Originally a PlayStation 2
stalwart, with three games developed by Sucker Punch
for the system between 2002 and 2005, Sly Cooper
is back in an all new adventure which proves there’s life in the franchise yet.
With Sucker Punch
moving on to develop Infamous,Sanzaru Games
first came to the series with high def ports of the original trilogy for PS3. Famously, the California-based company then started their own totally unofficial sequel, including a unique game engine, and presented it to Sony who immediately greenlit a full title.
A couple of years on and we’ve got Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
. The story follows on from episode 3, with Sly sweet on Carmelita and his friends off about their lives. But when the pages of the Thievius Raccoonus start to change, it soon becomes clear that some time-travelling knave is toying with the past, erasing the deeds of Sly’s family. So it’s time to team up with Bentley and Murray, convert their van to a DeLorean and become temporal tourists.Thieves in Time
kicks off in Paris but soon goes on a time-trotting adventure, taking in Feudal Japan, the Old West, Medieval England, prehistory and more. In each time, you’ll hook up with one of Sly’s ancestors and learn new skills while rooting out villains who have been planted there by the evil mastermind controlling it all.
To achieve this you’ll use a mixture of platforming, stealth and some light puzzling, split across all of your available character who come with different skill sets. Sly can explore the rooftops, Bentley is nippy and has tech smarts and Murray smashes stuff real good. And these are also supplemented by extra abilities from your ancestors, as well as unlocking new skills with the coins you collect.
The Sly series hasn’t had a new entry in almost eight years and there’s a real attempt to pay homage to the early games. That shines through in the surprisingly vital cell-shaded graphics but also feeds into the gameplay. The platforming here is more rigid than we’ve come to expect, especially as Sly has to attach to each new perch point or rope with a touch of the circle button. Likewise, the controls are a bit stiff and there’s some motion control madness which can feel a little dated.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to get used to these niggles - particularly as Sanzaru Games
seem intent on delivering a mountain of content to keep you entertained.
So while you can rocket through the main story missions with the suggested characters you’ll still find over 15 hours of gameplay, not to mention serious variety in the gameplay design from level to level. This includes plenty of minigames (like a QTE seduction dance or serving beers to thirsty bovines) and also the chance to play as Sly’s extended family, who each bring unique gameplay elements to the mix, including gun quick draw mechanics in the Old West section.
And that’s not to mention the freedom you have to explore any of the five major game hubs (which can be returned to at any time), collecting treasure and safes and coins. Backtracking is even encouraged so you can use the new skills you’ve learned to access new areas.
Sly and the gang go medieval! Enlarge
What’s more, Thieves in Time
commendable Cross Buy
service, which gifts you with a code to unlock the full game on Vita
. And it’s an incredible port, translating every element to the smaller screen intact to deliver one of the best games to yet appear on Vita
. Touch screen control are kept mercifully limited and syncing your save game to the cloud is a seamless, though slow, process - meaning you can continue your adventure on the move. The Vita
version does feature less impressive graphics, making PS3 play generally preferable - though both systems are hindered by lengthy loading times.Thieves in Time
isn’t the slickest game on the market and plays by some rules which feel a little outdated. But once you realise that it’s more about stealth and exploration than button mashing combat, you’ll find a deep and finely tuned platform title with some impressive variety in its gameplay. The presentation is refreshingly vivid in a world of gritty action titles and it’s enhanced by strong voice work (apart from Bentley’s shrill tones) and some beautifully animated cut scenes. It’s even got some well-wrought humour and plenty of fun villains, with some darker tonal elements that make it just as enjoyable for adults as well as suitable for kids. Recommended.