Lighthearted comedic platformers are a rarity these days, so I’m sure many PlayStation gamers—including myself—have been eager to jump back into the colorful world of Sly Cooper. After a solid trio of games on the PS2, Sly and the gang took a much needed rest while Sucker Punch pursued a new IP and the untested Sanzaru Games ported the trilogy to the HD era. After doing a great job in bringing Sly 1-3 to the PS3, Sony decided to entrust Sanzaru with the honorable task of crafting a brand-new entry in the series.
For the most part, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is successful. It delivers a competent and varied platforming experience that will appeal to fans of the franchise. That said, don’t expect an earth-shatteringly new or innovative game. Thieves in Time plays it extremely safe and doesn’t veer too far from the platforming norm. If you’re partial to the Sly universe, you’ll find plenty to love, but those who aren’t die-hard fans will likely see through the game’s skin-deep charm.
Sucker Punch is known to deliver incredibly responsive and rewarding platforming experiences, but now that they’re no longer at the helm, Sly has failed to really evolve gameplay-wise. As the game’s title implies, Sly and his best buddies travel through time, visiting a vast array of different environments, which are essentially broken into several different hub worlds. As you progress through each time period, you’ll perform different “jobs” that will ultimately lead you to the boss of that particular level. In this way it is awfully formulaic, which fans of traditional 3D platformers might find endearing, but those with a hankering for something new will likely be a bit disappointed.
You’ll cycle through a number of different characters as you go about completing the various “jobs” which are marked as waypoints on the mini map. Simply select the character whose job is next in line and head to the glowing Sly icon. There is some variety among each character, helping to keep things fresh, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to bounce around pummeling dudes as Murray the giant pink hippo?
The platforming itself is good, but not great. Parts of the terrain are marked (sometimes too subtly) with glimmers of blue light, letting you know that this particular area is climbable. Unfortunately, you have to tap circle every time you leap to one of these points, otherwise you’ll pass or fall right by it. In addition, I’d too often find myself in a location for several minutes not knowing what to do, only to find a rope off in the corner with a faint blue glimmer just waiting to be climbed. The sometimes frustrating camera didn’t help the situation either.
Where this game truly shines however, is in its presentation. The hand-drawn cutscenes are absolutely gorgeous, and the vibrant and drastically different time periods you visit are a joy to behold. It’s hardly the most technically impressive game you’ve ever seen, but the art design totally makes up for it. The guys over at Sanzaru know how to make a Sly game look pretty in HD, as evidenced by their work on the Sly Collection, so this should hardly come as a surprise, but exploring the game’s colorful and lighthearted world felt like a breath of fresh air amongst the sea of super serious brown-colored games that currently dominate the market.
As you might expect, the game is full of humor, some of which is chuckle to yourself funny, but more often than not, too played out and annoying. That said, I do have to hand it to the developers for loading this game with a wide array of characters, each with their own unique and distinct personality. I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but just know that you’ll meet many interesting creatures as you travel through time. The plot itself is about what you’d expect from a Sly game; it’s got its cast of sinister baddies and it’s up to the thieving raccoon and his pals to stop them. It’s quirky, cute and sometimes endearing; it’s just a shame that some of the forced humor undermines that from time to time.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is essentially a safe, but personality-filled platformer that doesn’t push the genre to new heights, but serves as an entertaining adventure regardless. It’s clear that Sanzaru really wanted to take advantage of all the PS3’s features, including Sixaxis controls, which ultimately felt pointless and tacked-on. Not only that, but the game is loaded with little mini-game-equse missions, including rhythm-based challenges and plenty of quick-time-events, which, let’s face it, are such tired mechanics at this point. In the end, little gimmicks like these felt more like a feeble attempt at interjecting variety into the gameplay than anything else.
At its core, Thieves in Time is an average platformer that has some pretty art and that Sly Cooper charm. Fans of the franchise will love it because it’s more Sly, but those looking for something that goes above and beyond will likely be left feeling a bit disappointed.