Video Game Review: "Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time" (PS3)
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is the fourth title in the ongoing Sly Cooper series that was originally developed by Sucker Punch Productions. Beginning with Thieves in Time, Sanzaru Games took the helm of the series and now continues the story of a cunning raccoon thief named Sly Cooper who is aided by his two partners in crime: Bentley the turtle and Murray the hippo. Seeing Sly back in action brought so much hype in my heart for at last bringing some more platforming into the PS3 library. Sly Cooper games have always been about scaling rooftops, stealing prized valuables on the streets, and executing plans in order to get whatever goodies the Cooper Gang is aiming for on their journey. The previous Sly games were fun, but they did always come with their own flaws: Sly 1 suffered greatly from subpar textures, Sly 2’s controls felt a bit awkward at times, and Sly 3 completely took out every ounce of the extras by providing no clue bottles or vaults to find. So, what exactly did Sanzaru Games do with this fourth title? Well, imagine every good aspect about each game in the series and fusing it all together into one central piece of platforming goodness.
Sly Cooper has always belonged to a family of high class thieves that have earned a reputation for stealing the finest valuables. As a child, Sly watched his parents be killed by a group called the “Fiendish Five” who stole the greatest treasure in the Cooper family: the “Thievius Raccoonus”, A book containing the family’s accomplishments and skills passed down to each Cooper in the family line. Sly eventually was able to retrieve all the pages of the book and at last defeated the Fiendish Five thanks to the help of his friends: Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo. Many adventures have passed since then and Sly finally found his purpose in life by putting his family cane away and faking amnesia in order to stay with the love of his life, Inspector Fox.
Sometime after the events of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, Sly and the Cooper Gang are forced back into action after discovering that a mysterious gang is literally traveling back in time and erasing the history of Sly’s ancestors. It’s now up to Sly, Bentley, and Murray to go back in time with the use of their newly built time machine and make things right by saving the past.
Sly Cooper:Thieves in Time sports a much stronger writing style with its story content compared to its predecessors. Even right at the start, players are introduced to a well written introduction that handily introduces newcomers to the story. All of the characters (from heroes to villains) still hold quirky personalities and continue to make each piece of dialogue into something that’d fit right into a Saturday morning cartoon. To be utterly honest, Sly’s ancestors may be the best group of characters introduced into this series so far. Each of them have their own individual cunning personalities, which keeps the dialogue very fresh throughout the episodes of the story. Also, the plot itself is basic when it comes to using time travel and thankfully avoids making itself overly complicated. The icing on the cake throughout the experience is the animated cutscenes, characterized by witty narrated humor and great character interactions that continue to make me wish this series had an actual cartoon.
Ever since Sly 2:Band of Thieves, the Sly Cooper series has focused on putting players into massive hub worlds and directing them on specific missions. Said missions can relate to taking photos, sneaking into specific buildings with high security, hacking into computers through the use of mini games, stealing valuables, or simply sabotaging the villains you are up against. Each member of the Cooper Gang has their own set of skills that is needed to accomplish specific tasks throughout the game. Sly Cooper is very nimble, thus he can climb onto poles, walk on wires, and use a variety of disguises in order to use special skills. Murray is all about brute strength and he is usually used for missions involving massive combat or performing very silly tasks (dancing being the newest aspect). And then there the wheelchair-bound Bentley, who can use hi tech gadgets, bombs, and various types of darts to dispose of enemies. Each member of the Cooper Gang can steal valuables from guards and use the cash on “Thief Net” to buy more abilities. Last but not least, there is Sly’s Ancestors. Each of the Cooper Ancestors contain their own unique thief skills: from jumping extremely long distances to performing power attacks. The Cooper ancestor I had the most fun playing as would be Tennesse Kid Cooper, who is able to shoot down a variety of enemies with the use of his cane rifle.
By the end of each episode in the game, you will encounter specific bosses with their own selfish motives for traveling back in time and messing with the past. The bosses this time around are not only tougher but also less predictable, so more strategy is finally required to defeat them.
Besides the main missions, most of the replay value within this series is about finding various clue bottles and items hiding within the hub worlds. Finding the clue bottles is a much more difficult task now. The size of the environments has greatly grown, to the point where it took me nearly three hours to locate every single bottle in the third episode without the use of a guide. Once the bottles are found, the game locates a secret vault that will grant you an award. The awards themselves are somewhat of a letdown, as they only give you abilities that are helpful but also don’t make the game experience any more interesting. Thankfully Sanzaru Games added even more replay value to Thieves in Time by providing hidden secret treasures (originally introduced in Sly 2) and Sly masks. The Sly Masks are the hardest to locate because they are hiding within both the hub worlds and the actual missions within the game. One might ask, “Does this mean I can skip all of this and just play the story?“ Believe it or not, its recommended to 100% this title because getting all the trophies (which depends on collecting everything) unlocks a secret ending.
There are two flaws hanging around, with the largest being the long loading times. The other issue that I personally can’t stand is the game’s constant need to instruct you (through the use of Bentley and other characters) on what to do in a specific situations over and over. But all in all, Thieves in Time brings in a great whimsical game-play experience full of fun for those who love platforming, mini game sections, and collecting dozens of items.
Graphics: Advancing from the PS2 era, the Sly Series has gone up the scale by providing crisp graphics for each character model and environment presented. Even Sly and other characters have taken an interesting change with their character designs being drawn in a more detailed manner. But, what won me over the most in this category was definitely the animated cutscenes. The members of Sanzaru who worked on those very scenes deserve a gold medal for providing fun colorful moments that go beyond fan expectations.
Sound: Imagine listening to slick music that dwells into your ears and puts the following words in your head: “I’m a thief.” The Sly Cooper series doesn’t wield an amazing soundtrack by any means, but it always stays true to its theme by mixing different time period jingles with appropriate tones.
Conclusion: Sly Cooper:Thieves in Time is a steal to buy with its current pricing of $40. The amount of cartoon magic flowing within this platforming title really makes me happy to be a gamer. Each of Sly’s past three games held some unlikeable problems, but Thieves in Time takes the best aspects of those previous adventures and brings them together into one package: Sly 1’s great level design, Sly 2’s secrets and Sly 3’s story design.
There is one critical aspect that is holding this game down greatly: Lack of TV advertisement. Sony pulled a pretty disappointing business move considering Sanzaru Games actually went through the trouble of lowering the price tag and making a pretty great ad to exemplify the game’s concept. In the end, The Sly Cooper Series continues to personally charm me by creating a unique innocence within the context of thievery. Those who are looking for more games similar to Crash Bandicoot or Spyro the Dragon should definitely check this title out.