Time to break out your PlayStation 3’s Sly fans, because the thievius raccoonus and gang are back. Developer Sanzaru Games has taken the reins on the Sly Cooper franchise from Sucker Punch and has released the fourth installment after an eight year hiatus. With the release of the “Sly Collection” for the PlayStation 3, Sanzaru Games has demonstrated their skill in revamping this classic series. However does that skill translate to creating a new game with new innovative gameplay while giving the characters we love the respect they deserve? Read along and find out.
Sanzaru has already proven it can take Sly Cooper’s cartoonish style and make it look fabulous for the Playstation 3, Sly 4 is no exception. Both the 2-D cut scenes and the 3-D animation are fluid and wonderful to look at. Made even better with the vibrant colors found in each time period you visit, my personal favorites being Feudal Japan and Arabia.
Some of the main cast has also been given a bit of a redesign, adding a bit more detail to their appearance and expressions. To be perfectly honest, Sly and his partners in crime have never looked so good. Bentley actually looks more like a turtle in this game than he did in the previous games, and Murray looks much more physically strong than just big. However, I think the biggest improvement for the character animation, is the emphasis on expressions when dialogue isn’t needed. To be fair the expressiveness of the characters was impressive even on the Playstation 2, but with Sly 4 at times I would have to remind myself that I was playing a game not watching a highly entertaining cartoon.
As a game Thieves in Time delivers exactly what Sly fans have been craving plus adding a bit extra. All the characters control how they used to. Sly can climb using his trademark stealth, Bentley confronting his enemies with bombs and hacking expertise (as a set of three mini games), and Murray using his brute force to take enemies head on and lift heavy objects. Not too much has changed with the characters control scheme, which makes it easy for fans to get right back into the action after so much time. That said, it also means that any frustration that came with that control scheme is also present. For example, if you are playing any other character than Murray, do not try to confront guards in the main area. Enemies, once they have spotted you, can gang up on you very fast so the best strategy is to just run for it and hide where you can. This makes certain missions and treasure runs (a returning side mission) much more difficult to complete.
The different periods in time you visit have large and are extremely fun to explore as well as look at. Every area has tons of climbable objects making it easier than ever for Sly to sneak around on the rooftops. There are also hidden areas that can only be accessed if Sly has acquired the disguise for that era. The use of disguises has been used before, in Sly 3 more specifically, but Sanzaru has given these outfits a new importance to the gameplay. While Sly is mostly restricted from his usual move set (pending on the disguise) each outfit has unique abilities that can help Sly during a mission. For example, the samurai armor is resistant to flames and can even knock back fireballs with a shield. Each disguise offers new tricks which can be used it all other time periods, not just the one you found the disguise in. This makes replaying the game all the more enjoyable as you search each area for all the collectible treasures. The biggest addition to the Thieves in Time is the use of a new character per era, more specifically, Sly’s ancestors. While a majority of their moves are similar to Sly, they each have their unique skills that make playing them a blast. For example, Sly’s ancestor from the Old West, Tennessee Kid Cooper, uses his gun/cane for sharpshooting enemies and objects as well as for climbing and pick pocketing. The ancestor’s moves are easy enough to learn but once you know how to use them, not much else is added to their missions, partially due to one of the game’s bigger flaws but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Now how about story and characters? Well, for me it was a mixed bag. With the introduction of time travel, there were numerous possibilities of what could happen on this adventure. While the choices made were interesting and kept me guessing on what would happen, by the end I was asking myself, “That’s it?” This leads me to my biggest problem, Thieves in Time’s length or lack thereof. This is a short game and I found I had beaten the entire story after four days of playing. Don’t get me wrong, what is in this game will keep you entertained for the entire time you’re playing, but once you reach the end you may feel a bit disappointed in by what the game did not do. I wouldn’t have minded getting the chance to meet and play as some of Sly’s other ancestors or even getting an extra plot twist in regards to Sly’s arch-nemesis (who supposedly can be seen hiding in every level of the game). Although what is presented in Sly 4 is more of what fans have been missing.
The dialogue between characters is a flawless combination of charm and humor. The main trio is just as fun as they were eight years ago with a little character development to keep things interesting. The ancestors are also pretty fun with their different personalities and mannerisms, making them all the more enjoyable to play. Some standouts are Sir Galleth Cooper and Bob (don’t ask, it’s something you have to see for yourself). There are also a few story based missions that I had a blast playing not only cause the characters had great comedic dialogue but also just due to fact it was centered around a humorous plan. For example, one mission is to get one of Cooper’s ancestors back in shape in order to gain access to their special ability. What follows is a series of fun mini games, which lead to fantastic (not to mention playable) montage sequence which is in no way referencing the Rocky movies. Its little things like charisma and humor that make the Sly 4 an extremely entertaining game despite its short and straightforward story.
It is not a perfect game by any means, but as a long waited 4th installment to a much-loved series, Sanzaru games has hit the ball right out of the park. Sly 4: Thieves in Time gives fans everything they wanted and more, leaving just enough open for more games to follow. Sly Cooper is back and hopefully will be sticking around for a while.