throwing their own ideas into the mix.
Were it not for some minor annoying faults and ridiculous load times, Thieves in Time would easily be the best in the series since Sly 2: Honor Among Thieves, which is one of my favorite Playstation 2 games. Still, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a fun filled experience all Playstation 3 owners should check out, especially with a $40 price tag.
- Sly Cooper is finally back!
- Sanzaru retains series’ signatures while adding new ideas
- The funniest Sly games yet
- Only $40 for a 12 hour story with many extras to collect
- A lot of variety in game play despite being a platformer
- Overall a joy to play through
- Ridiculous load times for a game that’s not graphically demanding
- Annoying gadget switch backs with Bentley
- Carmelita isn’t played as much as other characters and looks trampy
- Irritating use of the SixAxis
Robbie Key is a “Reviews and News Editor” for Analog Addiction, Entertainment Editor for the Pine Log newspaper at Stephen F. Austin State University, and blogger for IGN. Follow his completely relevant Twitter updates and watch his awesomtacular YouTube videos.