On a dark and misty night, a nimble form stole into the GR compound and nabbed GR's precious Golden Dorito. In its place was left a game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus.
Not overly distraught by the missing Golden Dorito (which was about as useful as a cup full of plastic coffee), I popped the game into my PS2 to get in on some of the thieving action myself. Approximately ten hours later, having finished the game, I had developed the skills necessary to steal dough from all sorts of rats, baboons and giant rocket-launcher wielding metal hawks. And right after this review, I'm gonna head down to Marine World and make myself some money.
In the meantime, I'll sing Sly Cooper's praises. Published by Sony and developed by Sucker Punch, Sly Cooper is a platform/action game oozing with quality. The level of care and attention to detail in Sly Cooper make it worthy of any gamer's Wednesday night.
The story puts you behind the black mask of Sly Cooper, the latest master thief in a long line of professional pinchers. The legacy of the family and birthright of every Cooper is the Thievius Raccoonus, a veritable bible of thieving techniques ("And in the beginning there was... Hey! Where'd it go?!"). Unfortunately for Sly, his birthright was nabbed over the dead body of his father and split into five sections for perusal by the appropriately named Fiendish Five.
Swearing vengeance and seeking destiny, Sly and company (a nerdy Turtle named Bentley and a big, dumb hippo named Murray) hop in their van to track down the culprits and retrieve the dismembered Thievius Raccoonus
The story progresses through some cool cut-scenes that have several well-blended inflections (little computer animated cartoon bits here, some noir there, and a sprinkle of comic-book style on top). The beginning of each level includes a bio of whatever fiend inhabits the level, usually starting with the fiend's childhood and what drove them to a life of crime. For example, Muggshot, the giant, fierce, bulldog gangster, started out as a cute little runt with a beanie, but thanks to neighborhood bullies and the examples set by movies like The Godfather, turned to a life of organized crime. Nice.
At the end of each level, Carmelita Fox, the sexy whiskered cop and the object of Sly's affection, shows up to slap the cuffs on Sly, but has to settle for a defeated fiend instead.
Playing Sly Cooper is fun in general, even though the game is clearly geared toward a younger audience. The basic controls involve jumping, whacking at things with Sly's cane and using it to swing from hooks. Sly can also execute super thieving moves by pressing the Circle button any time he's near a piece of landscape with a blue aura emanating from it. This usually involves ducking behind a statue or creeping along a narrow ledge.
Each level is formatted similarly: a beginning, two body paragraphs (made up of three levels each), and a conclusion (Boss Fight). Generally, the intro and first three levels have to be completed to reach the second set of levels, which in turn must be completed to reach the Boss. Every level contains a key, and generally Sly needs all seven keys to unlock some wacky object like a broken down Chevy so he can ram his way into the hideout. Stealthy? No, but still fun.
Several levels depart from the typical running, jumping, collecting theme and put Sly at the controls of a swamp skiff, submarine or cannon. These levels provide just the right amount of challenge and are as cool-looking as the rest of the game.
Sly can also acquire a number of special moves by earning all the 'Clues' in a given level, which come in the form of green bottles. Upon collecting them all Sly gains access to a safe located somewhere in the level. By opening the safe, Sly is commonly rewarded with a new page of the Thievius Raccoonus or info that allows him to see the location of clues when looking through his binoculars (first-person view mode). The special moves range from the useless (throwing out a Sly decoy) to the insanely useful (the ability to slow down time indefinitely). However, the only super moves needed to beat the game are received upon defeating bosses; collecting the rest is up to he curiosity of the player.
Though simple, the gameplay is refreshing and crisp. Thanks to smooth animation and a decent camera, Sly flips, swings and crawls with the greatest of ease. And he looks great. The cel-shading is marvelous, the animation is top-notch and the graphical details are unbelievable. Realistically swinging chandeliers, spooky neon lights, firecrackers that can be set off with impressive results, and one of the best looking heroes ever make Sly Cooper a great game to look at as well as play.
For most of the game, at least. There is some slowdown and loss of resolution in later levels, though it's not that big of a deal.
A bigger deal is the game's short length. Sly Cooper is beatable in less than ten hours, though it lasts a lot longer if you take the time to enjoy all the levels and pick up all the clues. The same can't be said for the last level; it's absurdly short, basically involving an intro, one or two levels and a boss fight that's fun but way too easy. The first boss is actually harder than the last boss.
The music in Sly Cooper is the worst part of the game. It's really bad, even for a platform game. However, the voice-acting is hilarious, especially the exchanges between Sly and Bentley (the nerdy turtle who helps Sly out during missions a la Otacon in Metal Gear Solid), while Carmelita Fox has an authentic, sexy Spanish accent.
Overall, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is an outstanding platformer. It looks sharp, it's easy to pick up and it's a lot of fun. With a mellow learning curve and cartoony look, this game's target audience is definitely the younger generation of gamers. However, there isn't an old gamer out there who didn't grow up on a steady diet of platformers, which is why I think just about anyone could do much worse than steal a few hours with Sly.