The Good: Colorful art style, solid controls and platforming, memorable characters, fun mini-games, gameplay makes you feel like a sneaky thief
The Bad: A bit short, one hit and you're dead, some frustrating spots, cheap deaths
I am not sure why I passed this game up all these years, but I am sad that I did. Finally being able to play it, I realize just how well it stands up today. Sly Cooper and his gang are trying to retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus which is a book of secrets passed on from thief to thief in Sly's family. The evil Clockwerk and several of his henchmen stole a page each, and it is up to you to get them back.
The first thing you will notice about the game is how well it controls. The movement is buttery smooth with great platforming and gameplay mechanics. Sly can double jump, but his main mechanic is his cane. He can use it to swing around and attack, but there are also ways to sneak around like a thief that just feel really whimsical. When you see blue sparkles on ledges you can hold circle and sneak around them. When Sly moves around a sneaking sound plays instead of footsteps which is really neat. This also goes for poles and other areas to climb. Just jump near it and hold circle and Sly will cling on. This mechanic is very well done and makes platforming a lot of fun. Combat is pretty simple where you just whack away with your cane and all enemies die in one hit. This isn't as easy as you think because you die in one hit too. There are traps and obstacles to avoid such as lasers and spotlights. Some times you will have to think a little to find a way around an enemy who is blocking the path.
There are five levels and four of them focus around a central hub with branching mini-levels. There is a level to infiltrate each hub, and within these hubs are clue bottles to open a vault in each level. These vaults contain new moves for Sly which come in really handy. It is a lot of fun finding these bottles because the levels are pretty short and aren't too hard to find. Some levels are actually mini-games that consist of covering Murray on a turret, a dual stick shooter mini-game, or even a race. These are really hard and require quick reflexes or you will die often. Before you ask, yes there are lives in this game, but 100 coins gives you a 1-up, but other than that the coins are useless.
The boss fights are really fun in this game, but also really tough. They require precise movement and patience because one hit and you are dead in this game. Yes, that sounds really brutal, but it is true. You can get magnets that act as free hits but these are pretty rare. In fact, that is probably the most frustrating thing about this game is that in just one hit you are dead. This includes falling in water or off a ledge. Later, in vaults, you can find a page that prevents you from dying when falling off ledges or in water which is a life saver (literally). Before that though, you will die dozens and dozens of times because there are some cheap deaths in this game but, because of how fun it is you will quickly get over it.
The art style is beautiful with a cell shaded comic book look that wasn't really seen in games before Sly. The graphics look great even for today, but that probably has a lot to do with the art style hiding the lack of technical prowess of the PS2. The voice acting is a bit spotty, but it brings out the characters which is nice. I just wish I could have played as Bentley or Murray more. They are all great characters and need more time in the spotlight. If this game just wasn't so short and infuriatingly difficult in spots it would be perfect.
Overall, Sly Cooper is a great entry to one of the best franchises ever created and is a pinnacle for the PS2. Solid controls, excellent platforming, fun combat, and a whimsical art style make this a must own in your collection.