Review: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time (PS3, Vita)

Last generation, before kids only played the latest Call Of Duty & FIFA releases, Sony were riding high with a host of well-loved, child friendly characters & mascots to their name – remember the loud and proud Crash Bandicoot or pre-Skylanders Spyro The Dragon?

What about this guy, Sly Cooper?

Sneaking his way onto PlayStation 3 and Vita some 10 years after his original PS2 adventure, the crafty raccoon is back for a fourth instalment – Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time.

The pages of the Cooper Clan’s ancient manuscript – the Thievius Raccoonus – have begun to mysteriously disappear, and it’s up to Sly to save his family legacy from being destroyed forever – all with a little help from lifelong friends and series stalwarts Bentley & Murray of course.

(For the uninformed, Bentley and Murray are a Turtle, and a Hippopotamus… obviously.)

The time-traveling adventure, which sees our heroes explore regions in time ranging from classical Japan to the American Wild West, is, like its predecessors, a predominantly third person title – set apart with some quirky new and unusual gameplay features.

On the most part these are short mini-games – such as bypassing computer security with gadget guru Bentley, or even dressing up muscle clad Murray as a Geisha girl.

The change in gameplay mechanics every so often can act as a fun little distraction to break up the monotony of Sly’s otherwise point-to-point platforming, but unfortunately, these are few-and-far-between. Fans of the series may disagree, but in my opinion, the game’s pacing can suffer somewhat because of this, with certain stages feeling stale and unexciting – seemingly drawn out far beyond their need.

It’s worth pointing out at this stage, however, that if – like me – you’re a fan of Bentley’s hacks, you can grab the standalone PSN title “Bentley’s Hack Pack” from the PlayStation Store for a further 300 challenges. The title is only £1.59 and – like Thieves In Time – is cross-buy, meaning one purchase will unlock both the PS3 and PlayStation Vita versions.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Vita port of Thieves In Time, whilst included free, is, unfortunately, lacking: Fiddly touch screen implementation replacing the DualShock 3’s trigger buttons, and a reduced frame rate making combat a chore, mean the home console version the smart choice.
Still, it’s a nice bonus for gamers with both PlayStation platforms, should you really need to continue your latest heist whilst on the tube of a morning, and there’s a few neat AR features using the handheld’s camera, if that’s your thing.

Again looking at the big screen title – itself a bargain at only £24.99 – there’s no shortage of content either; Developer Sanzaru Games – who picked up the franchise after original creators Sucker Punch moved their focus onto the far more gritty Infamous series – have packed each of the beautifully styled comic-book-esque environments to the rafters with collectable treasures and trinkets to find should you wish to unlock all the game’s secrets.

Sly’s 10-15 hour main campaign (depending on your competency) is a by-the-books platformer which gamers young and old alike will be able to enjoy, and thankfully, with just so much to do, the game’s controls are easy to pick up, leading to both character and camera movement which, on the PS3 at least, is fluid and responsive, allowing you to roam the visually stunning open environments with ease.

Early on, there’s a fair amount of variety in these surroundings too, although by about half way through my playtest, there was an almost constant sense of deja vu – and whilst Sly will meet new ancestors and gain new abilities stage-by-stage, these can feel rather underutilised and do very little to significantly affect gameplay in the long run.

Another problem is the game’s difficulty, in particular with regards to enemy AI; As with the original trilogy, and many games of it’s time, the enemy will stick to a set routine, making working through levels a relative breeze. Good. Then you get to the “boss” stages. Bad. You see, I’d like to think i’m fairly good at video games, or at the very least, average, and yet Thieves In Time had me stumped on multiple occasions with uncharacteristically complicated areas.

Had I not been playing for review, these infuriating difficulty spikes would have seen Sly ending up on the shelf. In short, Sanzaru Games are certainly breaking no new ground, but Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time is a fantastic value title rooted in solid gameplay. If you’re after a lengthy, classical platforming adventure, with both age appropriate yet snappy humour and bright visuals matched only by Ubisoft’s recent Rayman outings, you shan’t go far wrong dropping it into your swag bag.

Review: Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time (PS3, Vita)

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