Sly Cooper Thieves in Time: Review

Out of Time

Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Playstation 3 | Sanzaru Games | February 5, 2013
Also Available for PS Vita

The Sly Cooper franchise returns after a nine year hiatus and is equipped with a new development team. Fans of the series are right at home and new comers can pick up the story with ease; a narrative dump in the beginning provides all the necessary background information. There is no hiccup in the team change or time delay, as this game is a perfect representation of the Sly series as it was on the PS2. Which is amazing fan service but can hold this entry back.

Players control Sly and the gang through five hub worlds. An animated scene bookends each episode to set the tone for the heist or wrap up the adventure and lessons learned. From the base, players will select one of the team members who need to complete an active job. Finishing jobs unlocks additional jobs, which culminate in a heist and boss battle. If you have played one Sly Cooper game, this should feel like a homecoming.

What is a Critical Hit!

Base PicturePlatforming controls are intuitive, varied and visually appealing. Sly is able to climb ropes, perch on flagpoles (or dinosaur skulls), sneak across ledges or swing on hooks with ease. There is a true sense of verticality within each level. Sly’s ancestors control the same but with an added ability, which allows them to reach exclusive areas of the map and complete one off tasks. If one of the Cooper’s is caught by a guard they can either flee or battle it out, be warned, a Cooper will not complete a battle unscathed. Stealth is always the better course of action, this allows the Cooper Gang to defeat enemies from behind in an OHKO. To help balance the stealth sequences is the group’s muscle, Murray. Using the same control scheme, seamlessly, he can bash enemies heads in all day but lacks the sneaking prowess of a raccoon.

Each world is unique and stylistic. The cell shaded environments look beautiful and the characters mesh with their surroundings. The controls and visual cues carry over from each environment, but the interpretation of the area constantly varies. Sly might climb and swing in each era, but what he is interacting with matches the scenery perfectly. This attention to detail is far more than a placeholder palette swap. The enemies are modified, in appearance and weapons, to be in sync with the world. Whether Sly is in ancient Japan or Paris at midnight, the area around him is gorgeous.

Thieves in Time introduces a new costume mechanic to Sly’s abilities. Previously, these items would be used to gate areas, now they fundamentally change his skills. The costumes add a fresh feel to the Sly missions, allowing his escapades to not be a rerun of previous games. Each costume increase the variety of puzzle options and combat choices available to the raccoon thief, and mastery of a new outfits abilities are required in the boss battle looming at the end of each stage.

Voice acting hits all the right notes. The nasally voice of brainiac Bently is what you would expect to come out of the four-eyed turtle. The Coopers all contain a balance of confidence and charisma, but still manage to find individuality in their personality. The villains are classic, mustache twirling evildoers and their vocal talents match these personas effortlessly. Hearing the characters monologue as they complete missions reveals interesting anecdotes and amusing observations from the heroes.

What is Not Very Effective…

Sly AncestorThe only voice which grated the ears was Carmelita Fox’s. This is nothing new as her character always has an over-the-top, borderline racist tone. While the talent is superb, their dialogue is usually cringe worthy. Especially during the pre-mission talking heads sequences, the characters will interject with numerous attempts at puns which miss the mark. Besides in-mission dialogue, when speaking everyone talks slowly. It is like there is a pause between every word which doesn’t flow naturally; these scenes eat up a lot of time.

Another time suck is the loading screen. Upon reaching a job marker the game will load for half a minute before launching into the mission breakdown, but once completed the player is in the same spot with little change to the area. Loading times are uncharacteristically long for a PS3 title when switching locations, entering the hub world or reloading a mission due to failure. Players will spend a noticeable amount of time staring at the loading page.

The stealth and fighting missions are the best in the series, unfortunately there are a lot of mini-game jobs. The controls change as players use Bentley’s numerous hacking programs, and not for the better. Typically these sequences do not contain a checkpoint system, meaning if you fail in the final section you will be repeating the process from the beginning. This wouldn’t’ be bad if the missions were challenging but each defeat feels more due to poor controls than anything else. The game even dares to make usage of motion controls as players move a ball around a field, a ball which will fall to its death quite easily.

The mission starting points are not always easy to reach and are sometimes far away from the objectives they correspond to. This setup pads the playtime as you must run from one corner of the map to the other. It’s forgivable the first time, but completing the same jumps eight times reduces the fun.

Status Summary

Thieves in Time is a competent and enjoyable platformer but also a frustrating collection of mini-games, motion controls and quick time events. The environments, characters, collectibles and jobs are stylized in each world andcreate a unique feel; even when going through the same motions as before. The narrative doesn’t always make sense and there is a lot of knowledge dropped at random intervals but the individual moments are well done.

If you enjoyed the previous Sly games, then this is a great continuation of the series. If prefer your games to be fast paced and action oriented then you might want to sneak past this one.

Score: 6.5 /10

+ Great Platformer
+ Stylized Environments
+ Superb Voice Acting
– Frustrating Minigames
– Characters…..Talk…..Slow
– Filler Fetch Quests

Trophy Analysis

Mini GameIf you run through the main game you will probably earn about 1/3 of the trophies available. The remaining 2/3 require perfect scores on select mini-games and collecting bottles, masks and treasures in the world. Any mission can be replayed so nothing is truly missable but if you are going for the Platinum, it might be best to earn these on your first run; some masks are at the end of a stage requiring the entire level to be replayed if you missed it. The easiest trophy to miss requires the player to open the map in each location; I was OCD about this and would open the map after each loading screen or character switch to ensure that I wouldn’t have to go through and figure out which one I missed (the game does not keep track for you). The trophy voted most likely to cause players to throw a controller requires you to beat the high score on all the arcade cabinets. These mini-games are more of a chore than a joy and will easily break your Platinum collecting spirit. But if you own a PS3 and Vita, then a 100% save file on one system will net you an automatic 50 trophies on the other.
Level Up, Friends!