Before starting this game it must be said I’ve never experienced a Sly Cooper title. If first impressions are of any value, I was instantly turned off by Sly’s latest adventure. The story started out far too silly for my adult palette and the control mechanics seemed outdated. Fortunately, I didn’t give up so early on and Sly and his gang eventually endeared himself to me.
In case you were unaware, Sly Cooper and his merry band of thieves are stuck traveling through time to meet up with Sly’s ancestors along the way. They visit Feudal Japan, Ancient Arabia, Medieval England, and Will Smith’s Wild Wild West (not really). All of these destinations are excuses to take the action to new locales and see new enemies in an attempt to diversify the experience for long-time fans.
For the most part, the level designs were interesting but not overly impressive. At first there was plenty to see, but after some time, the areas revealed themselves to be rather small and repetitive in surroundings. Because this game plays equally on the PS3 as it does on the Vita, I feel that maybe some of the scale of the levels was held back to make sure the Vita could accommodate everything on the PS3. Compared to other third-person platformers (like Darksiders II), Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time felt small.
I have already mentioned that the story starts incredibly silly for my tastes. However, after several hours with the characters I came around to enjoy their plight. It’s all very cartoonish, but it makes perfect sense with the art style of the game. Once the realization clicked for me that this game was intended for 10 year olds, I wiped off my curmudgeonly scowl and stuck around for the ride.
Watch us play Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.
The core of this game revolves around third-person stealth play, but I didn’t spend as much time sneaking as I expected. The game rarely allows players to openly climb across power lines and flag poles without being seen by enemies. Compared to adult stealth games, Sly Cooper is a liberal game that is willing to let players be seen without crushingly sending bad guys in pursuit. This is a nice feature for kids unaccustomed to difficult games and great for easy-going gamers like myself not interested in maximum stealth all of the time.
Rightfully so, the difficulty of the game picks up during the several core boss battles. I found my life being snuffed out regularly while attempting to clear bosses. At first my impatience showed and I was immensely turned off by this jump in difficulty. However, after attempting each boss 10-15 times, I learned my rhythms, adapted my gameplay and cleared the bosses with a humongous grin on my face. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has moments where the difficulty seems uneven. However, it’s only uneven at the main boss battles - an appropriate time for difficulty spikes, if ever there was one.
It was during these difficulty spikes that my willingness to go on was regularly challenged. But these challenges also reminded me of some of my favorite gaming experiences. Specifically, the many hours I spent with Banjo Kazooie back in the day. Anthropomorphic animal platformers are a dime-a-dozen, but Sly Cooper at least hits the right notes to remind me of one of the best.
The animal characters are silly and fun with robust personalities and clever gameplay mechanics. Each of the characters has a drastically different set of skills that guarantees a wide array of gameplay elements. Plus, the game throws in multiple costumes and unlockable new moves for good measure. Sly Cooper presents its gameplay elements with near perfect execution so even the youngest of players can grasp them.
After starting off in a grumpy mood about Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, I came around and really engaged with the characters and the story. It’s funny at times, challenging at others, and serves as a nice romp down memory lane that’s likely one of the better platformers thus far this year.
Alex Keen is a contributor writer to CraveOnline Gaming. You can follow him on Twitter @dbldn.
CraveOnline received one review copy of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for PlayStation 3 from Sony. We played the game to completion before starting our review.