Sly and his motley crew of brains, brawn and beauty are back! Developed by Sanzaru Games, the nifty folks who lovingly nurtured the previous titles in the Sly saga into glorious HD. Have their past practices put them in good stead of creating an all new Cooper adventure after a seemingly interminably long wait in development?
Having recently played the original in it’s updated HD form, I came into this with memories of a PS2 game that, albeit looking spectacular in it’s higher resolution, played like a PS2 game. Unfortunately for Sly, PS3 games have evolved in terms of gameplay mechanics, graphical fidelity and innovation. Regrettably, Thieves In Time, hasn’t quite paid attention to this curve and as a result, some of the design choices are questionable in this regard.
Old style platforming being reminiscent of the good ol’ days of Crash Bandicoot is both a blessing and a curse. At first eliciting happy childhood memories of rushing home to play Crash’s most recent adventure with friends and family. Sly Cooper’s latest, ultimately dashes those as the realisation starkly hits home that you have in fact played all this before; if you did pick up any of the HD trilogy, this feeling will emerge sooner rather than later.
Is Jumping Fun?
That’s not to say it can’t be entertaining however, jumping, sneaking, thieving and battling generalissimo-esque tigers in puzzle type boss fights can be fun. There are, as usual, different playable characters with Bently, Murray and Sly’s ancestors all bringing different performances to spread the varying playstyles. Murray, who for some reason the voice actor reminds me Biff from Back to the Future, is the general combat nut. Proficient at bopping the anthropomorphic foes on the head and shaking coins and treasures out of them. Bently, the geeky turtle, is the brains of the operation; his missions tend to involve hacking mini-games in the guise of old side-scrolling shooters and top down navigation puzzles. Protagonist Sly’s sections are a mixture of stealth, platforming and boss battles; his ancestors are mostly similar, bar a slight change in movesets. Over the course of the game, different costumes can be acquired via plot progression and can assist in getting some of the many collectibles on offer.
Whilst the list of things may seem extensive, it does inevitably get a little repetitive. The game holds much promise in the earlier stages, offering characters, upgrades and a sandbox style area to muck about in between missions. As expansive as it seems, it turns out there is not much to actually explore for, a number of collectibles and that’s about it!
The story is generic, but about what you would expect for a game like this, it’s fun, has it’s moments but that’s not why you’ll purchase this. The voice acting does the job, all sounding as you remember. The script can awkwardly be a little hammy with jokes ripped straight out of the 90’s with characterisation to match. This part, I assume, was intentional on Sanzaru’s part as at least it fits in with the others tone of light heartedness.
Minigames come up several times; these, ironically are the highlights of the game in terms of humour. Taking cues from rhythm based games, these can require a deft finger to complete flawlessly. Seeing Murray dance in a Geisha outfit to a crowd of rowdy bulls is priceless. However it’s nothing compared to a certain montage scene with an aptly hilarious trophy to match!
Inevitably the basic puzzles and platforming sections are on the lesser side of evil in terms of difficulty. Aimed at a younger audience, this is undoubtedly good news. For the more experienced gamer, the one who played the originals when they came out, the lack of a challenge can be a little disappointing. The puzzles rarely involve much more than pushing blocks in a certain order; the stealth sections, although punishable with instant failure are fairly forgiving in terns of what you can get away with. Upgrades are purchasable through the ‘Thiefnet’ making your adventure through time a little easier. Better combo’s to make your Murray more intimidating, a silenced stealth takedown to make enemy clearing with Sly a breeze and homing bombs make traversing with Bently a wholly less disastrous affair.
The one thing that really tones the difficulty down is the horrendously over eager helping guide at the start of each section. It’s not like there are many different things you could be doing either. The ‘jobs’ are ludicrously linear, offering very little room for exploration aside the odd collectible tucked away in a cranny. Yet the game insists you look upon the route and listen, often to Bently, explaining how you must follow the undeviating path which lies ahead.
Graphically, stunning! The artwork is great and the arresting visual style works wonders combined. Animations on each character are aptly suitable and fit the stylised tone of the game well. The sound effects and voice acting perform their role adequately enough without offering too much. The music is well chosen and fits well with the whole thievery and heist theme.
A few nice things worth mentioning would be the incorporation of the PS Vita and it’s features. Not only do you automatically get the Vita version with the game via cross-buy but you can also use cross-saves and utilise the nifty rear touchpad to help search for treasures whilst playing on PS3.
Trophies are fun and varied, collectibles demand several runs and you can replay the missions until your heart’s content. Load times can be a little long but nothing too serious, in terms of glitches and crashes, touch wood, it’s been flawless so far. Aimed at the youngsters, but playable by all if you can stomach the ‘last gen’ feel. For the 10 hours it takes to complete, you could probably double that if you wish to see and do everything on offer. What with the feel of it in comparison to the earlier games in the series, you could probably take your pick between this and the HD Trilogy and you wouldn’t steer too far wrong.
There isn’t much to hamper your fun with the racoon and pals save for the fact it plays a little too much like a PS2 game than I would like. It lacks in innovation what it endeavours to make up for in humour, charm and memories; to be honest that’s not a bad trade off.