Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Preview (PS3 & PS Vita)

June 5, 2012Written by Alex Osborn

In an industry cluttered with action-heavy experiences, Sanzaru’s Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is nothing less than a breath of fresh air. Harkening back to the PS2 classics, this fourth installment in the popular platforming franchise stays true the the series’ roots and provides the same humorous, quirky charm that Sly fans have come to know and love.

When I stepped up to demo the game at Sony’s E3 booth, I was immediately taken by the game’s colorful visual style, which transported me back to my time with the originals. The first section put me in control of the thievish raccoon himself as he stood positioned next to a barrel of arrows. With the press of a button, Sly donned a Robin Hood-inspired getup, and the next thing I knew, the sneaky thief was now an archer. After plunging a rope-bound arrow into a target across the room, I was able tightrope walk across the expanse below and reach a platform far off in the distance. Carefully navigating throughout the room was not only a blast, but also a reminder that gameplay sequences completely devoid of action can be just as intense and enthralling.

The second portion of the demo had me in control of one of the game’s other characters, Rioichi Cooper, who not only looked a heck of a lot like Sly, but also played in an extremely similar fashion. What differentiated Rioichi from the main protagonist however, was his unique ability to leap great distances. This added wrinkle helped to open the experience, and served as a nice subtle change after controlling Sly.

Now having played other platformers since the release of Sly Cooper, I can’t help but compare Thieves in Time to Sucker Punch’s latest work. The development team originally behind the series has since gone on to make inFamous, a game with controls that outclass Sly’s in so many ways. While Thieves in Time does have accessible and responsive gameplay, it feels a bit floaty and imprecise when compared to inFamous. Navigating Cole through Empire City has perhaps spoiled me, but I couldn’t help but wonder what the Sly franchise might have been if Sucker Punch was still at the helm.

I got some hands-on time with both the Vita and PS3 versions and I must say, the two look virtually identical. While the developer has made it clear that the PS3 is the lead platform, the game really stood out on the handheld’s OLED screen. If anything, I actually think the Vita version may have even looked a bit crisper. Between the two, I actually enjoyed my time with the Vita version more than its console counterpart, feeling as though this kind of experience is better suited on the handheld anyway. That said, I’m confident any fan of the Sly franchise will eat this game up, and the added bonus of cross-platform play sure makes owning both copies quite alluring.