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Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a blast from the past

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Growing up in a neighborhood of only a handful of kids, video games became a staple of my childhood. I grew up with games like Ratchet & Clank and Sly Cooper, and when the PlayStation 3 was announced, I was afraid of what would happen to these series. When the PS2 had been announced, many of Sony’s greatest franchises and characters from the PS1 era were thrown away and never brought back, or if they were, with horrible new games. Thankfully, this is not the case with the newest game in the Sly Cooper series, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.

Set after the ending of Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, the master thief Sly Cooper has switched sides and begun working as an enforcer of the law to be with his girlfriend, Inspector Carmelita Fox, and does so by pretending to have amnesia. His former gang has disbanded, and each of the members now live a life of freedom. But, for unknown reasons, the pages of Sly’s family history book, The Thievius Raccoonus, have begun to go blank, with the stories of Sly’s great ancestors’ greatest heists being destroyed in the process. Aware that something is amiss, Sly partners back up with his former teammates Bentley and Murray to set things right by traveling in time and fixing history.

The game is a mix of a stealth game and a platformer, and pulls it off quite well. Sly can climb up walls and walk across wires like an acrobat, and can steal and stealthily kill enemies with ease. However, he isn’t very strong in head-to-head combat. This problem is fixed with Sly’s partner Murray, an overweight hippo with a heart of gold fists of steel. Though he can’t climb or sneak across wires, he can still take out any enemy who comes his way with a swing of his fists. Finally  there is the brains of the operation. Though he is stuck in a wheel chair, he compensates with bombs, a dart gun, and a jet pack. He can put a guard to sleep with his sleep darts, than take them out while they’re down with his bombs. Also, Bentley has multiple hacking mini-games, including a arcade style shooter, to a motion controlled mission where you guide a ball. Though most of Bentley’s hacking missions are somewhat fun, the ball missions feel forced and gimmicky compared to the rest of the game. Each character plays smooth and is fun to use, even if they have problems here and their.

The gameplay is true to its roots, but with a few changes. Each of the characters feel as if they’re slower than they used to be, but you’ll get used to it after a while. Each character now has multiple types ammo for their weapons, from Bentley’s new shock bombs, to Murray’s “Dukes of Dynamite,” all of which can be purchased throughout the game with loot stolen from your enemies. Sly can also now change into unlockable costumes, giving him new powers like a bow and arrow or the ability to slow time, and all five of Sly’s ancestors become playable characters, each with their own special powers. The addition of the playable ancestors was a nice touch, since most of them where actually first mentioned in previous games, and now have an entire story behind them.

Though the ancestors are fun to play with, there are some that are better and worse than others, and some that are just overpowered. Sly’s prehistoric ancestor “Bob” the cave-raccoon has no real use past his ability to climb ice walls, but everything else he does Murray can do the same if not better. Yet, with Sly’s Old West ancestor Tennessee “Kid” Cooper, you can activate a Red Dead Redemption-style “crack shot mode,” where time slows and the player can select up to six enemies, who will then be instantly killed. This power is fun, but reloads after only about four seconds, making it extremely overpowered. Why go through the trouble of fighting a guy when you can simply click R2 and kill everyone? After a short while, I never used any of The Kid’s other abilities. Though this issue appears multiple times, the ancestors are still fun to play with and a nice change in pace from the rest of the game.

The game this time around was not created by creator Sucker Punch games, but by Sanzaru games, who were responsible for creating The Sly Collection, an HD re-release of the original 3 games, and the change can be seen, not necessarily in the gameplay, more throughout the game’s story. The writing, while good, doesn’t feel as clever or funny as the originals, and the story isn’t as driving either. In every Sly game, the enemy is explained to you, and you feel like you need to bring this villain down for the things that they have done. In the first game, the evil owl Clokwerk killed your father and stole your heritage, and you’re coming for revenge. Yet here, the enemy and his true motive aren’t revealed until late in the game. The entire game feels like you’re just chasing an unknown, and you’re not really given a reason to chase him, or told why he hates you and your family so much that he travels through time to erase it from existence. It robs the game of the amazing relationship between hero and villain that the franchise is known for.

Another one of my complaints is the constant reminders that Sanzaru inserts in the game about their new ownership of Sly. Throughout the game, there are references to the Sanzaru logo, a green monkey with plus and minus symbols for eyes. This would be fine if it was only done a few times, but it is repeated in every level! From Sly’s backpack, to signs in the background, to a bobble head in the gang’s van, to having it be on an over-sized belt buckle on a boss, there is at least one reference to the little bugger in every part of the game. We get that Sly is yours, Sanzaru, stop rubbing it our faces!

Though the story is a little hit and miss, and the gameplay still needs a little work, I look forward for what Sanzaru does next with the Sly franchise. With the just announced PS4 on the way, the future is looking good for everyone’s favorite thieving raccoon.

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Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a blast from the past