It’s not fair that my review copy of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time arrived in my hands the same day as BioShock Infinite’s release. Here was the gem heralded by many as the game of our generation, and I was expected to ignore it and instead focus my attentions on a thieving raccoon. After days of torturous beard-tickling by a fellow DC colleague, I finally caved in, and shoved the disc into the lips of my PlayStation 3. What followed was a tale of resentment turned respect worthy among the most uplifting stories of battling alcohol and drug addiction. Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time might not be the best platformer to grace the genre, but its solid collection of a variety of gameplay mechanics will please its target market, kids, and the open-minded adult too.
Kicking things off is the disabled turtle Bentleym who is shell-shocked by the disappearance of a rather sexy rat, Penelope, and the words from a Cooper family heirloom, the Thievius Raccoonus. Wheeling his turtle arse over to Sly Cooper he explains the necessity of uncovering the mystery and traveling back through the ages using his recently created time machine. Roping Murray the ‘Fat Hippopotamus’ along for the ride, the gang set out for 17th century feudal Japan to rescue a Cooper descendant, ninja and the inventor of sushi Rioichi Cooper. Each of the games 5 areas are broken into historic periods, sweeping players between an 1880’s Tennessee, the Ice Age, Medieval England and Ancient Arabia – all oozing their own distinctive style.
Gameplay variety is the key attraction in Thieves in Time, offering an array of diversity found only in Sydney high schools. From tightrope, pole and roof-sneaking to shooting, suiting and pickpocketing, expect a ton of activities to complete. Part of this variety is the robust cast of playable characters to choose from, each giving you a unique set of abilities to wreak havoc with. Bentley destroys firewalls by entering an arcade inspired space-shooter and hacks grids with the DualShock’s six-axis motion control while Tennessee Cooper skates train tracks like he’s Tony Hawk. Combined with coins and masks to collect, equipment to buy and five rather large environments to explore, there’s a good deal of content on offer.
Some of that content, however, borders on being downright inappropriate – like father and son tag-teaming the 15-year-old neighbor type inappropriate. Sly Cooper is primarily targeted at a younger demographic, so while its more questionable activities won’t deter older gamers there’s the odd occasion parents might raise their own concerns. We can see the humour in hippo gyration as a bit of harmless fun, but being thrust behind a bar to serve an onslaught of angry, sarsaparilla demanding customers might be overstepping the boundaries a little, especially when such an objective is accomplished only after every client falls drunkenly to the ground, seemingly passed out. It might seem trivial, but there’s a legitimate argument missions such as this influence a culture of binge-drinking from an early age. Fortunately the rest of the game is child-friendly, abstaining from common classification issues like language and heavy violence.
The gameplay is almost in direct contrast to the mature themes, as it revolves around incredibly simple, child-friendly mechanics. The game is void of any real challenge and the bare bones combat within relies on repeatedly mashing the purple square button and sometimes the green triangle. Platforming utopias of the past (Super Mario 64/Galaxy, Banjo Kazooie, Crash Bandicoot) proved the genre could offer a real sense of challenge even in their excessively vibrant worlds. Thieves in Time just doesn’t offer this, and its a damn shame for those skilled gamers who were interested in the raccoons totally illegal antics.
One of the true successes of Thieves in Time is its cross-play functionality. Controlling Sly on the PS Vita looks, feels and plays identical to its older, console-bound brother, standing as a handheld triumph. If the Vita continues to carry quality, cross play ports such as this over to the PlayStation 4 then Sony might have delivered the ultimate handheld after all. Being able to take the action out into the real world then return home, upload my saves and continue on the big screen really was a little bundle of portable joy. So kudos to Sanzaru Games.
- Reviewed On