Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time PS3 Review

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe  Developer: Sanzaru Games  

Genre: Platformer  Players: 1  Age Rating: 7+  Other console/handheld formats: PS Vita

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time arrives eight years after Sly 3 with Sanzaru Games taking over the mantle from original developer Sucker Punch, who are currently busy with the grittier Infamous series. It’s great to see the return of Sly, Bentley, Murray and Carmelita, all of which are strong characters that have always added a lot to the series. This time around the pages of the Thieveus Racoonus have been mysteriously erased, spurring the charismatic raccoon and friends to travel through time to meet his ancestors and sort it out.

Fans will be delighted that the game stays true to what makes a Sly game. So it’s at heart a visually pleasing platformer with some light stealth mechanics, mini games, plenty of coin collection, hub worlds to explore and mission based gameplay.

Games introduced in the intervening years since Sly’s previous outing, such as Assassin’s Creed and Uncharted have had no bearing on Sly’s acrobatics, with platforming functioning in much the same way as previous games in the series. It feels weighty and Sly is able to balance on things and climb things with taps of the circle button on any area that sparkle blue, though some will likely find it to be too limited in comparison to the likes of Assassin’s Creed to truly satisfy. It’s not the most challenging of platforming by any means, though is still very satisfying and visually exciting and certainly offers more in the way of challenge than many other games today.

The stealth meanwhile is rudimentary but functional, with enemies having very limited vision, to the extent that as long as you keep out of their searchlight, you’re able to wander right by them, whilst somehow remaining unseen. In a more realistic game such AI would take you out of the world and be laughed at, though it’s perfectly acceptable in more light hearted affairs like Sly, where obviously it’s not meant to be taken seriously.

The visuals are a fancier take on the cartoon style from previous games, though the developer has taken advantage of the additional power of the PS3 to make a substantially better looking game with plenty of personality, letdown somewhat by a problematic framerate on occasion.

A fresh feature are costumes that Sly is able to don and, in turn, be granted new abilities to aid progression. The thief outfit for instance allows you to use a sword and slow down time to a crawl to get past traps and such, while the Sabretooth suit meanwhile allows you to leap large distances. Metroidvania elements are featured allowing you to revisit areas with obtained costumes to unearth secrets that were previously out of your reach.

Like previous games, there are characters other than Sly to take charge of. Bentley the turtle is the brains of the group, so sections where you’re controlling him often involve hacking into security systems and such, whilst the rotund pink hippo Murray is the brawn, so his segments are often more action centric. Each world also allows you to play as one of Sly’s ancestors, most of which share his agility, but still have their own abilities to set them apart, with one example being Kid Cooper, who wields a gun and another being Sir Galleth who can leap great distances by connecting his hook to certain things.

Structurally the game is split into reasonably sized episodes, each of which takes place in a contrasting time period. As Sly and friends you must complete missions and in the process gather enough data to go after the boss of each episode. Most episodes end in a mission that requires the unique skillset of all characters, and these missions are some of the most memorable and well constructed that the game has to offer.

It’s certainly not a game lacking in variety, with the additional characters, costumes and mini games all doing their part to keep things fresh throughout, so in one instance you might be playing a twin stick hacking mini game as Bentley, and in another you might be sneaking around as Sly. It’s not all excellent by any means, though you’re doing many of the elements for brief enough spurts that even the weaker parts never really feel like they’re having much of a negative bearing on the game at large, though Bentley’s hacking mini games do come close on occasion.

The hub worlds are where the most exploration is on offer. They’re significantly larger than previous games, making the treasure and clue bottles hidden around each trickier to find, particularly once you add in the fact that you don’t have the common modern day advantage of placing waypoints to aid you.

Rather fittingly, like Sly and company, it feels as if Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has stepped in a time machine to revisit the PS2 era and, as such, those that are seeking a reinvention or modern day interpretation of the series mechanics will be left disappointed at its somewhat old fashioned ways. On the other hand those that have missed the series in its lengthy absence will appreciate Sanzaru Game’s authentic and wonderfully crafted revival as well as the fact that the developer never forgets the key ingredients that makes Sly the well loved series that it is.