Posted by Zac MacDonald on Feb 26, 2013

Review – Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time (PS3)

Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time
Developer – Sanzaru Games
Publisher – Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform – PS3 (reviewed), PSV
Release Date – 3 Feb, 2013

Sanzaru Games is not a well known developer, at least as far as I was concerned. With their main library of games being fleshed out with little more than a couple of Wii games and some HD Classic ports. They had yet to earn my trust when I’d first heard they would be developing the next Sly Cooper game. As if out of nowhere, this small developer with little experience in the field managed to put together what I feel is the best use of the Playstation 3’s graphical power to date.


The Setting

Set just a few months after the events in Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, this game picks the story right back up, giving you a well animated, albeit lengthy, refresher for the uninitiated. If you’re like me, you’ve already played through the Sly Cooper trilogy, and possibly even the HD collection fairly recently. However, the introductory cut-scene is still a pleasure to watch, as the series’ staple, animated cut-scenes, are beautifully done in a style that seems to be a blend of both Western and Eastern.


The Story

While more or less very straightforward, I never felt like the plot was too contrived, or had many holes. That may have been excellent writing, but it also may have just as much to do with the fact that the game doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about the little details, or taking itself too seriously. As with all time-travel plots, there were difficulties, and a few moments where you realize that things probably wouldn’t work out the way they do, but the Sly Cooper games have always been big on the science fiction without very much of the technicalities of it. One thing I have always loved about the Sly games is how even mortal enemies manage to end up working together. Expect more of this in the game, but you can also expect a bit of the opposite, in a saddening twist that really makes you feel for the characters.


The Controls

The game’s controls are fairly straightforward, left analog moves, X Jumps, etc. Each of the playable characters has a set of unique moves that allows them to traverse the world in different ways, however I found that the titular Sly was the best choice for exploration, as he has the most moves and abilities that assist in mobility. A great relief came in the form of the modernization of the controls, as the previous 3 games were often plagued by many bad control habits that plagued much of the PS2 era. The greatest sin of all taking place in Sly 2, where you are forced to drive a tank in first person perspective, with the most awkward of controls, mapping the left and right treads to the corresponding analog sticks. Thankfully, there were no points in this game where I felt the controls were in any way a hindrance.


The Graphics

Beautiful. The game is full of vibrant colors and sylized characters that are well complimented by the High Definition graphics. At times there was a bit of clipping, but not much else. The game is very well polished and everything from the top-notch character animations, to the textures, to the general aesthetic is top-notch.

On a more personal note, I have long been an advocate of games with color. Ever since the introduction of High Definition gaming, the graphical potential has been squandered on half-baked attempts to convey a sense of realism by muting colors and generally washing everything with a brown-tint, as is so prominent in any dime-a-dozen FPS. With Nintendo’s little magic box showing us what HD colors look like, and with the release of Sly 4, my faith in the game industry is beginning to be restored. However, we have a long way to go.


The Gameplay

The game is, for all intents and purposes, fun. It truly shows that games are meant to be just that. While at its base, Sly 4 is a platformer, the missions you are required to go through can range from pickpocketing guards for costumes or keys, to all out running and gunning, one mission is even daring enough to have you press a single button. One thing I did wish was that more of the game was the core aspect of sneaking around, as it had, at times, felt bogged down with gimmicks. The game has a lot of new ideas and things it wants to try, and I feel they wanted to fit all of their ideas in, despite how ridiculous the amount of movesets, rules, and restrictions you had, based on your character. The Sly games have always been, more or less, a series of minigames with an overarcing story, but never has it quite felt so much like it as it has now. That is not to say it’s bad, it just feels like it lacks some consistency.


The Good

  • The game’s bright visuals, clear narrative, and intuitive controls make it accessible to gamers of all ages with any experience level.
  • The humor and storyline are the perfect blend of being mature, without being crass, and occasionally wacky, but without appearing childish.
  • Even with simply rushing through the game’s story, you’re set for at least a good 10 hours of gameplay, with easily double that if you with to revisit old areas and find collectibles, or go for some of the optional trophies.
    With the inclusion of both Cross-Buy and Cross-Play, I had the opportunity to take the game with me at one point when I had to leave the house.
  • This is just about the ony game I can think of in history that has a badass hero in a wheelchair.


The Neutral

  • As expected, the PSVita version of the game suffered a graphical downgrade. While this came as no surprise to me, I felt that it was a fairly hefty decrease, likely due to the very large environments being loaded into the system’s limited memory. I would have to equate the experience on the PSVita to a small step above PS2 era graphics, which I honestly don’t feel exemplifies Sony’s tagline: “Console Quality Gaming On The Go!”
  • The PSVita supports local multiplayer in the form of being able to use the PSVita to help locate treasures around the levels using augmented reality. Unfortunately, I could not seem to figure out how exactly to use this feature, and there was no tutorial or instructions that I immediately found. I may have overlooked something very simple, but as far as I’m concerned at this point, it’s more or less a useless, nonworking gimmick.


The Bad

  • Bentley and Murray seemed to take a pretty serious backseat to Sly and his Ancestors, and Carmelita had it worst of all. While this was a story that mostly revolved around Sly and his family, it felt as if everyone else was only along for the ride, often with each of the aforementioned characters only having one or two missions per level.
  • One very specific thing I noticed after making it past the prologue was that the first level, Turning Japanese, is drastically cluttered, making it difficult to navigate in the beginning. This may only be a problem I had, myself, but I noticed it enough to feel like making it a point.
  • While eventually resolved, Cross-Buy did not work for me on day 1. Unfortunately, with Full Frontal Assault’s Cross-Buy date being pushed back, and the problem I had with SLy 4, I cannot say my experience with Cross-Buy has been a favorable one as of yet. Sony seems to still be working out a few of the kinks in the system.


The Ugly

  • The loading times were often a drawback, with the need to load between each mission, and often after cut-scenes. While the frequency of the loading screens alone would not be a bother, the fact that the loading times usually ran anywhere between 30-45 seconds really takes you out of the game.


The Technical Rating

Beautifully executed, I gave it an 8, but if it hadn’t been for the loading time issue, it would have had a 9.

The Fun Index

A blast to play, with the occasional spike in the difficulty curve, but nowhere near unreasonably hard, or tediously easy. An excellent balance of challenge and ease.

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