Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time Review
After an eight year absence, the Sly Cooper gang is back with their first current gen adventure. The HD re-releases of the PS2 trilogy whetted the appetites of longtime fans and probably made newcomers wish for a new entry – now it’s here. Following the same basic gameplay trend as the PS2 entries, Thieves in Time (TiT) sends the group back in time to prevent currently-terrible events from occurring and hopefully allow Sly to salvage his relationship with sometimes-girlfriend/usual-persuer Carmelita.
Veterans can expect the same action platforming/stealth mix that has defined the bulk of the franchise’s gameplay, with a lot of mini-games thrown in. In fact, that aspect is so prevalent that there’s even a PSN exclusive game with nothing but them – and they’re all very well done. The idea of stealth can be a scary one, but TiT is the most forgiving game I’ve ever played that throws stealth into the mix. Beyond a quick rewind function after you fall into water or into a pit, you’re also given liberal checkpoints to ease the frustration down to pretty much nothing.
This means that the game is able to focus on delivering a fun experience, and it succeeds wonderfully in that. Everything series vets have loved about it for over a decade are here – the comedic cutscenes, the fun interplay between all of the characters, the sharp platforming, stealth, and wide variety of mini-games are all on display. There’s definitely an issue with TiT not really moving things forward, since it doesn’t try much new and plays a pat hand throughout, but I didn’t mind it much. Predictability isn’t always a bad thing, and making drastic changes could easily hurt things as well if they’re done improperly.
The platforming/stealth mix still works, and adding in some of Sly’s descendents (who all happen to play 99% like him) changes things up just enough since each one has their own unique skills to take advantage of. Murray and Bentley play different enough to seem unique while still keeping the core platforming alive, and the sheer variety with the mini-games is impressive. You’ve got a rhythm game, a fishing game, an RC racing game, a twin stick shooter, a tilt-based one centered around moving a spark with the controller/Vita by carefully moving the device in question, and a side-scrolling shooter to enjoy. All of them are well-made and would work well as a PS Mini – making the mini-game collection on PSN that adds stuff to do with them fairly fitting.
Cross Buy enables PS3 owners to get the Vita version at no extra cost, although it would be nice to have that version on-disc so you don’t have to download the 3+ GB file. Like PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, there’s a cloud save functionality here so you can carry progress from one version to the next. Unlike All-Stars, it worked perfectly here after an initial hiccup where I just had to re-upload a save to the cloud – a process that took maybe a minute tops. Since the game uses all of the shoulder buttons on the PS3, the touch screen is used for some things with mixed results.
During the RC mini-game, you have to touch the screen in order to change costumes – a process that takes longer on the touchscreen and can easily result in messing up since you have to move away from the left stick briefly to touch the screen. The tilting spark game was actually more fun with the Vita than the Dual Shock 3, and the rhythm game is about the same on each, although it’s easier to see the cues amid the explosions on a TV than the Vita’s screen. The core platforming/stealth gameplay works well, although the Vita’s sticks still don’t quite feel natural for jumping around and controlling a camera. The PS3 pad is definitely the way to go, but the Vita’s pad works well enough to play it for an hour or two on the go, and then go home and play on the PS3.
Visually, Thieves in Time is impressive, but not really jaw-dropping. Some of the views you’ll get are nice, but as a result of this being a cel-shaded game, it really doesn’t look all that much better than the HD remakes of the original trilogy. You’ve still got the same cartoon styling, just with a lot more color depth for everything. There’s also a marked increase in detail for environments, which helps make the skies in particular look so impressive. Still, the animation quality is about the same as before, and the overall look is very similar to what it had before – that’s not an altogether bad thing as the originals are impressive either on the PS2 or PS3, but it’s just a bit underwhelming.
Like the gameplay and graphics, TiT plays it safe with the music and voice work. All of the songs are perfectly fitting with the levels and the sneaking sound effect/music mix that plays when you’re moving around remains as fun to hear now as ever. There isn’t much of it that sticks with you for very long after playing, but it’s all very enjoyable to listen to during the game. The cartoony sound effects work as well here as they did before, and the voice work is solid and gets the jokes across perfectly. Despite the comedy-heavy nature of the writing, it’s still easy to care about the characters, and much of that is due to the voice acting.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is an excellent platformer/stealth hybrid, just like its predecessors, and something long-time fans of the series will love, but newcomers may be better off picking up the HD trilogy since it doesn’t do all that much new and gives you far more value for your money. Franchise fans that have experienced them get plenty for their money too, especially if they own a Vita since the PS3 version throws that one in for free. The $40 launch price is about perfect for it since it would be hard to recommend at $60, but getting two versions for $40 makes it hard to not recommend unless you’re new to the franchise.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
This review is based on a copy of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment America.