Up until this point, I had never played a Sly Cooper game before. During its heyday, I was a big PlayStation hater and wanted nothing to do with Sony’s gaming endeavours. Since I bought a PlayStation 3 a few years back, I’ve been slowly making my way through the platform’s signature franchises. I can now cross Sony’s sneaky raccoon off the list, as I’ve played through Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. Admittedly, I didn’t think I’d get much out of this stealth platformer, but it managed to impress nonetheless.
In his latest outing, Sly notices that the words inside the Thievius Raccoonus are magically disappearing. As it turns out, someone is travelling through time and changing history. It’s up to Sly and his friends to travel back in time and stop the perpetrator before they completely screw up the timeline. While these characters and the scenarios they’re put in are clearly targeted for a younger audience, I got a lot out of it. Everything from the cutscenes to the missions themselves are slickly produced and smartly written in a way that is always engaging.
There are a few technical issues that hamper its otherwise stellar production values. In tight spaces, I find that the camera to be unwieldy, as it can force itself to be too close to your character without giving you the option to swivel it around. There are also times when the game’s otherwise solid framerate takes a dramatic dip when spotted by a large enemy. Ideally, you wouldn’t get spotted at all by any of your enemies, though in cases where one of the larger foes spots you, the choppy framerate will make your escape that much harder to execute. Also towards the end of the game, slowdown becomes more prevalent when the levels become more elaborate.
I knew going in that I would be controlling a slippery raccoon. Sly is my favourite character to play as thanks to his maneuverability and ability to expand his repertoire based on the costume he’s wearing. However, I didn’t know that you often play as other characters as well. Bentley is your computer wiz, so many of his missions involve hacking or the use of high-tech gadgets. Murray is a bruiser that just likes to go around and punch people. You also get to play as one of Sly’s ancestors based on the level you’re on, which opens the door for more gameplay variety while still keeping the core Cooper move set. The game constantly forces you to switch between characters, which goes a long way towards adding variety to the experience.
Of the bunch, Sly and his ancestors are the must fun to play as. They have the most maneuverability and weapons at their disposal. Bentley is primarily used for hacking mini games, which is fine in short bursts. Murray is clearly the weakest of the bunch, as the game doesn’t really do much with his abilities. With that said, the game finds a great balance between all of its playable characters to constantly keep things interesting.
Over time, I found that its luster wore off. By the 60% mark, its structure and gameplay wore thin. It felt like they relied on the same set of ideas too often, which made the game feel repetitive. Technical issues also became more apparent at this point as well. It never got bad, but I ended up wrapping it up just to beat it.
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is a good game that just lost steam for me. This is a quality platformer that I think most kids and adults will have a great time playing from end-to-end. As a newcomer to the franchise, it still won me over and maybe I’ll even try the older entries in the franchise someday. With either a few more ideas or a shorter overall campaign, this could have been something really special.